When one hears that MTV is producing a series based on Terry Brooks' much-beloved Shannara books, the reaction is a strange one. This is, after all, the network that brought us 16 and Pregnant and The Jersey Shore. They're going to tackle an epic fantasy series that launched in 1977 and just saw its latest release in June of 2015? Really?
On hand to reassure fans that, yes, MTV could not only handle making this kind of show but excel at it, were Brooks himself, along with producer Al Gough, director Jonathan Liebesman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Wrath of the Titans) and cast members Manu Bennett, John Rhys-Davies, Austin Butler and Poppy Drayton. And boy howdy, were they all excited to be a part of this thing. John Rhys-Davies, in particular, offered up some fairly hyperbolic statements about the quality of the writing for the series, and while one expects that kind of talk at what is essentially a promotional opportunity, there's something about Rhys-Davies' sonorous baritone that makes you want to believe.
Also pretty impressive was the new trailer for the series, which dazzled the crowd so much that it was shown twice. It featured some impressive-for-a-TV-budget visual effects, as well as key moments with every cast member. Perhaps the most rewarding for fans was the chance to see Manu Bennett, who has played villain (Azog from the Hobbit films) after villain (Deathstroke from Arrow), taking on the role of the virtuous druid Allanon. Bennett himself said that the chance to play a good guy after being an antagonist so often was a big part of what drew him to the show.
There were a lot of the usual platitudes about how great the cast and the production were, but one key really homed in on by Gogh and Liebesman was that they want to raise the bar for visual effects on TV. Liebesman cited Game of Thrones episode "The Watchers on the Wall," with its sweeping depiction of a massive battle, as the benchmark they set for themselves to clear with Shannara Chronicles. That's a bold statement to make, but both Liebesman and Gogh were adamant that they wanted to cut no corners in bringing Terry Brooks' far-future fantasy kingdom to life.
All in all, I walked out of this panel more curious than anything else. The trailer (which you can watch below) is arresting, no doubt, but it's full of quick cuts and short shots, and we've yet to really see how the series will pace out and whether Rhys-Davies' claims about the quality of the writing will hold true. Nevertheless, it's obvious that MTV is making a big genre push with Shannara Chronicles, and it left this fantasy fan at least somewhat hopeful that they can pull it off.