Lyra is 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. She is later 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.
**SEASON ONE REVIEW:** S1 of 'His Dark Materials' is enjoyable viewing. First and foremost, the special effects for this show are incredible. The animals and dæmons look insane, especially by television standards. That is the thing that I love most about this. The cinematography is also top notch. Cast-wise it's good. It's easy to see that Dafne Keen (Lyra) has serious talent, she is impressive for the majority here - at a few moments her performance isn't perfect, e.g. when finding out something in episode two, but I wouldn't expect her to be, definitely the best actor on display and she'll only improve. You may think I'm forgetting or ignoring James McAvoy (Asriel). Of course he is 'the' star but he hardly features, he's just barely in three episodes. For when we do see him, he is - obviously - terrific. Away from Keen and McAvoy, you also have Ruth Wilson (Marisa) and Anne-Marie Duff (Ma) involved - I've only recently become aware of those two, from 'Luther' and 'The Salisbury Poisonings' respectively, they are both good here. Elsewhere, James Cosmo (Farder), Lucian Msamati (John) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (Lee) are enjoyable in their roles. Helen McCrory (Stelmaria) is in there too, but I didn't notice her until typing this review to be honest. I did find some of the pacing across the first four episodes rather off, there was a fair amount of times when I felt like it was dragging its heels. Thankfully, the second part of this eight-episode series is much better. The opening theme is superb, also. I look forward to catching season two.
If you enjoy reading my Spoiler-Free reviews, please follow my blog @ https://www.msbreviews.com This review will be from someone who doesn't remember a single thing about The Golden Compass (2007), and who didn't read the books. This series wasn't marketed like Watchmen, which requires previous knowledge from the universe it is set in. Therefore, it should stand on its own... and it does, even if with a few struggles along the way, especially at the beginning. I won't spoil anything that the trailers didn't show, so don't worry. If there's one thing no one will complain about His Dark Materials debut season is its impeccable cast. Dafne Keen is a spot-on choice to interpret Lyra Belacqua. She has the innocence of such a young child, but also the determination and courage that the character needs her to show. She's definitely the one who has the responsibility to move the plot forward. Her journey is filled with obstacles, emotional conflicts, and tons of adventures elevated by the beautiful visual effects, which improve as the season approaches its ending. I loved her in Logan (2017), I love her here as well. James McAvoy is one of my favorite actors working today, and if the world was fair, he would have a couple of Oscar nominations already. He doesn't have that much screentime as Lord Asriel (marketing move from HBO, using an acclaimed actor to bring in audiences), but he is essential in the first episode, where a lot of exposition has to be given to the viewers. What could have been an overwhelming pilot episode concerning the amount of information to be transmitted, it turns out to be a pretty good introduction to some concepts and rules of this show. However, don't be fooled by my previous words: Lord Asriel is a crucial character this season, and he will continue to be one. The rest of the cast is terrific. Shout-out to Lin-Manuel Miranda (Lee Scoresby), who cracks a few well-earned (and necessary) jokes to lighten the sometimes too dramatic tone. Great voice work from everyone involved with the daemons. However, Ruth Wilson steals the spotlight from everyone, including McAvoy and Dafne, as Marisa Coulter. If she receives a nomination for her fantastic performance, I won't be surprised. Her eyes express so much, and her movements resemble the ones of her daemon in jaw-dropping fashion. Little details that some people might not even care about, but Ruth really commits 200% to her role. Obviously, this being an HBO series, the production level is very high. Surprisingly, the visual effects don't start that well. The first episodes are packed with noticeable green-screen, mainly in wide shots of some locations. However, from the fourth episode on, it's like someone else stepped in, and the CGI profoundly improved overall. The daemons are consistently great throughout the whole season, but there's a certain restraint in clearly showing them during those first chapters. Once Lyra gets deep in her journey, the different landscapes and sets look stunning, accompanied by excellent cinematography. Finally, the bears are, as expected, visually incredible. Lorne Balfe delivers a wonderful main theme, sure, but his score enriches the show in a way that I can't stop listening to it. It's mostly subtle, but when it needs to bring those emotional chills, it definitely carries the necessary epic chords and melodies. I've been a fan of his work lately, so congrats to him for yet another hit soundtrack. Unfortunately, I do have some issues with this season. The biggest one is related to a massive subplot that I can't reveal or dive into too much. What I can write is that it feels so separated from the main story that it feels like a totally different series with different characters. I know it's going to reach a point where it does become extremely important, but this season... it didn't even end with a massive plot point, twist or cliffhanger. It's so detached from Lyra's world and her mission that it unbalances the series' pacing. This last aspect is consequently very inconsistent. The season carries a slow pace that I genuinely