HBO has put out many amazing shows in 2019 from Chernobyl, to Watchmen, to the final season of Game of Thro-oh wait, no, that last one sucked.
Anyways, while HBO did not make its latest show, merely distributed it, that show, His Dark Materials, looks to be another great one nevertheless.
Based off Philip Pullman’s successful trilogy, the story is set in a world where people’s souls manifest as talking animal companions known as daemons.
If this sounds familiar to you but you have not read Pullman’s novel then you probably recognize it from the earlier movie adaptation, The Golden Compass, which got a less than stellar reception to say the least.
I have only seen this film once when I was a kid and I thought it was pretty good, although, to be fair, I was only nine and I could not tell the difference between a good and bad move to save my life back then.
In any case, even if The Golden Compass really is as bad as I don’t remember it being, His Dark Materials already looks to be miles better than that film adaption, if the first episode “Lyra’s Jordan” is anything to go by.
Directed by Tom Hooper, and written by Jack Thorne just like every other episode will be, the episode mostly follows the titular Lyra at the beginning of her adventure.
Lyra is played by Dafne Keen who I am glad to see is getting more work.
I loved her performance in Logan and I cannot wait to see what she does with the role of Lyra.
Speaking of the X-Men, James McAvoy is also in the series, playing Lyra’s guardian Lord Asriel.
McAvoy delivers a fantastic performance, especially in an impassioned speech he delivers to his colleagues about Dust to get more funding for his research, which is considered heresy by many.
It is with this and many other moments in the episode that the anti-religious themes of Pullman’s story can be seen.
Along with Keen and McAvoy, another actor to watch out for in this show is Ruth Wilson who plays the sinister Marisa Coulter.
Another thing I enjoyed about “Lyra’s Jordan” is how the daemons are shown to be incorporated into the world.
We get a Gyptian ceremony in the episode, which shows how they celebrate when a daemon settles as a single animal.
Many of the daemons are established from Lyra’s Pan (Kit Connor) and Asriel’s Stelmaria (Helen McCroy).
Then there is the fact that all of these daemons have great CGI.
The downside of this is that they did not have the budget to animate many side characters’ daemons, which are just never acknowledged, but this is better than having a bunch of completely fake looking daemons running around.
And, as stated, the daemons that are in the episode are incorporated so well that it makes the world feel lived in by them.
However, this has a negative effect on the characters as a Gyptian child is kidnapped after the celebration of his brother’s daemon.
Many Gyptian children are revealed to have been kidnapped by the end of the episode
by the so called Gobblers.
Even children who aren’t Gyptians like Lyra’s friend Roger (Lewin Lloyd) are taken and this is one of the reasons why Lyra departs with Coulter at the end of the episode, with her alethiometer in hand.
Overall, the first episode of His Dark Materials, “Lyra’s Jordan” is a solid start that has me interested to see where the series will go.
Hopefully, this will be liked by fans of Pullman’s novel and not go on to be regarded as another The Golden Compass.