MTV has found success with its recent efforts to adapt established properties into different types of genre television aimed at a younger generation; first, with Teen Wolf (which debuted in 2011) and then with Scream, which only just launched in June 2015 (but has already done well enough to get a season two renewal). The network is aiming to replicate those results yet again, with its upcoming series The Shannara Chronicles due to arrive in January 2016.
Shannara Chronicles, unlike Teen Wolf and Scream, is based on a literary series (rather than a movie franchise), in the form of Terry Brooks’ Shannara fantasy novels. Brooks has been publishing Shannara novels since the late 1970s (starting with “The Sword of Shannara” in 1977) and his fantasy universe now encompasses well over twenty book installments (which have, in turn, sold millions of copies over the last few decades). That is to say, the MTV show isn’t exactly lacking for source material to draw from, with its freshman season and (possibly) beyond.
A new trailer for Shannara Chronicles was unveiled during the 2015 Video Music Awards on MTV. You can watch that preview above, then read the show’s official logline, below:
Set thousands of years after the destruction of our civilization, the story follows an Elven Princess, Amberle, a half-human half-elf, Wil, and a human, Eretria, as they embark on a quest to stop a Demon army from destroying the Four Lands.
The Shannara Chronicles cast – like those for other MTV shows – features a number of less-experienced stars in the lead, including Ivana Banquero (who starred in Pan’s Labyrinth as a child) as Eretria, Poppy Drayton (Where Calls the Heart) as Amberle, and Austin Butler (The Carrie Diaries) as Will. Bringing more acting experience are such actors as John Rhys-Davies – who played Sallah in the Indiana Jones movies and Gimli in the Lord of the Rings trilogy – as well as Manu Bennett, who played Slade Wilson on Arrow and Azog the Defiler in the Hobbit trilogy.
Much of the footage in the new Shannara Chronicles trailer was also included with the show’s San Diego Comic-Con 2015 preview, so the general impression it leaves ought to likewise be pretty similar. MTV programs such as Teen Wolf have been criticized in the past for having subpar special effects and production values (especially in the wake of budgetary cuts), but so far the designs of the non-human creatures and fantastical locations on the show (inspired by Brooks’ descriptions) look to stand out, as far as cable TV standards go. At the same time, Shannara Chronicles‘ scenery has a more polished and shiny look than the comparatively grounded (and richly-detailed) fantasy world of Game of Thrones.
Shannara Chronicles‘ fantasy adventure storytelling will be geared towards a younger audience than the adult political intrigue of Game of Thrones, so it’s perhaps fitting that its aesthetic is brighter than that of HBO’s hit show. Live-action sci-fi/fantasy entertainment in a family-friendly package – with the tone established by the show’s premiere episode director Jonathan Liebesman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)) and series producer Jon Favreau (Iron Man 1 & 2) – is not something so commonplace on cable television right now. Which is to say, there’s room in the small screen landscape for Shannara Chronicles to flourish.
Indeed, with its multiple female leads and narrative that takes its cues more from the J.R.R. Tolkien fantasy tradition (rather than the George R.R. Martin one), Shannara Chronicles read as being different enough from its peers that it should be able to stand out from the rest of the crowd… hopefully, for the right reasons, of course.
The Shannara Chronicles premieres January 16th, 2016 on MTV.