enjoy when it helps develop its characters further. However, when it switches from the lead narrative to the before-mentioned side story, it's like adding an extra layer of "slow" to the already steady pace. It doesn't help with the entertainment value, and it doesn't efficiently expand the plot. I hope next season these two narratives can start converging in some way, something I expected before the debut season's finale. In addition to this, the visual effects were not really there during the first episodes. It takes until the fourth episode to get into a real adventure, which can make some people give up before that. I don't recommend doing it. It might be a slow start, but once the main story finds its rhythm, there's no stopping it. Each episode gets better than the previous, culminating in a shocking finale packed with some of the best moments of the entire season. All in all, His Dark Materials has the potential to become one of the biggest shows on HBO. If done right, it can really become the leader of the pack. It possesses a truly captivating and engaging story, filled with gorgeous visuals, even if these aren't that perfect during the first chapters. From the fabulous set design to Lorne Balfe's phenomenal score, all directors did a great job with Jack Thorne's writing. However, Thorne's attempt to balance the main narrative with a too distinct side story breaks the series momentum and keeps the pacing inconsistent. Fortunately, the outstanding cast lead by a great Dafne Keen and an even greater Ruth Wilson are able to carry the show to safe harbor. It's good so far, but I would wait until next season to find out if the alethiometer has the solution to this one's problems... Rating: B
**_Season 2_** **Original Review (based on the season's first five episodes handed to press)** HBO is back with the show that was supposed to take over Game of Thrones' massive success. His Dark Materials' debut season was a good start (review here), but its complex, layered storylines didn't all mix up together that well. It's an extremely dense narrative, one that Jack Thorne (the sole writer of season one) had some trouble nailing it. Now, not only does he bring Francesca Gardiner, Sarah Quintrell, Namsi Khan, and Lydia Adetunji to help him co-write the episodes, but Francesca even wrote the entire fifth chapter. Last season also had five different directors, while this one has Jamie Childs and Leanne Welham in control of the whole season. So, before I jump to the review itself, just a little clarification: this is indeed a *** spoiler-free review for season two, but it might address spoilers of the first season ***. I'm also trusting the official trailer for this season as a guideline to what is part of the viewers' general knowledge of the narrative that's going to be developed across the next seven episodes, including which actors/characters show up as well as the basic premise of each story. That said, my expectations were moderately high for the continuation of Lyra's adventure and her connection to the famous prophecy. I binged the first five episodes in one afternoon... what does this mean? It means His Dark Materials' second season is incredibly captivating. Usually, I try to watch press releases in the same manner as the audience will once the show starts getting broadcasted, but time wasn't kind to me, so I found myself with the necessity of binging the episodes instead of watching one or two per day. This method didn't feel forced at all, much on the contrary. Every episode is either packed with action or impactful narrative decisions that keep moving the plot forward. With the exception of one seemingly irrelevant subplot (I'll get there), every character has an exciting storyline that affects the main narrative. Contrary to the last season, where Lyra was pretty much the only character who controlled the show's pacing, this season gives other characters important things to do, especially Will Parry and a new character from the latter's world, Dr. Mary Malone (Simone Kirby). Will and Lyra inevitably cross paths and work together to find out what mysteries lie in the new world they travel to at the last season's finale. Their relationship goes through the necessary build-up and development, being the key ingredient of the season's success. As the protagonists, Dafne Keen and Amir Wilson share great chemistry, which is vital if the show wants the audience to feel their powerful bond. Will's role is much more impactful this season, maybe even more than Lyra's. If the first season was a nice, slow introduction to what Philip Pullman created in his novel series, the second one is a beacon of new, relevant data not only about the characters but about the rules of the "multiverse". From traveling between worlds to a shocking mission involving an object as important as the Alethiometer, passing through the first appearance of John Parry (Andrew Scott) and Mrs. Coulter's relentless search for her daughter, I still found Dr. Mary Malone's arc to be the most significant subplot of the whole show. As an engineer myself, science was and will always be an area of great interest. Simone Kirby is excellent in portraying the physicist. Her current academic research and her past connection to religion end up delivering a game-changing discovery. Despite the season's overall writing still being focused on unnecessary exposition and basic dialogues, the big moments are all nailed perfectly. Every episode is remarkably engaging, and all end in a way that leaves the viewer craving immediately for the next chapter. Action is always present, so expect a couple of nail-biting situations and surprising outcomes. Regarding the cast, Dafne Keen clearly shows signs of improvement, even if she started filming the second season right