MTV's The Shannara Chronicles is gorgeous and lunkheaded, gory and hilarious, sometimes awful and sometimes full of awe. It's also quite welcome: Just as Terry Brooks tore the pompousness out of Tolkien with his pulpy, brick-thick Shannara novels, the series — executive produced by Jon Favreau — shows your Game of Throneses and your Bastard Executioners that there are more possible flavors for Medieval Times–flavored entertainment product than the ol' grim-dumb.
A giddy, flirty adaptation of Brooks's second novel, 1982's The Elfstones of Shannara, The Shannara Chronicles can't help but be derivative — Elfstones concerns the quest of a young man from the boonies (but with mysterious ancestry!) and his unlikely companions to chuck an item of magical power (a seed!) into something called the Bloodfire (ick!).
They’re harried along spectacular New Zealand countryside by demonic forces of the usual dark god, whose servants are designed and animated with impressive fearsomeness.
And did I mention that it's gory?
And that its heroes tote around giant blunts?
The fantasy boilerplate is enlivened with a winning lustiness. The elf princess (Poppy Drayton) and the seductive thief (Ivana Baquero) both favor bustiers as outerwear, and each has her moments rousing the loins of gentle half-elf Will (Austin Butler), a dreamy-eyed naïf who has inherited a set of “elfstones” — and also rocks Fantasyland's first heather-green 1995 Gap hoodie.
Anyway, the show zips right along, with lots of teary earnest teen acting and dialogue that mashes up Brooks' D&D prose with vigorous soap-opera silliness. Here's the best talk from the first four episodes, presented without context:
- “I summon a henge of stone to protect me, until the last leaf has fallen from the cursed Ellcrys.”
- Elf Hunk 1: “Do you have any respect for Elvin traditions?”
Elf Hunk 2: “Only the ones with parties.”
- “They're called elfstones. They belong to my dad. They're supposed to have magical powers.”
- “I knew an Elvin bitch wouldn't keep her word.”
- Elf Princess: “Where are you going?”
Drippy Naïf: “The Silver River! Its mud is famed for its healing properties!”
- “You honestly expect me to believe the tree was communicating with her?”
- Elf Princess: “Much as I'd love to see you rot in that cell, the Ellcrys says you're part of the quest.”
Rover Seductress: “What the hell is an Ellcrys?”
Elf Princess: “Loverboy can fill you in.”
- “The demon does not know that we are aware of its existence. That could work to our advantage.”
- Seductive Thief: “Take off your clothes before you come in. All of them.”
Drippy Naïf: “You're kidding, right?”
Seductive Thief: “No. I wouldn't want you tracking mud all over my woodsy little house.”
- “The princess won't want a Rover's sloppy seconds.”
- “Son, gnomes murdered your brother, not you.”
- Drippy Naïf: “Me? Seduce you? Oh, that's — you've got to be kidding.”
Seductive Thief: “No. I call it like I see it.”
- “After everything that you have done for the Elvin people, do you really wanna go down as the mad king who believes in demons?”
- “This conversation would be much less awkward if you were dressed.”
- “Out here you're nothing, just two stray dogs — a clueless mutt and a stuck-up bitch.”
- “I know it's been hard for you, Will. Too human for the Elves, too elven for the humans.”