Lyra’s Jordan – | Review Score – 4/5
The Idea of North – | Review Score – 3.5/5
The Spies – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Armour – | Review Score – 4/5
The Lost Boy – | Review Score – 3/5
The Daemon-Cages – | Review Score – 4.5/5
The Fight to the Death – | Review Score – 4/5
Betrayal – | Review Score – 4.5/5
When it comes to prolific names in the world of high fantasy, Philip Pullman is one that comes close to the top of the pile. His wonderfully crafted fantasy trilogy, His Dark Materials, is one that’s been crying out for a decent adaptation for some time now. After the mediocre-at-best film The Golden Compass, HBO and BBC announced they’d be stepping up and co-producing a serialized adaptation of the books.
I’ll be the first to admit I was sceptical they’d pull it off but alas, the first season is a wonderful introduction to this beloved world and despite a bit of a slow start full of exposition, the season progresses and unfolds in the best possible way, leaving things wide open for the inevitable second season to follow.
For those unaware, the story follows the journey of Lyra, a young girl who inhabits a world where human and daemon share an intricate link together. As kids start going missed, snatched up from the streets by the Gobblers and never heard from again, Lyra finds herself coming in possession of the mysterious alethiometer. When her best friend Roger goes missing, what begins as a simple search and rescue mission, quickly progresses into something far more expansive, dangerous and wondrous.
I won’t spoil too much here of course but the series progresses well, adding details from the future books and spinning them into this season in a believable and compelling way. As far as adaptations go, there are of course some changes to the narrative structure, and the middle portion does drag a little, but for the most part the series does well to keep things building toward the climax. The finale is fantastic too, and sets the stage nicely for the future seasons to build on.
Aesthetically, His Dark Materials does a good job keeping things consistent in this world and there’s some great locations showcased across the season too. From the snow-peaked mountains overlooking the Northern Lights, to the Magisterium halls and the camps, every location feels plucked right out the book. The CGI creatures are decent too, with Iorek Byrnison boasting some really nice fur effects. If you go back and watch The Golden Compass, the stark difference in quality is black and white. Hats off to all those involved here, as the daemon and bears are perfectly constructed.
For those who haven’t read the books, His Dark Materials is easy enough to follow if you can get past the early season exposition and the cast do well bringing the personality of their book counterparts to life. With plenty of fantasy elements, some good plotting and a solid foundation to build on for the future, His Dark Materials looks set to bring this trilogy of books to life in the best possible way. Roll on season 2!