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The Chronicles of Shannara
#1
MTV is broadcasting this screen adaptation of Terry Brooks' Elfstones of Shannara, his second novel, and in my opinion his best story. (If you missed the premier double-episode, it will be repeated many times this week.) Brooks has created a world as detailed as anything Tolkien created; in fact, I would dare go so far as say that Brooks is the American Tolkien. In addition to his Shannara series, he also wrote his "The Void and the Word" trilogy, which won awards, and which I appreciate as the best depiction of the conflict between Good and Evil in the real world ever written by a non-religious writer. And then Brooks wrote his "The Genesis of Shannara" trilogy which actually bridged between The Void and the Word and the Shannara world, showing how the former led to the latter.

Brooks has many startlingly original conceptions in Elfstones/The Chronicles of Shannara, such as the Ellcrys tree which is the bulwark that keeps the hosts of the demon world confined to an alternate world called "The Forbidding," and as the Ellcrys tree is dying, Demons are allowed to return to the world of men, elves, gnomes, dwarves, and trolls. (The trolls are not necessarily evil. All races except the elves are descended from humans, mutations caused the the radiation, poisons, and weaponized diseases that ended the modern world.) I won't give a spoiler about the real importance of the Chosen to the Ellcrys tree, but it is going to be a shocker.

Also in this story, of course, are the elfstones--three round, blue crystalline stones that have magical powers. This was stated in the opening double episode, but not what the powers are. Since I have read all of Terry Brooks' books, I can answer that. And this is not a really significant spoiler. You already know they have magic of some sort. They can zap demonic beasties, but they are most commonly used as locators of anyone and anything, especially at a great distance. Allanon the Druid wizard also stated in the premier double episode that magic has a price. As future novels show, that price can include affecting the genetics of future offspring. So use of the elfstones will change Will Ohmsford, so that among his descendents will be two individuals who have the power of "wishsong," meaning they can make things happen magically by singing, without having any elfstones. Other generations will have other powers. Whether this is a bad consequence of the magic, or a good one, is up for debate.

There are also elfstones of other colors, and one super elfstone that was used to miniaturize Arborlon with all the elves living inside the city, so it could be transported from our modern world to the world of Shannara. This story was told in the "Genesis of Shannara" trilogy. (Elves and Arborlon originally existed in our world, but hidden by various spells from the sight of men. When men destroyed our world and opened the way for hosts of demons to overrun the earth, Arborlon had to be removed and transported to a safe place before the demon hordes could close in on it.)

Most of the actors are new faces (at least to me), but one is well-known. That is John Rhys-Davies, who also played the dwarf Gimli in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. In Shannara chronicles, he plays the elf King Eventine Elessedil. (So the former dwarf now gets to be an elf!) Rhys-Davies has appeared in numerous movies (including the Indiana Jones movies) and TV shows. He was recently the victim of a celebrity death hoax, but he is still alive and well.

By the way, The Chronicles of Shannara was shot in New Zealand, just like the Lord of the Rings trilogy. So you know there is going to be great scenery. Well worth seeing it in HD.

This Sunday (Jan. 10) at 8-10 PM MTV will show a two-hour behind-the-scenes look at the making of The Chronicles of Shannara. Peter Jackson used to do this kind of thing all the time with his productions.

    Scenic shot (Note ruins from our world in background.) Link: http://www.mtv.com/shows/shannara
    King Eventine Elessedil - John Rhys-Davies
    Princess Amberle Elessedil - Poppy Drayton
    Allanon, the Druid (wizard) - Manu Bennett
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#2
After watching The Shannara Chronicles on MTV, I decided I would like to re-read The Elfstones of Shannara, since it has been about 15-20 years since I read it. The Troy Public Library's copies are out, so I checked the Sterling Heights PL, to which I also have a card, and their copy was out too--but I noticed they did have a copy of the Sword of Shannara Trilogy in, which includes The Elfstones of Shannara. So I went and checked it out. I decided to start with the first book, The Sword of Shannara. So I am reading it now. I am surprised by how much of it I remember. And even though it was Brooks' first book, I have to admit it is a lot better polished and more well done than I had remembered. He says things like "The tree limbs ribbed the sky." Which is a skillful and imaginative, even poetic use of English. And his background was as a lawyer! It will be interesting to see how closely the TV series follows The Elfstones of Shannara. So far, as well as I can remember, the TV version seems quite faithful to the text.
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#3
I recorded the 2 part premier and the follow on episode last night and am looking forward to viewing them.

