'His Dark Materials': rumours, trailers and more
Much was made of Chris Weitz’s effort to capture the magic of The Golden Compass story in 2007.
A huge budget, stellar cast and a promising script fell victim to a slew of production-related controversies which saw the film remembered as a critical bomb and all-round disappointment. Weitz himself would later describe the whole thing as a “terrible experience”. High praise, indeed.
It’s no surprise, then, that fans of Phillip Pullman’s revered fantasy trilogy were sceptical when it was announced that HBO and the BBC were teaming up to co-produce a TV adaptation of the novels. His Dark Materials will condense the book trilogy – Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass – into two, eight-episode seasons, with the first set to premiere in late 2019.
Showrunner Jane Tranter (an ex-BBC executive) says the series is to be thought of as “16 episodes rather than 2 seasons, the end of the first novel is continuous with the second”, while clarifying her commitment to telling Pullman’s story “as elegantly as possible”. The producers reportedly wrote 46 drafts of the first episode before settling on the finished version – so fans can rest easy in the knowledge that the mistakes of The Golden Compass won’t be repeated.
A teaser trailer debuted back in May, while a meatier preview– complete with a closer look at Lorek Byrnison, everyone’s favourite armoured polar bear – was recently released at San Diego Comic-Con to much fan delirium ("There is my cute fluffy bear!!!!” read one comment).
The series looks to blend the novels’ darker totalitarian themes with the starry-eyed wonder of the magical creatures and steampunk technologies that inhabit Pullman’s world (all beautifully-rendered thanks to the hefty budget afforded by being a multi-company production) – traces of Harry Potter, Westworld and The Hunger Games are all evident.
His Dark Materials is the BBC’s most expensive series ever and it’s clear that the producers are intent on faithfully bringing the story of the author’s imagination to life.
The series will also be fronted by a largely-British contingent of acting talent. Rising star Dafne Keen (widely praised for her performance in Logan) is Lyra, the 12-year-old heroine of the novels, while Ruth Wilson (The Affair) steps into the child-stealing stilettos of Mrs Coulter.
The ever-adaptable James McAvoy (Split, Atonement) will play Lord Asriel, the steely adventurer once-assumed by Daniel Craig, and Hamilton architect Lin-Manuel Miranda adds a stateside charm as Texan-balloonist Lee Scoresby. No musical numbers here, though, it’s safe to assume.
In the current golden age of television – the era of Game of Thrones, Chernobyl, Stranger Things, Fleabag et al. – His Dark Materials is primed with potential that could see it rank amongst the most successful small screen adaptations of recent years.
It worked for Martin, Attwood and Conan-Doyle, though the botched first attempt of yesteryear will have Pullman wishing he could consult the Golden Compass of his imagination.
His Dark Materials will be released in Autumn 2019