Based on the 26-volume book series by Terry Brooks, The Shannara Chronicles tells the epic story of an Elvin princess, a bandit and a half-Elf tasked with stopping the end of the world. Created and Executive Produced by Alfred Gough & Miles Millar (Smallville) and Executive Produced by Jon Favreau (Iron Man), and shot against the epic landscapes of New Zealand.
Since every network is trying to capitalize on the whole Young Adult adventure craze and the success of 'Game of Thrones', it's not surprising that MTV has given a time slot to something similar with 'The Shannara Chronicles'. If you're unfamiliar with 'The Shannara Chronicles' or 'The Elfstones of Shannara', these are a series of many books that were written by Terry Brooks since 1977, which was when 'Star Wars' was released. I say that, because there are some similarities between the two. 'The Shannara Chronicles' was given a first season of ten episodes, and for being on MTV, the show looks very good visually.
The visual effects are great and there is even some hardcore violence in the series, which I did not expect. The first season though does suffer from its story telling aspect and characters throughout though, as it seems like the cast and crew, as well as the adapted story tries to find its footing in these ten episodes. The two big names in the series, who are only co-stars are John Rhys-Davies from 'Lord of the Rings' and James Remar from 'The Warriors'. The rest are actors I never really heard of, but all give solid performances when they are given the screen time to do so. '
The Shannara Chronicles' follow an assertive princess named Amberle, an inexperienced farm work named Wil, a rebellious fighter named Eretria, and an older magician named Allanon. Doesn't that sound familiar? All of these people cross paths when a demon named Dagda Mor wants to spread his evil and darkness across the world, which is known as The Four Lands. There is a tree called the Ellcrys which prevents the demons from crossing over into the real world, and these four strangers must now protect and fight the demons in this futuristic yet post-apocalyptic world. It plays better than it sounds for sure, but there are still some kinks to work out for the second season.
The show-creators Alfred Gough & Miles Millar (Smallville), along with filmmaker Jon Favreau as executive producer, sure know how to forward these characters along in a great and humanistic way in a magic-filled sci-fi fantasy world. This is one of the strong suits of the show so far besides the visuals and on location filming in New Zealand. This first season does a good job of explaining the plot arc, but meanders off the path in every episode with small fractions of a big overall story arc.
The young ones in the show have some romantic conflicts that are more or less tiresome and done before, but the writers kick things into high gear and focus back on the main point at hand just in time before we give up. The pacing just needs to focus more not on side stories, but rather the battle for good and evil. Again, this first season is a solid start to what can become an excellent show that is in the same room with the many other sci-fi fantasy violence that is out there right now.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The Shannara Chronicles' comes with two 50GB Blu-ray Discs from Paramount and are Region A Locked. There is an insert for the digital download code too. In addition to that, there is a 14 page booklet that is included that includes character bios and a brief history of this world we are presented. The discs and booklet are housed in a hard, blue plastic case with a cardboard sleeve.
'The Shannara Chronicles' comes with a 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio. This is a pretty solid looking image with the detail coming in sharp and vivid in almost every scene. Makeup effects, individual hairs, wounds, and the intricate magic spells all look great here and easily show up on screen. There are some darker scenes where things go softer and the CG elements don't look as good, but overall the video image is great.
The on location lands of New Zealand look beautiful as well and provide some wide shots of rich greenery and blue waters nicely. The colors are well saturated, but have a cooler look to them as if things are decaying from the demon's powers. Still, some bright primaries pop off screen throughout. The black levels are deep and inky and the skin tones are natural. There was some minor noise here and there, but all other video issues were non-existent.
This release comes with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix and does a great job of bringing all of the fantasy sounds together. Sound effects are robust and full at all times, and sound rather realistic when swords and fights break out. The supernatural aspect of the show also allows for a deep immersion into the fantasy soundscape that fully captures the surround speakers and will immerse you into this world.
Ambient noises sound good too with nature noises and people talking in the background. The score of the show always adds to the drama and suspense without drowning out any other aspect. The dialogue is crystal clear and easy to follow as well, and free of any pops, cracks, and hiss. The low end brings the bass in the heavier action scenes too without crossing into rocky territory.
'The Shannara Chronicles': Behind The Scenes (HD, 18 Mins.) - This featurette mostly covers some of the stage design and props that went into making this apocalyptic future world with one segment devoted to the great John Rhys-Davies. There's not a whole lot of substance here, but there are cast and crew interviews galore.
The Making of Dagda Mor (HD, 5 Mins.) - This examines the look and making of the demon with cast and crew interviews.
Exploring New Zealand (HD, 2 Mins.) - This features the sets and locales of New Zealand where the show was filmed.
Interview with Terry Brooks (HD, 2 Mins.) - A very short interview with the author of all the books this show is based on.
'The Shannara Chronicles' is surprisingly a good show and it has a ton of potential to compete in this sea of sci-fi fantasy violent shows that we see all the time now. In its first season though, there are some kinks to work out as far as story telling, pacing, and characters. Still, the show has promise and is worth the watch. The video and audio aspects are both great, but the extras are fairly boring and don't offer much in the way of substance, but rather just seeing everyone have fun behind the camera. This is worth a look.