His Dark Materials appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on these Blu-ray Discs. The series came with high-quality visuals.
In general, definition seemed positive. A little softness occasionally interfered with interiors, but the majority of the elements came across as accurate and concise.
No signs of jagged edges or shimmering materialized. I also saw no signs of source defects.
In an unsurprising movie, orange and teal dominated the palette. These hues remained predictable but still well-rendered.
Blacks seemed appealing, and low-light shots presented nice clarity. The visuals satisfied.
The series’ DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio also fared well, and the episodes offered a good mix of action elements. These used the various speakers to involve us with material such as magical elements, vehicles and the like. Throw in prominent use of music and the soundscape involved us well.
Audio quality appeared solid, with speech that came across as natural and distinctive. Music portrayed bold, lively material as well.
Effects worked nicely, as they offered vivid, accurate information with taut low-end. The audio added to the experience.
Nine featurettes flesh out the package, eight of which appear on Disc One. Adapting His Dark Materials runs four minutes, four seconds and delivers notes from novelist Philip Pullman, executive producer Jane Tranter, screenwriter Jack Thorne, and actors James McAvoy, Ruth Wilson, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Dafne Keen.
As implied by the title, this piece offers some notes about the novels’ path to the screen. It offers a few good notes, but much of it tends toward fluff.
Building His Dark Materials goes for five minutes, 54 seconds and offers remarks from Miranda, McAvoy, Wilson, Keen, production designer Joel Collins, and actors Anne-Marie Duff, Lucian Msamati, Mat Fraser, and James Cosmo.
“Building” examines sets, locations and design choices. Like the first show, this one gives us some insights but emphasizes praise.
Next comes Dressing His Dark Materials, a three-minute, 15-second piece with Duff, Wilson, McAvoy, Keen, Miranda, costume designer Caroline McCall, and actors Ruta Gedmintas and Daniel Frogson. We learn about the series’ clothes in this decent overview.
The Daemons of His Dark Materials fills three minutes, 43 seconds with statements from Miranda, Cosmo, Duff, Keen, McAvoy, Wilson, Tranter, Msamata, creature effects William Todd-Jones and VFX supervisor Russell Rodgson.
“Daemons” tells us about the representation of the series’ animal characters. It becomes a short but efficient featurette.
After this, we find four actor-centric featurettes: Bringing Lord Asriel to Life (3:17), Bringing Lee Scoresby to Life (2:25), Bringing Mrs. Coulter to Life (3:24) and Bringing Lyra Belacqua to Life (4:26). Across these, we hear from McAvoy, Miranda, Wilson and Keen.
Here the actors discuss their characters and their approaches to them. Though these exist for promotional reasons, they offer a reasonable amount of useful information.
On Disc Two, we get The Making of His Dark Materials, a 33-minute, 11-second program that includes notes from Wilson, McAvoy, Miranda, Keen, Collins, McCall, Thorne, Tranter, Pullman, Cosmo, Duff, Msamati, Gedmintas, Dodgson, Todd-Jones, Fraser, puppet captain Brian Fisher, animation archive researcher Laurence Whitaker, director Otto Bathurst, actor Joe Tanburg and VFX art director/pre-vis supervisor Dan May.
“Making” examines the novels and their adaptation, story/characters, cast and performances, sets and locations, effects and the depiction of animals, costumes and related domains.
Expect a fair amount of repetition from Disc One’s featurettes. “Making” comes from the same interview sessions and often reuses the same comments.
Still, even with the redundant material, “Making” becomes a pretty good summary of the production. It adds enough new information to deserve a look, and it seems less promotional than Disc One’s segments.
Based on popular fantasy novels, His Dark Materials occasionally shows signs of life. However, it too often comes across like a mix of influences from other works, and it only fitfully develops into an interesting narrative. The Blu-rays come with very good picture and audio as well as a decent array of bonus materials. Hopefully Season Two will provide a more consistent experience.