Thanks for the information. Hope it is done well.
I know you think you understand what you thought I said,
but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant!
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#4
Actually, the episode broadcast on MTV last night was basically a rebroadcast of the first two episodes with some commentary added in, mostly in the form of text at the bottom of the screen. That was not what I expected, but it was somewhat informative.

The premiere two-part episode (parts 1 & 2) will be broadcast again tonight on MTV at 11:30 PM.

The third episode will be broadcast Tuesday Jan. 12 at 10 PM on MTV. Thereafter, new episodes are supposed to air on Tuesday nights.

I think Poppy Drayton is cute, even if her name seems a bit odd. At least the "Poppy" part. But that is the name of a flower, and traditionally girls are often named after flowers. I've just never heard of a woman named "Poppy" before. Do you suppose anyone ever calls her "Opie" (short for Opium Poppy)? I wonder when sometime we will see a woman named "Snapdragon." Or maybe "Venus Flytrap" (watch out for that one!) or Drosera (also known as Sundew).

Drosera or Sundew (carnivorous):
   
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#5
Ron -

Google Poppy Montgomery.

S1
I know you think you understand what you thought I said,
but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant!
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#6
Episodes 1-4 are available from MTV with an MTV subscription through your cable provider..

Well-produced series with extremely good casting and SFX.

It seems there is a new paradigm in SF production these days... Star Wars, Star Trek, and ET started it, but Silent Running, Galactica, Alien, Dune, The Ring Trilogy and The Hobbit, Independence Day, The Game of Thrones, and Ender's Game are far truer to the authors' or screen writers' intent than what Hollywood is famous for. I was impressed with Chronicles of Shannara for the production value and actors chosen. Manu Bennett and John Rhys-Davies are solid actors to balance out the new ones.
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#7
Maybe that is because Science Fiction requires more complex plotting and a wide range of logical and scientific detail, not to mention philosophical concepts, so it makes more sense for the producers and screenwriters to follow closely the original writer's story.

It seems to me that the biggest challenge for producers of mass media Science Fiction is to deal intelligently with Time Travel. I really like time travel stories that are done well. This is the cause of my dissatisfaction with the British Doctor Who series. Considering that the whole thing is about a time traveler, they really fall down on the job royally, failing to live up to the potential of the show. One rare exception was the original "Weeping Angels" episode. That time, they handled the time travel in a very interesting and satisfying way. It remains one of the all time favorite episodes among all fans of the show, and that is probably because they really delivered for once a good time travel story.
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#8
Tonight is when MTV will broadcast episode 3 of The Shannara Chronicles. Here in Michigan that will be at 10:00 P.M.
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#9
I finished re-reading The Sword of Shannara, and now I have begun reading The Elfstones of Shannara, upon which the current TV series, The Chronicles of Shannara, is based. One thing I have to say right away, the book did not start out with Amberle running any gauntlet to win the coveted title of Chosen. In Terry Brooks' book, young people were presented to the Ellcrys tree, and it reached out little branches and touched the ones it chose, calling them by name telepathically. Looks like the producers/screenwriters decided to add a little dramatic action to the opening of the story. Also, now that I think about it, I don't recall the book mentioning that Allanon had any weird tattoos on his neck and back of his head that glowed when he was doing magic.

The commentary supplied in the feature last Sunday mentioned that when actress Poppy Drayton (who played Amberle Elissidel) first saw the Ellcrys tree that had been built as a prop, she cried, because it was so beautiful.

In the introduction to Elfstones, Brooks detailed how much help he got from Lester Del Rey in writing it--to the extent of a 12-page, single-spaced letter, and similar help throughout the writing of the book, with copious notes throughout the draft Brooks first sent him, and many back-and-forth comments during the writing. Brooks said this is when he truly learned to be a professional writer, giving large credit to Del Rey. So it would be fair to call Elfstones a collaboration between Brooks and Del Rey.

