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His Dark Materials -Preview

His Dark Materials promo
The armoured bear, Iorek Brynison, is ready to join Lyra on her adventure. Photosource: BBC

When your hopes are disappointed it’s always tempting to just give up and let them go. But sometimes, when we least expect it, miracles can happen and they can come true after all. 

At least, that’s the general attitude towards the new His Dark Materials TV series coming up this year. 

For those of you who skipped the nerdy-fantasy obsessed phase in middle school, let’s be clear despite being one of the classics of the entire genre, no one really believed that we would ever get to see this epic adventure play out on the big screen again. The trilogy of the same name by Phillip Pullman has always divided people. It is blatantly anti-religious, especially in books meant for children and young adults. Yet, it is such an original and well-written story that its popularity grew among youth and adults despite this setback. And it’s worth noting that it did so with a little girl as the champion. Take that Tolkein. 

A  story crossed with both magic and science, His Dark Materials is a grandiose fantasy adventure and one of those rare series in which each book is just as good as the last.  It takes place in a parallel universe where every person is accompanied by animals called dæmons that are manifestations of their soul. The journey begins with Lyra Belacqua and her dæmon Pantalaimon, as an orphaned child she lives and roams the halls of the prestigious Jordan College with minor oversight from her various tutors and absentee uncle, Lord Asriel. Through a near-poisoning and some spying, Lyra discovers that her uncle is about to be at war with the theocratic government, the Magisterium, over a substance called Dust, and that this is somehow connected to the missing children taken by the Gobblers. When Lyra’s friend Roger Parslow becomes one of the missing children she embarks on a trip to the North to save him and discover the secrets of Dust herself. 

The 2007 movie adaptation of this first novel in the trilogy, The Golden Compass, looked pretty promising. It was directed by Chris Weitz and starred Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman. Worldwide it did pretty well, but its disappointing reception in America killed the chance of a sequel. Although, the major backlash to the anti-theological themes from various religious groups really put the final nail in that coffin too. Not that we weren’t expecting that. 

After the first film was thwarted most die-hard fans just made their peace with the idea of never seeing the full story play out on screen. But leave it to Phillip Pullman to surprise us.

After the rights reverted back to him, he teamed up with the New Line Cinema and Bad Wolf in 2015 to produce a newly revived TV series of the same name for BBC one, with HBO coming in later to be the international distributor of this show. Since we made do with the scraps of information about the casting and production in our ever devout anticipation of finally seeing the finished series. It was only this past February that we were told that it would be released this year and at this past August San Diego Comic-Con that we finally got a full-length trailer for the upcoming series. 

The first season is meant to cover The Golden Compass book, with the trailer just giving us snapshots of the feature-length adventure. We are only given flashes of the missing children and their northern prison cut against the pleasing backgrounds of Jordan College and Mrs. Coulter’s home, with Lyra jumping between all of them. 

First impressions of this preview and it is clear that the tv series is going to be a different take on the story from the books. Not bad, just different. Lyra’s world will have a more modern, almost dystopian feel to it rather than the Victorian-like settings of the original. For an instant we even catch Lyra in a bright blue dress and white cap, almost looking like the handmaid’s tale knock-off probably at the prison. In general, everything looks more clean-cut and less ornate than before which gives the series a different, possibly even more harsh, feel to it than we are used to. 

Still, even with a new texture, this adaptation of the books really seems like it will deliver a faithful performance of the trilogy and be worth watching. Just like the film, the cast of this show is top-notch as well and includes Dafne Keen, James McAvoy, Ruth Wilson, and Lin-Manuel Miranda. If nothing else, the series has already been picked up for a second season that will be based on the second book, The Subtle Knife. Meaning that for the time being it’s safe to get attached to the show.

The His Dark Materials TV series premieres on November 3rd in the UK, and on November 4th internationally. For the endlessly patient fans who have waited years and never knew it if this was actually going to happen, it’s about time. 

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