His review of dark materials: Improved second try, but not enough

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HDM 2 Its dark materials

In the 2000s, when the Harry Potter film series raised billions of dollars worldwide at the box office, other studios tried to take part in the children's fantasy show. Disney Kick started an adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s seven-book series The Chronicles of Narnia, which ran three contributions before succumbing to critical and commercial reception. (Netflix will now try to solve the problem.) Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig directed the adaptation of Sir Philip Pullman's trilogy His Dark Materials, which initially failed with The Golden Compass. It was considered controversial on anti-religious issues, while others criticized it witty enough because it watered down the elements that were critical to religion. A second problem was that Pullman's complex world was not suitable for films.

Fortunately, the TV is now ready. The new series adaptation of His Dark Materials, which was created by award-winning playwright and screenwriter Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) and benefits from the combined power of the BBC and HBO, has enough time and space to present the story and hers Treat subtext and enough budget to bring his fantastic world to life in a beautiful and believable way. But it takes too long to get started and spin the first three episodes. (Four were shown to critics.) And although the images have been brought to the point, writing is not the case. Despite the elements at his disposal – talking animals, a modernized Victoriana fantasy, and scheming, tyrannical individuals – it usually feels, especially the farther away from his fantasy traps.

In addition, His Dark Materials sometimes feels like a children's show. Pullman's trilogy is often described as a children's book that adults should read, and the show's producers hoped it was an adult television show that children should watch. But its dark materials fail in this regard. Thorne said he "did a doctorate in the books" because he "wanted to make every note sound", but he couldn't realize these ambitions because the show's approach was too talkative. Everything is said out loud, and the characters keep shouting their motives, telling you how to feel in a scene, or pausing to do the exhibit about another character before leaving. Due to its simplicity, it does not respect the younger viewers and cannot arouse the interest of adult fantasy fans.

His dark materials begin with on-screen text that reveals that he is playing in another world that is similar and different to ours. Here a human soul manifests as an animal called a demon. The almighty magisterium, a church-like militaristic organization that opposes new thinking, has ruled the world for centuries except in the north. And then the Chosen One is introduced, a rebellious girl named Lyra Belacqua (Dafne Keen) who was dropped as a baby by her uncle Lord Asriel (James McAvoy) at Oxford College for her protection. (McAvoy has something of a guest role.) Asriel is traveling north, looking for information about something called "dust" that threatens the magisterium, and of course he refuses Lyra's request to travel with him for reasons that are largely unknown to her.

After Lyra's best friend, a kitchen boy, Roger Parslow (Lewin Lloyd), has disappeared from Oxford, she is taken away by the mysterious Mrs. Coulter (Ruth Wilson), the Lyra with the promise of adventure and help in finding her friend kidnapped to London. But Roger is not the only missing child. The Egyptian community – Pullman's analogy with the Roma people – is the main goal. Their leader, Lord John Faa (Lucian Msamati), believes that the gobblers, a myth that is usually confined to children's stories, are behind the kidnapping and that the Egyptians are also heading to London. Meanwhile, the Magisterium Carlo Boreal (Ariyon Bakare) – who turned from an old man in the 1960s to a black Brit – is trying to investigate the past of a researcher who has a greater presence in Pullman's second book.

Wilson's Mrs. Coulter is by far the most beautiful woman in the early years, when she alternates between genuine care and affection for Lyra and the threat of lip curls and the determination with steel eyes that she must have for her job. The other human characters – McAvoys Asriel doesn't have enough screen time – aren't as engaging, though aeronaut Lee Scoresby (Lin-Manuel Miranda), who appears in the fourth episode, provides the show with the much-needed energy. In fact, it's their demons that are routinely more interesting, be it Mrs. Coulter's silent golden monkey or Lyra's ever-changing “Pan” Pantalaimon, who has been alternating between a mouse, a moth, and a snow-white ermine since Lyra was gone. I am not an adult yet. But His Dark Materials hasn't figured out what to do with demons other than using them as exposure machines.

HDM 2 Its dark materials

Ruth Wilson as Mrs. Coulter in his dark materials
Photo credit: BBC / HBO

This already mentioned expository problem is probably the only reliable part of the show, since several scenes in the same episode repeatedly use information that everyone – especially the audience – already has. In some cases, His Dark Materials could easily have made adjustments to ensure that scenes unfold in a different way than on the screen. In other cases, the show appears to be deliberately spinning until the other chess pieces are placed on the board with which the narrative can proceed. Elsewhere, His Dark Materials tries to pull on emotional cords that it has not yet discovered, which causes scenes to stall because viewers – apart from longtime book fans – do not have the necessary attachment to the characters they have The scenes must work.

Meanwhile, His Dark Materials falls in fantasy tropes and plays against them. As the chosen one, almost everyone on the screen sees Lyra as special, important, and valuable – her uncle Asriel is the only one who doesn't seem to agree – and the show also seems to take this to heart instead of showing us how It is special. Lyra finds out how to read the Alethiometer, a truth-finding device, in a few days without any training, despite being told that it requires books and years of learning. It just doesn't feel convincing. It's okay for Lyra to be talented, but it's not okay for her to be a wonderful genius. On the other hand, the idea that the nomadic Egyptians protect Lyra better than the esteemed Oxford scholars is a kind of reversal of what we expect from the genre.

But that's not enough to elevate an adaptation of Pullman's work that creates the visual foundations much better than the thematic ones. His Dark Materials leaves a somewhat general offer that is strange and surprising, since the trilogy of books addressed concepts that other fantasy authors would not normally touch. It also wastes the good work of actors who work with an uneven and sluggish plot. Maybe the show will find its groove when the story gets going – a second season has already been filmed for what it's worth – if only the wonderfully realized world with witches and armored bears. At least that's hope, or we'll look at the third attempt in another decade or so.

His Dark Materials premieres will be on Hotstar on November 5 and Star World in India on November 24.