Lester Del Rey was a "golden age" sf writer and editor of Del Rey Books, "the science fiction and fantasy imprint of Ballantine books."
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#10
Well, it looks like The Chronicles of Shannara is a different story from the Terry Brooks novel, The Elfstones of Shannara. More and more details keep piling up that are different. In episode four, they caught and killed the changeling (shapeshifter) before Amberle even left Arborlon. In the novel, that did not happen until much later in the story, when they discovered that the king's pet dog was the changeling, and the king was barely able to survive. Also they have Eretria leaving together with Amberle and Wil, when in the book, she did not join them until they were just about to reach the "Bloodfire." I wonder if Brooks feels like he sold his brainchildren to white slavers. The story Chronicles is telling is not bad, it's just a different story.
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#11
Just my opinion, but even if the story is somewhat altered, it still is very watchable.

Except the dialogue is a little too "cutesy" sometimes.
I know you think you understand what you thought I said,
but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant!
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#12
"Very watchable" is true. I haven't looked into the production of the series, but I wonder if Terry Brooks has anywhere close to the input given to Frank Herbert for Dune, George R. R. Martin for Game of Thrones, or even Orson Scott Card for Ender's Game.

Tolkien is no longer around, but Peter Jackson treated the books with total reverence as he created the screen version.

I prefer the Peter Jackson variation. I think it is far better to have a professional who knows how to produce a good product, and use the original book as gospel, than to let a dilettante, Like OSC, make wholesale alterations because he can. Most good SF projects have suffered at the hands of film studio "brains" who presume to know better than the author or readers, as to what they "really" want.

Probably the best Director/Producer today is Joss Whedon, who has as big a fan following as his vehicles do. James Cameron has a deplorable tendency to add his own issues into his works. To a degree, Gene Roddenberry did that, too - but since his issues were the basis for his stuff, it all worked.
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#13
In addition, Rowling's Harry Potter screen series was better than her original books, which is one of the reasons all the excuses for changing the age of all the characters in Ender's Game was unacceptable. I'll never forgive OSC for the shallow Bean he ended up with.
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#14
Peter Jackson did show alot of reverential respect for Tolkien, at least in writing the LOTR trilogy--although he still took some liberties in the interests of telling a better story cinematically--such as eliminating the "scouring of the Shire" because it would have been anticlimactic. And leaving out entirely the character of Tom Bombadil, who though very interesting, was really irrelevant to the story and did not advance the plot.

George R. R. Martin has won a few literary awards, but I am annoyed with his Game of Thrones story line because he kills off so many of his most heroic characters. If he is heading anywhere with the overall megaplot, I cannot see it--and above all, I want my stories to be heading somewhere, ultimately. I want Good to triumph over Evil. So far, everyone good has been killed off, except for the two Stark girls. And the dwarf is only semi-good, also a bit evil.

I don't think Terry Brooks has any delusions about being a screenwriter. At least, he has never said anything that indicated an interest in it. His first profession was law, which he finally gave up after writing The Wishsong of Shannara, his third Shannara book. But he does have many, many more books in the Shannara universe alone, beyond the first trilogy, so there is plenty of material there to mine. (In some of the later novels, he has sailing ships that fly through the air.) And I still think his most inspired stories were his "Void and the Word" trilogy, that showed the building conflict between Good and Evil in our modern world, where demons came out in the open to do battle against Gandalf-like Champions of the Word. Also ingenious was his "Genesis of Shannara" trilogy, that provided a science fictional bridge between the "Void and the Word" universe, and the Shannara universe.

The only other sf writer I can think of who provided an intriguing bridge between modern physical science and a world of magic, where natural laws had to change to magic, turning nuclear explosions into sentient beings, etc., so that the world could be saved from complete destruction--was Fred Saberhagen, with his Changeling Earth series.

