The reviews are in: His Dark Materials is ‘riveting’
His Dark Materials was hotly anticipated – has it lived up to the hype?
First on Showmax and starting today, His Dark Materials is the long-awaited adaptation of the beloved Golden Compass books by Philip Pullman. The first season, which focuses on the first book, Northern Lights, follows 14-year-old Lyra as she abandons all she knows to find her friend who has been kidnapped.
A co-production between the BBC and HBO, and starring the likes of James McAvoy, Ruth Wilson and Lin-Manuel Miranda, the series was always bound to be good, but how good is it really? We took a look at what international critics are saying to find out.
“Wonderful fun”, and “densely layered”
The series is coming first and only to Showmax in South Africa, and it’s only just started internationally – it debuted on Monday just a day ahead of its SA debut – so reviews are based on the first few episodes that were previewed by media.
In one review, The Guardian says: “Religion, mortality and talking animals combine to gift us a series that captures Pullman’s magnum opus in all its glory,” before revealing that a second season – based on Pullman’s second book, The Subtle Knife – has already been commissioned, and a third is expected.
In another article, the Guardian says: ” It is wonderful fun, but it is not just that. Pullman’s world is serious and densely layered with allusion. His epic scale, his cosmological purview, is refined from a lifetime immersed in the poetry of Milton and Homer and Blake. His novels relating to Lyra – recently refreshed by a new story, The Secret Commonwealth – are remarkable literary achievements, readable by children and adults with equal pleasure.”
Is Ruth Wilson the standout star?
Cnet proclaimed it “Gritty, uncompromising and your next TV obsession“, and declares Ruth Wilson as Mrs Coulter to be “glamorous and glacial”, with “the allure of a perfectly sharp icicle. There’s a sense that at any moment she could drop, piercing your heart like a dagger.”
Indiewire concurred, saying that Ruth Wilson “might just be giving one of the best performances on television with her depiction of a woman whose cruelty knows no bounds, but still retains enough humanity to know that she has become a monster. Wilson is at turns bewitching and feral. You cannot look away.”
This time, the Golden Compass universe is done right
Much is made in several reviews of how much better this adaptation is that the 2007 movie starring Nicole Kidman. The New York Times says that “HBO has become a place where challenging fiction series go to be adapted (Game of Thrones, My Brilliant Friend) and movies go to get a do-over. Westworld reimagines the 1973 robo-thriller as an exploration of consciousness; Watchmen after the too-literal Zack Snyder film, reframed the Cold War graphic novel to focus on America’s legacy of racism.” (All those series, as well as the Zack Snyder film, are available to stream on Showmax.)
Inevitably, coming as it does from HBO, NYT also compares the series to Game of Thrones and other major fantasy franchises: “But it also has a more rebellious, questioning outlook — adolescent, in a good way — than some other fantasy sagas. Where the Harry Potter series and “The Lord of the Rings” presumed that the ruling institutions were essentially good, if vulnerable to corruption, “His Dark Materials” suggests that its theocracy is rotten all the way up.”
All 10 episodes of His Dark Materials will be released weekly on a Tuesday morning.