Cre­ators blaze a bloody trail in “Pretty Deadly”

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE - By Bethonie But­ler What is “The Shan­nara Chron­i­cles” about? Why MTV? So, is the show any good? By David Be­tan­court

MTV is get­ting into the fan­tasy drama game with “The Shan­nara Chron­i­cles,” based on the nov­els by Terry Brooks. The 10-episode se­ries, which pre­mieres Tues­day at 10 p.m. ET, has been com­pared to “Game of Thrones” and “Lord of the Rings”; it might not be what you’d ex­pect to see from the net­work that gave us “Jer­sey Shore.”

Then again, MTV is no stranger to switch­ing things up. There are more than two dozen books in the long-run­ning “Shan­nara” se­ries — the first book was re­leased in 1977, and the most re­cent was pub­lished last year. “The Shan­nara Chron­i­cles” is adapted most heav­ily from the sec­ond book, “The Elf­s­tones of Shan­nara,” which was re­leased in 1982 (you know, back when the M in MTV stood for “mu­sic”).

MTV tapped Al­fred Gough and Miles Mil­lar, the duo be­hind “Smal­lville,” to give the com­plex Shan­nara uni­verse — filled with elves, gnomes, trolls and a de­mon army — a mod­ern up­date.

Here’s a quick primer on what to ex­pect from the se­ries.

The story is set in the fic­tional Four Lands, where a mag­i­cal tree called the Ell­crys has long pro­tected res­i­dents (mainly elves) from evil demons. An el­ven princess named Am­berle Elessedil (Poppy Dray­ton) suc­cess­fully runs a bru­tal race called the Gaunt­let and be­comes one of the Cho­sen, an or­der of seven elves charged with pro­tect­ing the tree.

It’s soon dis­cov­ered that the tree is dy­ing — each fall­ing leaf rep­re­sents a de­mon that can now en­ter the Four Lands — and that Am­berle is the key to saving it. A half-elf named Wil Ohms­ford (Austin But­ler), a Rover named Ere­tria (Ivana Ba­quero) and a Druid named Al­lanon (Manu Ben­nett) be­come a vi­tal part of Am­berle’s quest.

The bet­ter ques­tion might be why not? Given the pop­u­lar­ity of “Game of Thrones,” it’s not sur­pris­ing that the net­work would want to ex­plore the fan­tasy genre.

“I ap­pre­ci­ated the strong pitch that MTV made for this and how will­ing they were to get be­hind it and sup­port it, and that’s really what I was look­ing for, more than any­thing else,” Brooks told EW in an in­ter­view last sum­mer.

“Shan­nara” is re­ported to be MTV’s most ex­pen­sive orig­i­nal pro­duc­tion ever. The di­a­logue has clearly been writ­ten to ap­peal to a younger de­mo­graphic and the show has a de­cid­edly MTV sound­track, an­chored by its angsty theme song, “Un­til We Go Down” by Ruelle.

More than one re­viewer has ref­er­enced the ridicu­lously good-look­ing cast — ac­ces­sorized down to their elf ears — and Am­berle’s wardrobe is a wor­thy ri­val to Khaleesi’s col­lec­tion of go­ing-out tops on “Game of Thrones.”

It’s worth not­ing that the se­ries also boasts strong fe­male char­ac­ters. “To play some­one who is that will­ing to fight, de­spite th­ese so­cial prej­u­dices against her, was in­cred­i­ble and couldn’t come at a more rel­e­vant time,” Dray­ton told USA To­day about play­ing Am­berle.

As with al­most any tele­vi­sion show, it de­pends on who you ask. En­ter­tain­ment Weekly says “the world-build­ing is imag­i­na­tive and im­pres­sive, but the mythol­ogy is ex­haust­ing to keep up with,” adding that “the re­ward is ba­si­cally just a ro­mance-novel version of ‘The Lord of the Rings.’ ”

The New York Times called the se­ries “rea­son­ably ab­sorb­ing.” Al­though there are a lot of com­par­isons to be made in a genre that’s grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity, The Times says “this show is best if not over­thought.”

For the record, Brooks seems pretty happy with it. The au­thor told EW that an adap­ta­tion had been years in the making and that he and his wife had vis­ited the set.

“I think the adap­ta­tion is work­ing out just as well as I could have hoped it would,” Brooks told the site.

Kelly Sue DeCon­nick has writ­ten enough sto­ries to swiftly sense when a nar­ra­tive isn’t go­ing as planned. And so it was dur­ing the col­lab­o­ra­tive process for “Pretty Deadly,” when she and artist/co-cre­ator Emma Rios de­cided dur­ing their first story lay­out that their Western tale wasn’t headed in the right di­rec­tion.

“Pretty Deadly,” their joint ti­tle pub­lished by Im­age Comics, was in­tended to read like an homage to Ser­gio Leone’s sharp­shoot­ing spaghetti West­erns. But the cre­ative duo, who met while work­ing to­gether for Marvel Comics, de­cided that what their new tale was miss­ing was some­thing oth­er­worldly.

“There’s no real way to ex­plain it other than the story just didn’t feel right un­til we em­braced the mytho­log­i­cal as­pect of it” the ti­tle, says DeCon­nick, who is known for her fan­fa­vorite run on “Cap­tain Marvel” for Marvel Comics, as well as her pop­u­lar cre­ator-owned ti­tle “Bitch Planet” for Im­age. “That’s when it was like (‘Pretty Deadly’) now feels like our own thing and this is our story. Sud­denly the pas­sion was there.

“We’d not in­tended to have talk­ing an­i­mals or rivers of blood ini­tially, but once we found them, we said: ‘This is our story.’ ”

Those bloody rivers and the nar­ra­tive voices of an­i­mals weave into the start­ing point for read­ers em­brac­ing the “Pretty Deadly” idea that death is not just some­thing but rather some­one — some­one who can fall in love and feel the reper­cus­sions of such an emo­tion just as any mere mor­tal could.

When look­ing for fuel to feed her cre­ative fire, DeCon­nick said she looks to­ward things that scare her or for some­thing that she has really strong, per­haps even con­flict­ing, views about. Love and death nat­u­rally ap­pear on that list ev­ery time.

“Love and death are the most ba­sic forces in hu­man life. We are all go­ing to die, and we have to all come to terms with it at some point,” DeCon­nick says. “We are all go­ing to lose some­one we care about. No one gets through un­scathed. (That is) the

Poppy Dray­ton, Austin But­ler and Ivana Ba­quero bat­tle elves in a post-apoc­a­lyp­tic Amer­ica in “The Shan­nara Chron­i­cles,” a new TV se­ries based on the best-sell­ing fan­tasy nov­els by Terry Brooks. Pro­vided by MTV

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.