after the first one ended. Just like Amir Wilson, both carry much more expressiveness and emotion now, but Amir still needs to up his game. Their interactions are entertaining, to say the least. Ruth Wilson was the standout performance of last season, and she continues to prove her undeniable talent as the menacing, scary Mrs. Coulter (who keeps me questioning her true intentions). Ariyon Bakare has more screentime as Lord Carlo Boreal, who brings a lot of trouble to our protagonists, contrary to Dr. Mary Malone, who helps Lyra (and the viewers) to understand why the show is called His Dark Materials, and much more. These four characters are the wheels of this season, and most of each episode's runtime is spent with them. Their own storylines form the main narrative. However, I believe two other subplots can hurt the season if the last two episodes don't use them properly. One features Lee Scoresby (Lin-Manuel Miranda), who ends up joining with John Parry. Having hugely acclaimed actors in a television show is great to grab viewers, but it might be a misleading marketing scheme. For example, James McAvoy only shows up in two episodes during the first season, and he's nowhere to be seen in this one (even though I do acknowledge that COVID-19 supposedly impacted a standalone episode featuring Lord Asriel that couldn't be filmed). A similar circumstance occurs with Lin-Manuel Miranda, who still has a relevant side story, but his screentime is lamentably short. The other subplot involves the witches and the Magisterium. Ruta Gedmintas is amazing as Serafina Pekkala, but this whole war drama with the Magisterium only serves as a filler story, at least for now. I didn't find this story enthralling compared to everything else going on, even though some of the best visuals and cinematography of the entire show are demonstrated here. Technically, HBO rarely disappoints, and the production crew is packed with immensely skilled people. Joel Devlin and David Higgs are responsible for the gorgeous cinematography, offering a sort of cinematic atmosphere distinct from other TV shows. Lorne Balfe's score remains remarkably addictive, not due to overwhelming music but due to its subtlety throughout the entire series. It's also seamlessly edited by everyone involved in this task. Jamie Childs and Leanne Welham clearly worked together to make this season look consistent throughout every episode, but I still believe the pacing needs better control (if last season was a tad slow, the second one might be a bit rushed). All in all, His Dark Materials returns with a much more captivating and entertaining second season. Boasting impressive visuals, wonderful cinematography, and an exceptional score, Dafne Keen and Amir Wilson carry the main narrative through non-stop, surprisingly vicious action and shocking story developments as the charming protagonists, Lyra and Will, respectively. Their relationship is steadily and cleverly developed, also working as a STOP sign to the occasionally rushed pacing. Ruth Wilson continues to deliver the most outstanding performance of all, but Dr. Mary Malone steals the spotlight, becoming one of the most interesting characters in the show due to her crucial storyline, which delivers some jaw-dropping revelations. Except for a subplot involving the witches and the Magisterium, every episode moves surprisingly well through impactful narrative decisions and eventful sequences. Hugely acclaimed actors like James McAvoy, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Andrew Scott rarely show up during these first five episodes (or don't show up at all), but the last two still share an exciting story that could have a major impact on the season's final two chapters. A final praise to the production's (brilliant) decisions of adding four more writers besides Jack Thorne, and choosing only two directors to command the entire season. If season one didn't fully convince you, season two will most definitely do the job. **Final Thoughts (based on the remaining episodes and the entire season)** The remaining two episodes are nothing short of shocking. His Dark Materials ends its second season with narrative and character decisions that will definitely generate divisive opinions. No one knew about the series ending on its third season at the time of viewing, so I reacted to certain choices heavily questioning the real reasons behind them since most felt extremely rushed, out of nowhere, and surprisingly underwhelming. Now, knowing that there's only one more season, I'm struggling between considering the season finale disappointing or reasonably decent, having in mind the series status. It's a shame that such compelling world-building has to end so soon. This series could easily create new stories to last years. Possessing a talented cast and gorgeous visuals, it could really become one of HBO's biggest shows. However, looking at it now, casting James McAvoy, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and even Andrew Scott was nothing more than a marketing scheme to get more viewers. Entering a third and final season, barely being able to see these actors, mainly McAvoy, is a profound letdown, and the latest episodes don’t solve the issue. It’s still a step-up from the debut season, and the standalone episode starring Lord Asriel that the global pandemic “stole” would surely improve the missing pieces of storytelling. So, taking everything into account, I still feel quite satisfied with how Jack Thorne and his fellow co-writers connected the several storylines. Let us all hope for an outstanding ending! Rating: B+
Fantastic ! So close from the book ! Loved it
Author: Anra Gothica
* This film series has satisfied my eyes. besides cool of course there are many things that I can learn from the series.