Is His Dark Materials Worth Watching? – Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy is a fantastic fantasy masterpiece, a work of fiction that, like the best examples of the genre, succeeds in combining a compelling, world-immersing story and unforgettable characters with such richness and of a complex that readers will do. chew until there are no readers left. And unlike many other great stories, however, it is not one in which the reader can easily float, like a canoe, up a river, unaware of the depths below. Faith, free will, destiny, knowledge, sexual awakening, gender, the life of the soul, the nature of trust and intimacy, the corruption of institutions, the fear of knowledge, the destructive power of shame, the certainty of loss in life. “These are not the ones you find at the bottom of the river. They are the water itself.
If you allow that metaphor to stretch a little further, to the wonderful new adaptation of Jack Thorne’s trilogy for HBO and the BBC, we are not looking at a river so much as a stream. That’s not to say that there’s nothing to recommend this version of “His Dark Materials”: it’s brilliantly designed, expertly cast, and often technically superb, with some blindingly effective or over-the-top sequences. be terrible. And the story is, essentially, the story: the story of a girl on a mission to save a friend, unknowingly caught in the middle of a storm that encompasses the fate of the entire human race. But in the four episodes made available to critics for review, the complexity has been watered down, the sharp edges sanded down. Thanks to those bright glimpses, the world of “His Dark Materials” is still worth exploring, but whether you’re comparing it to the original or looking at it fresh, this series is another liquid excuse to introduce in this stage, weak tea. .
Is His Dark Materials Worth Watching?
That’s a term that shouldn’t be applied to anything related to Lyra Belacqua (Dafne Keen). Lyra is a girl on her knees, running wild across the rooftops of Oxford, leaping from one centuries-old temple of knowledge to the next, cruising between daemon statues and zeppelins that stand out like industrial clouds. glittering against the sky. (This is clearly not our Oxford, whatever the year, but it’s clearly not 2019 either.) She’s often accompanied by Roger (Lewin Lloyd), another fatherless, unknown boy who’s only been to halls (and roofs) Jordan College he knows. But Lyra is never alone as she jumps and tumbles through her town, as Pantalaimon (Kit Connor) is on her side.
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Lyra, like everyone in this world, has a daimon, an external element or extension of herself that takes the form of an animal. Of course, it’s more complicated than that; “His Dark Materials” explains the concept in an opening title card, and then explains it over the next two episodes. It is a very important piece of world building, but it is one of many; In the opening scenes of the series, we are introduced to a world-changing flood, the concept of a school sanctuary, the Magisterium, the concept of “powder,” lots of history, gypsies, gobblers, and, you know, the foundation of the plot. It’s a lot to take in, and despite the many convenient revelations and explanations, it’s likely to remain a mystery to those who haven’t read the books. Another frustration for those who have is that the plot somehow moves like molasses all at once, covering a lot of ground and rarely stopping to invest in the emotional causes or consequences.
In the show’s defense, there is a lot to cover, as evidenced by this review, some of the show’s main characters, or its main idea, have yet to be introduced. It’s strange that you’re reluctant to reveal details about the premise of a trilogy that reached its final chapter in October 2000, but we’ll keep things a secret. Lyra’s story begins when a quick, cunning and very dangerous man, Lord Asriel (James McAvoy), releases a child into the bewildered grasp of the master of Jordan College (Clarke Peters). Asriel, whom Lyra calls her uncle, returns to the College between research trips, until he is seen on a fateful trip bringing news that the Magesterium would surely consider him heretical. When he climbs back into his zeppelin, again refusing to take Lyra with him, he is ready to meet Mrs. Coulter (Ruth Wilson), a scholar and explorer in her own right who has no interest in leaving her. behind
In the end he crosses the path of the brave gypsies Ma Costa (Anne-Marie Duff), Coram Farder (James Cosmo), John Faa (Lucian Msamati) and Tony Costa (Daniel Frogson); baller Lee Scoresby (Lin-Manuel Miranda) and his demon, a hare named Hester (Cristela Alonzo); witch, Serafina Pekkala (Gedmintas Way); and most notably, an armor-clad polar bear with the perfect name of Iorek Byrnison (voice actor Joe Tandberg and a fleet of top-notch animators). Msmati and Cosmo give strong but understated performances, but few, if any, notes. That includes Miranda. If you asked me a week ago if the star “Mary Poppins Returns” was the right choice to step into the shoes of Sam Elliott, which was one of the high points but only in the lackluster film adaptation of the opening trilogy “The golden compass “. “I would say yes and that would be a lie. I’m glad I was wrong. He and Alonso are happy.
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Simply put, it’s an excellent group of characters and actors, even if the show’s determination to elucidate world-building comes at the expense of character and plot. That extends to Lyra; while Keen is great (and perfect), he remains generic through the first episode and much of the second. Things crystallize for her and in the series when she begins to interact mainly with Mrs. Coulter with Wilson, the best character she does by far. Much of that success must be attributed to Wilson, who has mastered the art of playing lies to others and lies to themselves, and who can be both, even if those things are war with each other. Although he is late in coming, Iorek Byrnison’s scenes are almost as strong, and his interiors, like Coulter’s scenes, cannot be separated from the workings of the plot. That, if nothing else, bodes well for the future of the series; As the lives of these people become more intertwined, so will the connection between the characters and the story.
However, all that “His Dark Materials” suggests is hope for better things in the future. The costume design (Caroline McCall), production design (Joel Collins), art direction, and other design elements are fascinating, and tap into that world-building energy more intimately than anything explains. The demonic statues are really cool, as are the more industrial elements (plastic flags, for example) that set “A Dark Matter” apart from other, more generic fantasy worlds. And the show’s directors (Tom Hooper, among others) and cinematographers seem to feel the same way. While there are the requisite panoramic shots of the places Lyra visits, the camera’s tendency to wonder ceases when she does so, operating from a young girl’s perspective instead. It’s a smart choice, and it gives the later episodes a better sense of presence than the opening chapters, which often feel like Chris Columbus’ “Harry Potter” movies fused with “Downton Abbey.”
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