Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Show of Shannara.

Yup, after Warner Brothers let their option to make a film out of the first of Terry Brook's fantasy trilogies lapse, I kind of thought that we had seen the last of the attempts to adapt them. Apparently I was incorrect.

This is interesting news, and one that doesn't particularly inspire me nor fill me with dread. I presume they will be sticking with the same format they had looked at for the films, adapting Elfstones and Wishsong straight, but using Sword for copious flashback sequences in order to make it's similarities to Lord of the Rings a little more subtle. By no means a bad plan, but one which still rankles my chronology obsessed brain. Still, I hope they manage to make a serious go of it, Brook's series is some what uniquely well suited to a long form TV series since most of his books don't feature the same characters, or they feature the children of previous characters, nephews and neices with occasional cameos from earlier characters.

Now, don't get me wrong, I actually really like Terry Brooks as a person, and despite what Lin Carter wrote about Sword, I even enjoyed it for what it was. Mr. Brooks has an undeservedly poor reputation mostly stemming from some very unfavourable reviews of his first book. A book which Lester Del Rey had a tremendous amount of input into, and we really don't know, and likely won't know just how many editorial changes were made due to that input. Though, with the upcoming publication of the Annotated 35th Anniversary edition of Sword, we may get some insight.

Besides, as Frank Herbert said:

 Don't fault Brooks for entering the world of letters through the Tolkien door. Every writer owes a similar debt to those who have come before. Some will admit it. Tolkien's debt was equally obvious. The classical myth structure is deeply embedded in Western society.
That's why you should not be surprised at finding these elements in The Sword of Shannara. Yes, you will find here the young prince in search of his grail; the secret (and not always benign) powers of nature; the magician; the wise old man; the witch mother; the malignant threat from a sorcerer; the holy talisman; the virgin queen; the fool (in the ancient tarot sense of the one who asks the disturbing questions) and all of the other Arthurian trappings.
What Brooks has done is to present a marvelous exposition of why the idea is not the story. Because of the popular assumption (which assumes mythic proportions of its own) that ideas form 99 percent of a story, writers are plagued by that foolish question, "Where do you get your ideas?" Brooks demonstrates that it doesn't matter where you get the idea; what matters is that you tell a rousing story.
My main hope is, that since Shannara takes place in a post apocalyptic Pacific Northwest, they film in Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Alaska and Hawaii, and that they limit the non American Accents on the show. At it's heart Shannara is one of the first attempts at American High Fantasy vs. English or British High Fantasy. It needs to feel that way. It can be bucolic and pastoral, but it takes place in North America and that should be obvious. Especially when the characters find ruins or half functioning machines..  Maybe a ruined Boeing Plant.. or a half eroded Space Needle. The setting of Shannara is what makes it unique and what makes it stand apart from Tolkien.. I hope they play it up. Other than that, it would be nice if the filmmakers and tv studios stay away from the trap they laid for themselves when adapting that other Terry a few years ago with Legend of the Seeker. That is, water down a book series which you have no fear of running out of material to mine for ages.. to the point where it becomes blander and less inspired than the original book it is based on.