REVIEW: His Dark Materials: The Complete First Season
I will admit that I have read only the first volume of Philip Pullman’s fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials, The Golden Compass, and I saws New Line’s feature film adaptation. It was an interesting take on the tropes as well as being an allegory about religion in our world. But one book was enough for me.
I thought one adaptation would be enough, too, but the HBO series based on the same material changed my mind. The eight episodes aired earlier this year and the season has been collected on Blu-ray from Warner Home Entertainment.
In this world, everyone’s soul is housed in an animal avatar known as daemons. There exists a faction that wants to separate the human from the soul as part of the Magisterium’s ability to control the population. They like their secrets and politics (as does any totalitarian regime) and the most intriguing notion may be that there exist parallel worlds.
Our focal point into this fascinating world is young Lyra (Dafne Keen, who you may remember from Logan)), who, accompanied by her daemon Pantalaimon (voiced by Kit Connor), goes searching for her best friend, who has been taken. Adventure awaits her, along with becoming an irritant to the Big Bad a.k.a. Mrs. Coulter (Ruth Wilson). Her friend isn’t the only one taken and as she uncovers this secret, she becomes fascinated with something called Dust.
The worldbuilding slowly unfolds, affecting some of the pacing, but once things take off, we race along as the threats and dangers grow. So, too, does Lyra’s posse, including the aeronaut Lee Scorsby (Lin-Manuel Miranda) and the gloriously large polar bear king Iofur Raknison (voiced by Peter Serafinowicz).
And while the first season ends, sort of, it does set us up for the approved second season, which has been trimmed to a mere seven episodes. The show is sumptuous to look at and after taking a moment to forget the film incarnations (played by Nicole Kidman and Sam Elliot among others), we grow to like the new interpretations.
The 1080p transfer in 1.78:1 sparkles, capturing the full range of colors and blacks remain deep. It is well accompanied by the DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track so viewers are in for a treat. The discs come complete with all the HBO-generated special features including Adapting His Dark Materials (4:00): Building His Dark Materials (6:00), Dressing His Dark Materials (3:00); The Daemons of His Dark Materials (4:00); James McAvoy – Bringing Lord Asriel To Life (3:00); Lin-Manuel Miranda – Bringing Lee Scoresby To Life (2:00); Ruth Wilson – Bringing Mrs. Coulter To Life (3:00); Dafne Keen – Bringing Lyra Belacqua To Life (4:00); Making His Dark Materials (33:00), narrated by Clarke Peters.