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The Shannara Chronicles Review – A Disappointing Beginning

The Shannara Chronicles Review

Shannara Poster

Several years ago, I read a fantastic fantasy called The Elfstones of Shannara, so when I heard that an adaptation of the book was in the works, I was over the moon ecstatic. What could go wrong with such a great story to work with? Unfortunately, the two-hour premiere of The Shannara Chronicles was shaky at best.

In The Shannara Chronicles, the Ellcrys Tree is dying, a magical tree that keeps demons at bay. With each leaf that falls, a new demon from the demon world emerges into the Four Lands. But with magic a distant memory and the belief of the magic in the tree no more than folklore, the fate of the world lies in the hands of the elf princess Amberle who the tree shares visions with, a halfling (half-elf) named Wil whose father left some magical elfstones, and the last of the druids named Allanon (played by Arrow’s Manu Bennett) who serves as Wil’s mentor into the world of magic. Basically, our heroes have to save the tree before the world falls into ruin.

Austin Butler as Wil.

The story very much plays out like an archetypal quest with our heroes going on a journey. And for those who love quests like Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Legend of the Seeker, you may enjoy this series as well. However, the execution of the quest story is decidedly weak in comparison to all three. Will’s entrance into his quest is lame and the actor Austin Butler is, well, pretty terrible. He has absolutely zero charisma which becomes all the more glaringly obvious when he works opposite Manu Bennett’s brilliant portrayal of Allanon.

Manu Bennett in Shannara
The charismatic (and handsome) Manu Bennett as Allanon

Indeed, Allanon is by far the best part of the show, other than the wonderful source material the writers have to work with. The side love story with him and the King’s sister who has aged while he went into a Druid slumber (thus staying young in the process), was particularly interesting. Manu Bennett truly knows how to carry a scene.

Aside from Bennett, John Rhys-Davies (Gimli in LOTR) also works well in this LOTR style show as the Elven King, though thus far he has very little to do. That being said, when he and Bennett share a scene, it’s like a breath of fresh air next to the rest of the cast. Poppy Drayton is decent as Amberle and Ivana Baquero has potential as Eretria (the Rover girl who serves as the second girl in the main love triangle), however, there isn’t much hope for a good portion of the cast. Although, several of the actors would likely improve with a better script.

John Rhys-Davies in Shannara
John Rhys-Davies as King Eventine

Ah, yes! The script and the dialogue are rather embarrassing. Written by Al Gough and Miles Millar of Smallville fame, they prove here that perhaps high fantasy just isn’t for them. The dialogue is so bad in parts, that I cringed at the absurdity. Elves talking about boyfriends? Please, no. Seriously, though, the show needs to be cleaned up and the writers need to study how to write fantasy dialogue. Modern language like “knocked up” is jarring and one can only hope they hire someone to fix this if given a second season.

Aside from the dialogue, the New Zealand scenery is beautiful and works well to set the scene. The special effects for The Shannara Chronicles‘ low budget are also decent. Then there are the costumes…While a low budget can still be believable, these costumes were not. Perhaps I just didn’t like how they looked, but this also needs work in my book.

Basically, the story is great (Terry Brooks IS an awesome fantasy writer), Allanon is simply fabulous, but the show as a whole needs some reworking. Hopefully, season 1 will finish book 2 so season 2 would then be free to follow book 3. Why, you may ask? Because then the writers would have the chance to change the main characters and lose Austin Butler who is a serious weak link. He makes Wil about as interesting as unbuttered toast. Richard from Legend of the Seeker (which I adore) he is not. And I honestly can’t buy him as the love interest either. The scene between him and Eretria in the bathtub is so bad I almost turned off my TV…

That all being said, as someone who loves the original book, I will continue to tune into The Shannara Chronicles in the hopes it will improve with time. Until then, I plan to, at least, enjoy Manu Bennett as the intriguing Druid, Allanon!

What did you think of The Shannara Chronicles? Will you be tuning in? Sound off below…

Photos: MTV


three corset rating

“Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce

me. Aren’t you?”


(Extra point for Allanon)

three heart rating

“Happiness in marriage is entirely a

matter of chance.”

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By on January 8th, 2016

About Autumn Topping

In second grade, Autumn wrote her first story, “The Spinach Monster,” and hasn't stopped writing since. Intrigued by the tales her grandmother told of vampires, witches, and ghosts as a girl, she's always been drawn to the fantastic. Later, Autumn studied English and Creative Writing (continuing her love for classic literature and everything old-fashioned) and graduated with an MA in Children’s Literature and an MS in Library & Information Science from Simmons College. Currently, she co-runs this lovely site and works as a YA Librarian.

More posts by this author.

4 thoughts on “The Shannara Chronicles Review – A Disappointing Beginning”

  1. I’m glad that you addressed the dialogue, Autumn. I only watched about 20 mins. the other day (though I am going to finish the pilot and episode 2 this weekend), and even in that short time span cringed at the absurdity of the script. Everything was WAY too modern; sadly, there are screen writer’s who need to polish this element in more than one period show. That being said, the show did pull me in, and I’m curious to see Poppy in leading role after seeing her as Elizabeth Thatcher in the original WCTH movie (w Stephan Amell) and of course she guested in ‘Downton Abbey’ once.

    Great review! 🙂

  2. There’s more chemistry between Amberle and Eretria than either of them with Wil. And I totally agree about Austin Butler being the weak link, him and the writing will both need significant improvement for this to work.

    Love Manu Bennett in everything he does and John Rhys-Davies is always good but you’re right he has very little to do.

    I hope it gets better.

  3. Maybe you just prefer guys who look like an older, rougher Ricky Martin?

    As for Austin Butler’s having no charisma, I wonder if you’ve seen “Elvis”—or read any of those reviews? J/S!

    • This review was published six and a half years ago. And the show did not have a great start. And perhaps my sister was a bit harsh toward Butler’s performance. That said, we have seen Elvis and think Austin Butler did an amazing job. It could be that his performance in this series was affected by the director or weak scripts. Still, this was a review from a long time ago. It’s great to see him fulfilling his potential as an actor now.


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