Of the many strengths of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, the most important one is probably the easiest to miss. Pullman's themed ambition, his sense of pace and his skill with the character are clear from the beginning, but while these elements are crucial to the success of the books, it is the talent to build a world that is the first and most important influence without ever let the audience see the strings. The Golden Compass takes readers to a place where every human being has a talking animal mate (a demon). where the church is a dominant political force; and where studies of a mysterious substance known as "dust" threaten to upset the entire social order. And yet everything makes more or less sense, the world feels alive and real, without ever having to stop too long to explain things. The result is something magical ̵
1; an instant gripping story whose ability to surprise and enchant is never really apparent.
His dark materials the new television adaptation of the trilogy, are not so skilled. Rather than trusting the audience to pick things up, the first episode begins with a text crawl that explains the basics of going so far as to tell viewers that demons are our correspondence to souls, and to suggest that it is a "kid of "Will give prophecy" in the game. As for the opening exhibition, it could have been worse, and for the most part, the series does an admirable job of presenting its story without getting caught up in tradition. Characters and organizations are presented in a way that is present and true to scale so that you understand their basic idea, even before the details become clear. This creates the impression of greater forces at work without ever being completely lost.
B  Created by
Jack Thorne; based on the novels of Philip Pullman
Dafne Keen, James McAvoy, Ruth Wilson, Clarke Peters, Lewin Lloyd, Lin Manuel Miranda, and Anne-Marie Duff
Sunday, November 3 BBC One; Monday, November 4 on HBO
Hours of fantasy adventure; Four episodes considered for review
It's an admirable achievement, but not a completely successful one. With the adaptation of the books to television, the writer Jack Thorne tries early in the story of the first series to lay the foundations for later entries that match Lyra Belacqua's (Dafne Keen) adventures in discovering their place in the world with the acts of others who will probably become relevant later. The decision makes sense as it transforms the structure of Compass (small and then expanding as Lyra learns more and more about her world) into a more conventional television drama, but it also robs much of its power. This is even clear from this introductory text. In the novels, relationships between humans and their demons were revealed over time, and it took a while for anything to come out about "prophecies." One of the joys of Pullman's work was that any development and extension of the scope was considered exponentially important when you started out small. These are just balanced parts that eventually become integrated with other parts and almost completely lose the sense of dangerous, unexpected discoveries.
If you spell it right from the start, it's easier to understand what you're getting into, but it's unclear if that clarity is a worthwhile goal. Compass has in part linked his fancier ideas with a well-known fantasy plot "A young girl makes the adventure of saving a friend" and made it easier for readers to get started, while offering even more conventional thrills. His dark materials leave most of Lyra's story intact, at least in the first four episodes, but add side-scenes and subplots to other main characters. Some of these scenes, such as the one introducing the ritual of a traveling Egyptian community to welcome young men and women in adulthood, give the series a welcome texture and vitality. Others, such as a background story about a man investigating things, are less successful and exist largely to introduce intrigue. By treats the narrative as information for the viewer, rather than a story that profits from certain, consciously chosen perspectives and emphases, the show feels consistent but rarely surprising. exactly, but without being a little surprised.
Several strange casting options undermine the effect of the story. Dafne Keen is an excellent lyre who brings all the murderous energy she has shown in Logan to someone who actually talks (and is much more emotional). But while both James McAvoy and Ruth Wilson work solidly as Asriel and Mrs. Coulter, neither is suitable for characters designed on the site to be larger than life. They bring a down-to-earth intimacy to characters whose ambition and passion should necessarily border on myths. Clarke Peters seems to have been lost as the champion of Oxford, and Lin-Manuel Miranda as rogue Lee Scoresby is also Lin-Manuel Miranda: charming as ever, but not particularly convincing as a battle-hardened adventurer.
These may be The actors will grow into their roles throughout the series. Given the potential scope of the material, it makes sense to downplay events at the beginning. At least it leaves room to build up to the point where things really go crazy. How Adjustments Go, His Dark Materials is a credible faithful, and the show is never awkward or downright evil; Anyone familiar with the film Golden Compass may be comforted to know that this version is much more elaborate and comprehensive. The effect, in particular the expression of multiply speaking animals, is largely convincing and impressively unremarkable. While directing might be a bit of a stir, it's never hard to keep track of what's going on. At the end of the four episodes shown for critics, His Dark Materials began to develop something that could be called the Head of Steam, and even if future episodes never make it over the bar even for the original novels are strong enough that a true retelling by competent artists will have their joy. It's a good story told with restraint and respect. Pity about the magic.
Expert reviews (for those who have read the books) by Myles McNutt will be published weekly from 4 November.
Newcomer Reviews (for those new to the series) by Lisa Weidenfeld will be released weekly from 4 November.