The first trailer for the series The Shannara Chronicles dropped yesterday, and it looks… okay? I guess? It’s more of a sizzle reel, than anything else, and really doesn’t indicate much about what the story is going to be like. Yeah, it’s a “neat” glimpse into the production design, but little else.
With all the talk of “practical effects” that are bandied about during this preview, I was kind of surprised how “CGI sleek” it all comes off. Honestly, outside of the shots where people are galloping across a beach, it all looks like it was shot on a sound stage. It’s all well and good that they built sets and filmed in New Zealand, but if the talent behind the scenes, like the cinematographer and such, aren’t elevating their surrounding, it’s all kind of for naught. There were more than a few shots in this teaser that kind of looked “TV show cheap,” and while that’s kind of to be expected, to a certain degree, it’s on MTV after all, I was definitely a little bummed. It’s weird, often times when you hear the creators talk about what they’re working on, even with footage and photos being displayed behind them, it’s almost as if we’re all looking at different things.
To be fair, it doesn’t all look bad. There’s some really beautiful looking shots in this thing, and since we’re still 5 months out from release, I imagine that some of this stuff will be cleaned up before it premieres in January. Doing something this big and technical on a television budget can’t be easy, even Game of Thrones has problems with CGI stuff looking bad occasionally, and this is the type of fantasy show that is going to strive to be more “classical,” in a way. It’s more akin to high fantasy of Lord of the Rings, than the gritty and grounded world of GoT.
The thing that I was most curious about was what they were going to do with the character of Allanon, the Shannara series resident Gandalf. They’ve gone in a kind of unconventional direction with the character, and much to my own surprise, I’m kind of prickly at times, I’m pretty okay with his design. They’ve moved away from the “ye old wizard” design, and have given him an aesthetic that looks to be in-line with some type of warrior. Allanon always was the “punk-rock” Gandalf facsimile, so it kind of makes sense. If nothing else it will be a different take on that type of character.
The casting, though, I’m not so sure about. Manu Bennett, a New Zealand native, is taking on the role. He’s probably most well known from his work on the Starz series Spartacus, where he played the character Crixus. Now, he’s not “terrible” in that show, or anything, but it also never really asked a ton of him as a performer. The few times he actually had to emote, while never groan inducing, were never high points of the show. Which, to be honest, is a pretty low bar. It’s good trashy fun, and that’s about it. It’s hard to tell, or pass any real type of judgement at this point, because, like I said before, it’s more of a “sizzle reel” than anything else. Although, having said that, the casting decision definitely makes sense give his costume design. So, I was curious about what they would do with the character, and, hey, what do you know, I still kind of am!
One of the more interesting bits of info on the new series deals with the representation of the world. They are being really upfront with the fact that this story takes place far into the future, after the world was decimated by some cataclysmic event. In the books you were able to piece that stuff together by tiny clues in the environmental descriptions, but, if memory serves me correct, it was never just flat out stated in any direct way in the novels. I could be wrong about that, though, so take it for what it’s worth. My days of being an expert on the Shannara books are long since gone.
The fact that they are being upfront with the state of the world makes sense. They have to visually represent it, and there would be things leftover from the old world, much like old castles in our modern era. Some of that stuff is neat, the most prominent thing being the old satellite thing covered with overgrowth. I’m curious how much that stuff will play into the series, or if it will just be background decoration. It would be kind of cool if instead of going through castle ruins and whatnot, they were skyscrapers. When I read the books as a youth, I always just pictured dilapidated castles, I never really thought about the bridging of the two realities. I don’t know, might be cool!
The two guys that are shepherding the series are Alfred Gough and Miles Miller. They are most well known for their work on the few first seasons of Smallville, which, depending on your perspective, could be a good thing or a bad thing. I haven’t seen Smallville in such a long time, I have no idea if it was a good show or not, especially the first couple of seasons. When I was watching the show, it was definitely a one and done for me. I never revisited the series, but I do remember it being…. corny. Now, that’s not to say that Shannara will be like that, hopefully either they’ve grown as creators, or they understand that different stories require different approaches. It is on MTV though, and I’m sure they are going after that networks demographic, which makes it even more apparent as to why they would hire these guys. I got my fingers crossed, in any case. I really hope it all works out.
I’ll definitely be tuning in when this thing premiers in January. If anything, I kind of feel obligated to. The books meant a great deal to me when I was a kid, and I would spend hours dreaming of what it would look like as a movie. I owe it to little me to see it through, and while we’re not getting a film, a TV show could potentially be interesting, as it would allow the time for the whole story to be told in some capacity. I know they’re going to change a lot, it’s a different medium, but hopefully the spirit of the story and the characters will remain in tact. That’s all you can really ask for when it comes to this stuff. Anyways, see you in January, The Shannara Chronicles!