HBO and BBC One are bringing the works of Phillip Pullman to the small screen this week with its new series His Dark Materials, releasing tomorrow, November 4th. Critics with early access to the show have described it as “riveting” and “vastly better” than the 2007 film adaptation.
His Dark Materials is based on Pullman’s fantasy novel series of the same name from the late 90s, which was hugely popular among young adults at the time. Pullman eventually won a Carnegie Medal for his first book in the series, Northern Lights, published as The Golden Compass in the United States. This new series from HBO isn’t the first attempt at adapting Pullman’s work, however. In 2007, writer/director Chris Weitz made an attempt to adapt the series into a film titled The Golden Compass, starring Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, and Dakota Blue Richards. The film was not particularly well received, with only a 42% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The new His Dark Materials series, however, has received mostly positive reviews from the press so far. Daniel Fienberg from The Hollywood Reporter expresses his optimism for the series, saying that “TV is definitely ready for His Dark Materials now.” The story follows the young protagonist Lyra Belacqua, played by Dafne Keen, who initially joins the enigmatic Mrs. Coulter, played by Ruth Wilson, on a complex and fantasy-filled journey involving mysterious magic forces and a powerful organization called the Magisterium. In terms of the worldbuilding of the series, Fienberg notes that he was “generally impressed by how consistently HBO’s His Dark Materials accomplishes things the movie wasn’t able to do and didn’t even attempt.” A review from Independent describes the series as a “beautiful, brooding vision of Philip Pullman’s universe.”