Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials to Hit the Small Screen

You know what I love? Good filmic adaptations of books. You know what I don’t get very often? Good filmic adaptations of books. You know what I’m excited about? BBC One tackling Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy.

Pullman’s captivating trilogy consists of the novels Northern Lights (aka The Golden Compass if you’ve a U.S. version), The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass. They tell the story of a strong, determined teenage girl, Lyra, and her quest to understand—and ultimately unravel—the mysterious force known as Dust.

This trilogy was foundational for me and for many of my friends. WWAC writer Rine Karr describes her experience with the books:

There was something about Philip Pullman’s story, the way in which the characters were written, that made the books so appealing, so touching, so real. … It was as if I was being told an important story that I should have heard about in the news, but for some reason I missed. … It taught me to be excited and curious and to explore everything life has to offer and to never close my mind to new ideas and the truth.

Given the emotional impact of the tales, not to mention their market impact (nearly 17.5 million copies sold worldwide!), it’s no wonder Hollywood snatched at the chance to make a movie. And then, in my opinion, botched it in spite of great casting and decent cgi animation. It is tricky to pack a complex story with multifaceted characters into a barely two-hour film—but that’s as big of a bone as I’m willing to throw them. I missed the heart and grit and character development in the books. The movie focuses so much on action that Lyra is more a passenger pulled along by events than a protagonist forcing events to happen.  

The movie did struggle against the fact that the books made the banned list—but I also feel like it downplayed the religious symbolism as much as possible. Lose-lose, really.

Northern Lights by Philip PullmanAnyway! Moving on. Here’s why I’m excited about the upcoming series. First, the producer team include Pullman (an author who has written complex, strong female characters) in addition to former Doctor Who producers Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner of Bad Wolf. Second, more screen time means they’ll be able to address the subtleties of character development and the complexities of the plot. Third, more armored bears! And witches and daemons and parallel world steampunkery (oh my).

I’m also crossing my fingers that this new version of His Dark Materials won’t shy away from the serious subjects that Pullman tackled, including sexuality, gender, and abuse. There’s a lot depth to the trilogy, and I can’t wait to see that explored in a new format.

Now, if only I could fast forward to watching it from my couch.

Amanda Vail

Amanda Vail

Amanda is a staff writer for WWAC. She is also a developmental editor and copywriter in less-than-sunny Seattle. She likes to poke her nose into things, mainly manga, graphic novels, sci-fi & fantasy books, and art galleries. Then she writes about them. She also drinks a lot of coffee. Tweet her @amandamvail.

2 thoughts on “Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials to Hit the Small Screen

  1. We couldn’t finish watching the film, we walked out of the theater. Like DMaster, though, I am cautiously optimistic.

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