The Shannara Chronicles: Season One Blu-ray Review

MTV Fantasy Series Adapting Terry Brooks’ books

Terry Brooks’ popular series of fantasy books adapts into this larger-than-life television adaptation from MTV. Shot in New Zealand with breathtaking landscapes, it is teen adventure writ large as three intrepid heroes come together in an attempt to save the Four Lands. Season one of The Shannara Chronicles is fantasy on television done correctly, in the mold of the genre’s seminal influence, The Lord of the Rings. Smallville creators Al Gough and Miles Millar have put together a fun, exciting show for fantasy lovers.

Terry Brooks’ series of books featured plenty of action and romance, a perfect fit for MTV’s youth-driven storytelling. Spiced up with risque themes for MTV’s viewers, hardcore Brooks’ supporters noticed a few changes and alterations from the novels. Familiar characters such as Allanon and the Elven princess Amberle are featured characters in a winding plot that involves mysterious Elfstones owned by Wil Ohmsford.

The Four Lands is not some distant planet but Earth itself. Thousands of years in the future, it has been devastated by a holocaust of our own making. Human civilization is no more, a mostly forgotten relic in this land dominated by magic and strange creatures. Humans are now just another species besides the Elves and others. The benevolent Elves rule the Four Lands.

Decades of peace are suddenly threatened by the death of the Ellcrys Tree, a powerful protector that prevents demons from overwhelming the Four Lands. Every fallen leaf unleashes a new demon from a supernatural hell. Three outsiders will have to stand up against this dark and terrible force led by Dagda Mor.

The main focus of season one is putting three important characters together. Princess Amberle (Poppy Drayton), Wil Ohmsford (Austin Butler) and Rover girl Eretria (Ivana Baquero) all have different motivations driving them. That leads to heated conflicts and missteps between them on their journey. Things get more complicated for the trio when it becomes a love triangle, putting them in danger against the hordes of demons threatening to overrun the Four Lands. They are guided by the wise and mysterious Druid, Allanon (Manu Bennett of Deathstroke fame from Arrow).

Season one’s ten episodes flow fairly quickly with crisp plotting and a few unforeseen twists

The Shannara Chronicles is smooth fantasy television with strong cast members like John Rhys-Davies and excellent production values that far exceed expectations. MTV put a lot of money into it by filming in New Zealand and that helps a great deal. Season one’s ten episodes flow fairly quickly with crisp plotting and a few unforeseen twists. The characters and plotting are skewed a bit for younger adult audiences, though there are enough adult characters around to give it enough weight.

Some bumps along the way arise that are best left forgotten. One episode has Amberle and Eretria discovering a perfectly preserved prom room from thousands of years in the past. Thankfully that plot doesn’t play into the greater arc but stands out for its ridiculous inclusion in the first place. Chances are taken in the storytelling that don’t always pan out, leaving a couple of hokey moments.

This first season of The Shannara Chronicles isn’t perfect but entertains for fantasy lovers. The three lead heroes show real chemistry together, especially as Amberle and Wil get closer. That is all you can ask for in a first season that has to introduce an entire world of characters and locations foreign to most viewers. After this successful first season, season two should be even better.

Shannara Chronicles: Season 1 Blu-ray screen shot 6

Video

MTV and Paramount Pictures includes the ten episodes of Season One on two BD-50s. Shot in stunning New Zealand landscapes, The Shannara Chronicles is a pretty series filled with plenty of eye candy. It is framed here at its broadcast 1.78:1 aspect ratio in 1080P resolution. The video is encoded with AVC in flawless quality.

This is excellent high-definition video with ample depth and pristine clarity. It ranks highly among other cable television shows for picture quality. Having seen the MTV broadcast as well during its initial run, this Blu-ray set offers a sharper and more consistent presentation.

Digitally graded and shot with beautiful detail, its nice production values are highlighted in most every scene. The extensive VFX are slickly integrated into the video nearing theatrical quality. Contrast and black levels are consistently strong, showing off the pristine clarity.

A few scenes cause problems with darker lighting or dodgy CGI. Some might quibble with the overly greenish push of the color palette but it’s in-line with fantasy filmmaking like Lord of the Rings. That trilogy’s influence on Shannara Chronicle’s overall look and tone cannot be understated.

This is definitely a handsome Blu-ray presentation worth owning for fans.

Audio

The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is less impressive than one may expect given my praises for the video quality. This is a fairly average mix offering some rumble but fewer than expected surround pyrotechnics.

The soundfield is spread out over the entire listening space but it develops in a perfunctory audio experience. It’s evident that most cues are reserved for the action set pieces sprinkled throughout episodes, as when the fearsome Reaper shows up. The score nicely supports the dialogue and better surround moments.

Optional English SDH subtitles display in a white font.

Extras

There is a feeling that Paramount went for the collector’s market with this two-disc release. It comes with a fancy, embossed slipcover with highly decorative art. A UV digital copy gives you the entire season in HDX. A 16-page collector’s booklet covers the main characters in a high-minded, artistic product replicating something that may have been a book in the Four Lands.

Behind The Scenes (18:09 in HD) – A featurette made for MTV that features cast members and critical production crew. Topics such as making the Elf ears and designing the Ellcrys are covered in light interviews and clips.

Exploring New Zealand (01:23 in HD) – A brief featurette detailing the beautiful location photography of New Zealand.

Terry Brooks Interview (01:55 in HD) – The author talks about the show and addresses the changes made from his novels. This interview should have been much longer. Obviously made as a promotional piece, it wouldn’t have killed them to ask a few more questions of the author that designed this entire fantasy world.

The Making of the Dagda Mor (04:50 in HD) – The actor playing the demonic character goes over his extensive make-up process and what it takes to play the character.

Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process. Patreon supporters were able to access these screens early, view them as .pngs, and gain access to 10 Shannara Chronicles exclusives.