As I have said before somewhere, I think that Orson Scott Card's problem was that he bit off more than he could chew, writing about supergenius children, when he himself is not near enough to genius level to understand what he is writing about. He would have been better off to just say that he was invoking magic in the way their minds worked. Because that was really about what he was doing. The decisions the superkids made were not necessarily rational, and seldom plausible. But I do like other stories he has written that were not in the Ender universe. He has a strong sense of morality, that I appreciate. His early literary success and acclaim for the novela, "Ender's Game" I think has been a distraction to him. Finally, hopefully, he has gotten over it. I think some of the novels in his "Tales of Alvin Maker" series would be much better suited to being made into movies. Also his "Mithermages" series and his "Pastwatch" series have lots of promise for cinematic material. Card, you may recall, has written a number of plays, and actually comes from a Shakesperean background. So cinema is not a totally alien genre to him.

About J.K. Rowling--she deserves credit for a great range of imagination, and being able to handle a rather immense complexity of plot, while giving us some very memorable characters. It is true that the movies improved some points in the stories, but they were fairly minor points. Like having Neville giving Harry the "Gilliweed" instead of the house elf, Dobbie (which is how Rowling had it). Harry's overcoming the Sphinx in the Maze was left out in "The Goblet of Fire" movie. It would have slowed down the pacing at the wrong place. But it made sense in the novel. Rowling said she wished she had thought of the talking shrunken heads. But they were very minor elements. For the most part, the movies did follow the basic story outline of the novels. I think that Rowling's ending of the series was better, where all the good and decent people decide to turn out and join in the fight, outnumbering the bad guys. That showed Wizarding England making the collective decision to reject the kind of evil that Voldemort represented. Like Western Civilization made the final decision in WWII to reject the kind of evil that Hitler represented. I like to think of the movies and the novels as two slightly different story lines, making twice the fun.
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#15
By the way, Terry Brooks is listed as one of many executive producers for the Shannara Chronicles (he is credited with executive producer for one episode), so he must have had some input. Maybe only a little. But he was probably so thrilled to have his creation adapted for TV that he was willing to go along with anything. (That's my guess.)
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#16
I just watched episode four of Shannara Chronicles again, and I notice that at the end, the changeling (shapeshifter) was still alive. He was dead, but he got better. So maybe we will still see the scene where the changeling assumes the form of King Eventine's wolf hound, and the king finally kills it (with help).
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#17
There was an earlier scene where the scene faded out and the dog's eyes glinted red.
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#18
(01-24-2016, 07:10 PM)WmLambert Wrote: There was an earlier scene where the scene faded out and the dog's eyes glinted red.

The red glowing eyes of the Wolfhound is what is called a "foreshadowing" in literary lingo. Yes, that was how the changeling was able to spy on the inner counsels of the inner council. The changeling can go back and forth, apparently. And they haven't found the real dog's dead body, yet. (No wolfhounds were harmed in the making of this show!)

King Eventine Elessedil and Manx, the wolfhound:....................Manx with eyes glowing red:
       

The dog's name is "Wolfie." I wonder if next year he will be nominated for an Oscar.

You know, there is a kind of housecat that is called a Manx cat. They are large and semi-wild.
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#19
It has been announced that the network (MTV) has purchased another season of The Shannara Chronicles. This seems like a good thing, since season one closed with the words, "To be continued." The last scene showed a captive Eretria being hauled into a camp of trolls, and one of them removes his head covering (we only see this from the back) and Eretria looks with amazement, and says, "You!" Then comes the words "To be continued." In the novels by Terry Brooks, Wil Ohmsford winds up marrying Eretria (since he can't have Amberle, who has turned into the Elcrys tree). So if the screenwriters are going to follow the books at all, they have to rescue Eretria and reunite her with Wil. Of course, the screenwriters did not follow the book very closely, just generally. So nothing can be taken for granted. Next in the books comes The Wishsong of Shannara, which is about Wil and Eretria's children, thus is a generation later.

I recorded the whole first season on VHS tape, and just finished viewing all ten episodes (except for part of episode 6, which got messed up somehow). It sure annoys me how frequently they break for commercials. It is literally every five minutes. Even when I can fast forward through the commercials, it is pretty annoying.
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#20
I think you have Comcast. If you do, then there are times when the entire series is available over cable - and more frequently online. You can set the box to record all new episodes as they occur. VHS is nice, but since memory became so cheap, digital recording on chip or disc is the way to go. Using On Demand you can view any episode at any time.
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