Friday, January 08, 2016

So-so on Shannara

I was utterly useless yesterday, and it was kind of nice. I did take care of a couple of urgent things on the to-do list, but otherwise I did some reading and watching of stuff that turned out to be beneficial.

One thing was a documentary on Stephen Sondheim that I stumbled across in the HBO OnDemand files. They went into his creative process for writing songs, spotlighting six key songs from various parts of his career. The way he approaches lyric writing could also apply to other writing. I put it on mostly to get some background music for knitting but ended up getting a lot out of it.

I've also watched the pilot for the new Shannara series, and I have to say that I'm very, very iffy. I read the first two books in high school and loved them. The Elfstones of Shannara, which is the primary basis for this series, was my favorite. I re-read it a number of times. I picked up the subsequent books when I was out of college but then lost track of the series somewhere along the way. I'd reached the point where I was caught up to what had been published and was waiting for the next book. In the previous one, the party had been split into two groups, with the story following one group and ending with a cliffhanger on that group. When the next book came out, it picked up on the other group. I couldn't even remember what had been going on with those people and gave up on the book because I needed to re-read the previous one, and I never got around to that.

However, this TV series is centered on the characters and situation from one of the books that I've read multiple times. Or I should say is centered on characters with the same names. The situation seems to be more or less the same, but I don't actually recognize the characters. A couple do look a lot like the illustrations in the edition I had, but their personalities and behaviors are rather different.

Then there's the fact that it strikes me as being too contemporary. I'm aware that this series was never about a quasi-medieval fantasy world, that it was our world in a distant postapocalyptic future, but it still read like a fantasy world, with only a few clues thrown in that it wasn't what it seemed to be (and at the time, those mostly seemed to be about "really, it's not a Tolkien retread!"). I also know that there's no real reason other than trope and convention for fantasy characters to have British-like accents. However, there's just something wrong about elves sounding like California kids hanging out in the mall. The cadence of the dialogue struck me as sounding like they'd barely managed to edit out all the "dudes." Oddly enough, the older characters do have British accents. So it strikes me as MTV being worried that the teen audience couldn't relate to characters who didn't talk like them.

I think I may have hit my point of no return when two characters come across the place where the young woman they're seeking is, and they learn that she's at the nearby waterfall. The younger man goes to the waterfall to find her, and I said to myself, "She's going to be naked and bathing when he finds her, isn't she?" And she was. Because of course. Leave no cliche unturned.

But mostly, my issue is that I loved these characters. I didn't actually care for the big-picture threat and mostly skipped the battle scenes. But I cared deeply for the main characters and sweated over each step of their quest. And these aren't the same people to me. I kind of want to re-read the book now to cleanse my brain and get the right people back into my head.

However, Terry Brooks is involved in this, and it's his story, so maybe they fit what he intended (then again, when I had an option contract, there was a clause in it that said I couldn't publicly criticize what they did with my book). Or maybe he figured it was better to let them jazz it up and get a broader audience. I think this is aimed at younger people who've never read the books and might discover them rather than at older people who loved the books as teenagers back in the 80s. I may give it one more episode to see how it gels.

No comments: