Home Entertainment SDCC 2019: There is a war raging in the new trailer for His Dark Materials

SDCC 2019: There is a war raging in the new trailer for His Dark Materials

3 min read

Like I’ve mentioned before, I never read Phillip Pullman’s famed fantasy book series, and I – like pretty much everybody in the world, it seems – was completely ambivalent to The Golden Compass, the failed 2007 feature film adaptation of this story. So with that, I genuinely can’t tell you if BBC and HBO’s upcoming new big-budget TV series adaptation of His Dark Materials is actually more faithful to the source or not.

What I can tell you is that there’s a crapload of very exciting talent involved with this: we have James McAvoy, Ruth Wilson, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Logan breakout star Daphne Keen leading the whole affair as Lyra, a brave young girl who uncovers a child kidnapping plot that leads to world-shaking ramifications. The fantasy hook here is that the story is set in a world everybody’s soul materializes in the real world as an animal companion known as a daemon. Yes, that sounds weird but it looks damn good! Especially after seeing this nearly three-minute-long new trailer which was debuted during the show’s Hall H panel at Comic-Con last night.

With this being a TV series instead of a film trilogy or the like, Pullman’s story is now being given the room it needed to breathe properly. As was revealed during the panel, that was the prime focus of exec producer Jane Tranter who apparently personally hounded New Line Cinema about the franchise. The studio had still owned the rights, but they were sitting idle after The Golden Compass’ box office failure scrapped their plans of a cinematic series.

Tranter reveals that while the BBC were receptive to her take immediately given the popularity of Pullman’s books in the UK, it was “a long process” to get HBO to commit as well.

Each week we’d put another piece into place, whether it was a production design, or another piece of casting, until they finally said ‘Ok, we’re there.’

It took a while for HBO to come on board, but the pill for HBO is that there is nothing like it on television. It’s not an easily comprehensible piece of TV.

Helping Tranter to make this happen was screenwriter/playwright Jack Thorne who famously scripted the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child stage production. Thorne also had to work to pitch his take to execs.

When we were pitching this around town, we kept saying it’s an anti-superhero story. If this were a superhero story, you’d be following Lord Asriel’s path. There are people seeking greatness in this story. It’s the young woman who wants to be good.

Lyra’s always following the good, while Asriel and Coulter are following greatness. I really believe we should be following our goodness, and we’re getting distracted by greatness and it has lessons for all of us.

There’s of course also the issue of Pullman’s books, with its daemons and authoritarian fantastical government being a not-so-thinly-veiled criticism of the Catholic church. But as Tranter pointed out, the story isn’t here to bash religion.

There’s many conversations about the religious… It’s better to have a conversation that’s on the table, rather than a lot of assumptions. Philip Pullman isn’t attacking belief or faith or the church per se, he’s attacking a particular form of control where there’s a deliberate attempt to withhold information and keep people in the dark and not allow ideas to be free. It’s not personified by an autocratic government or church, it’s personified by the Magistarium (in the books and series), it’s not personified by any church in our world.

The eight-episode first season of His Dark Materials will premiere in late 2019.

Last Updated: July 19, 2019


  1. Time to read the books again


  2. Guz

    July 19, 2019 at 13:41

    Please don’t suck


  3. For the Emperor!

    July 19, 2019 at 14:31

    Is it not Dafne Keen? Loved her in Logan. Wanted to watch Golden Compass but gave it a pass for some reason. James McAvoy is always a win. Sounds like a good concept for a series rather than a movie, so will keep an eye out for this.


    • Kervyn Cloete

      July 19, 2019 at 15:05

      I’ll be honest, I’m not sure. I was always sure it was Dafne Keen, but saw a bunch of people referring to Daphne Keen recently. Unless everybody is just making the same mistake.


      • For the Emperor!

        July 19, 2019 at 15:14

        Actors from “not America” sometimes also change their names to “fit” their US audiences…since we all know US education sucks 😛


      • Original Heretic

        July 19, 2019 at 19:50

        You’ve infected the entire world with your Kervynism’s! Mon dieu. You are a viral sensation.


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