Remember The Golden Compass? Despite boasting an all-star cast that included Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Sam Elliot and more, and being adapted from the first in a beloved series of novels, the 2007 fantasy adventure film ended up being just okay, I guess. There was nothing “okay” about its box office though. At $180 million, it was one of the most expensive films that New Line Cinema had ever produced, and when the film barely cracked the $70 million mark at the domestic box office, it’s abysmal failure actually resulted in a restructuring of the entire studio. Needless to say that the initial plans for this to be the first film in franchise adapting the rest of Philip Pullman’s books promptly got given the boot.
But fans of His Dark Materials – as the series is called – can rejoice, as the work is once again heading to the screen. The small screen, that is. BBC have revealed that they will adapting Pullman’s epic fantasy novels for a new drama series. Originally published in the 1995, the trilogy of books – “Northern Lights” (which The Golden Compass is based on), “The Subtle Knife” and “The Amber Spyglass” – have been translated into more than 40 different languages and sold more than 17.5 million copies. They have also been critically praised and won numerous awards. Here’s the official blurb for the trilogy from BBC:
“His Dark Materials is one of the supreme works of imaginative fiction for both children and adults published in the 20th century. Northern Lights introduces Lyra, an orphan, who lives in a parallel universe in which science, theology and magic are entwined. Lyra’s search for a kidnapped friend uncovers a sinister plot involving stolen children, and turns into a quest to understand a mysterious phenomenon called Dust. In The Subtle Knife she is joined on her journey by Will, a boy who possesses a knife that can cut windows between worlds. As Lyra learns the truth about her parents and her prophesied destiny, the two young people are caught up in a war against celestial powers that ranges across many worlds and leads to a thrilling conclusion in The Amber Spyglass.”
One of the criticisms that was leveled at The Golden Compass was how it diluted some of Pullman’s themes, most notably the anti-religion slant he often takes in his thinly veiled skewering of the Catholic Church, so it will be interesting to see if this adaptation also shies away from what could be a potentially controversial point. For what it’s worth, Pullman himself appears to be very happy with what BBC have planned, especially since this format will give his tale the room it needs to be told properly.
“It’s been a constant source of pleasure to me to see this story adapted to different forms and presented in different media. It’s been a radio play, a stage play, a film, an audiobook, a graphic novel – and now comes this version for television.
“In recent years we’ve seen the way that long stories on television, whether adaptations (Game Of Thrones) or original (The Sopranos, The Wire), can reach depths of characterisation and heights of suspense by taking the time for events to make their proper impact and for consequences to unravel.
“And the sheer talent now working in the world of long-form television is formidable. For all those reasons I’m delighted at the prospect of a television version of His Dark Materials. I’m especially pleased at the involvement of Jane Tranter, whose experience, imagination, and drive are second to none. As for the BBC, it has no stronger supporter than me. I couldn’t be more pleased with this news.”
Tranter is an English television producer and executive and the co-creator of Bad Wolf Media who will be producing His Dark Materials. She used to be a producer at BBC where she worked on numerous highly successful shows including the modern reboot of Doctor Who (her production company is actually named after a famous Doctor Who storyline). She had this to say about this latest venture:
It is an honour and a joy to be part of the team responsible for bringing Philip Pullman’s trilogy of novels to the BBC. Ever since they were first published these books have been a huge influence on so much of my thinking and imagination and it is enormously inspiring to be now working on them for television adaptation.
“The broad horizons of television suggests itself as the best of vehicles to capture the expansiveness of the story and worlds of Lyra and Will and I am looking forward to seeing how Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass will occupy their place in an audience’s imagination across many episodes and seasons.
“To say that I am grateful to Philip Pullman and to Toby and Carolyn at New Line Cinema for entrusting this to Bad Wolf is an understatement and we will give everything that we have to rise to the challenge of doing justice to these great works and to the responsibility that Philip and the incomparable BBC have bestowed on us.”
There’s no word yet on any casting nor on the schedule for this production, but this is one that I will be keeping a close eye on. I mean it has magical polar bears in battle armour fighting each other!
Last Updated: November 4, 2015