His Dark Materials:
The Complete First Season
review by Bobby Blakey
In 2007 Philip Pullman’s fantasy novel was brought to life in the feature film The Golden Compass. Sadly it didn’t spawn the film franchise they had hoped for but in 2019 the TV series His Dark Materials looked to take another jab at the material. Now the HBO series is coming home, but does it succeed in bringing the source material to life or will it be lost in another world?
His Dark Materials follows Lyra, a young orphan who was left as a baby at Oxford’s Jordan College by her uncle Lord Asriel and desires a life of adventure beyond the confines of her bookish, scholarly surroundings. But when Lyra’s best friend goes missing, her search for her kidnapped friend uncovers a plot involving stolen children and transforms into a quest to understand a mysterious phenomenon known as Dust. Over the course of the season, as she journeys through the different worlds – including our own – Lyra encounters extraordinary beings and dangerous secrets, with the fate of both the living and the dead at stake.
I never read any of these books, but was really interested in the film when it came out if for no other reason than the armored bears. When I first sat down to watch this new series I had no clue it was the same thing despite the armored bear on the cover. Clearly I was just not paying that much attention or it could be because the film never really resonated with me. I dived into the series a bit worried that it might be the same situation, but thankfully not so much. Like a lot of these sorts of stories it needs the long form to really flesh out the story and characters. They take their sweet time to build everything and in turn gets you fully invested in their adventures.
The series sports a great cast including Dafne Keen, James McAvoy, Ruth Wilson, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Clarke Peters, Lewin Lloyd, James Cosmo, Anne-Marie Duff, Will Keen and Ariyon Bakare. Everyone did a great job with their roles getting you fully invested in their arcs. OF them all though
you have to buy into Keen’s character since she is the center of the film and does a great job. Much like the feature film my favorite aspect is still the armored bears. The primary one, Iorek Byrnison voiced by Joe Tandberg is so much more than just an animal like most in this film. He is a fully fleshed out character with his own arc that I loved more than anything.
It’s amazing how great so many shows effects are these days and this series is no different. The landscapes and backgrounds become characters of their own here fully bringing these very different worlds to life. With the animals you can usually get the fake feel to them and while there are a few moments that don’t fully work overall they knocked it out of the park. They packed so much into just eight episodes that when it came to an end you are already ready for more. Being in the series format there are still a ton of questions to be answered, but they did a good job of still making this specific adventure come to an end sort of.
This release not only features all eight episodes of the series, but bonus content including various featurettes on bringing this epic tale to life. Grab your copy of His Dark Materials: The Complete First Season available now on Blu-ray and DVD from HBO and Warner Bros Home Entertainment.