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Author Topic: His Dark Materials - BBC series  (Read 2117 times)

Colin YNWA

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His Dark Materials - BBC series
« on: 04 November, 2019, 09:26:47 PM »
Anyone watching this?

I generally avoid adaptions as I feel the compromises to convert a book (or more specifically comic) to film or telly aren't necessary as we have the book or comic. That said I do make exceptions and His Dark Materials has me quite excited. Mainly as I've read this recently to my daughter. I didn't really enjoy reading it to her if I'm honest. Not that its not a great story it certainly is. Just that reading it out loud isn't the most pleasent thing. All the words felt so big and awkward in mouth and it was a bit of a struggle to get through for me, due to reading it outloud. She loved it however.

So knowing she was excited about this and giving me the chance to enjoy it just as a story was I pretty up for this.

Alas it was the very definition of the problem I have with such things. It looked great. Just not my great. Prime example being the Gyptians. Who looked cool, and perfect for how they should... just not how they should in my minds eye. The show was pretty slavish to the book, yet this just served to emphasis the differences. The extended beginning felt clumsy. It would have been great to have been bold enough to throw the viewer right into Lyra sneaking into the room to watch The Master et al.

Ruth Wilson doesn't work as Mrs Coulter either for me yet. She lacks the easy dark charm I'm after. I thought Dafne Keen was great as Lyra on the other hand. Real star for me was the lad who played Roger. For some reason he just worked for me.

All in all while it will no doubt have considerable problems and I'm very interested to see how they deal with its central theme as things develop into series 2 and 3 - I'm glad the BBC (all be it considerably aided by big US companies) can still do this type of lush family entertainment.

radiator

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Re: His Dark Materials - BBC series
« Reply #1 on: 04 November, 2019, 10:24:04 PM »
I'm looking forward to it - it's airing on HBO over here.

It's almost guaranteed to be a better adaptation than the 2007 Golden Compass movie, which was a failure in almost every conceivable way barring some of the casting - it's hard to see how Lin Manuel Miranda is going to top Sam Elliot as Lee Scoresby for example.

I like McAvoy, but not sure he's an ideal fit for Asriel - he's a great actor but I'd always pictured someone more stately with a more commanding presence (and frankly taller) than either McAvoy or Daniel Craig. I'd always pictured Terence Stamp in my mind's eye reading the books (who funnily enough I later found out played the role in the BBC Radio adaptation).

Very curious to see how they tackle book 3 should they get that far (which I remember really going off the rails in terms of plot and getting bogged down in slightly tiresome metaphor).

radiator

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Re: His Dark Materials - BBC series
« Reply #2 on: 04 November, 2019, 10:31:53 PM »
It's so cool to see the BBC doing a big fantasy show like this to air in the run up to Christmas.

Would love to see them redo The Box of Delights - that would be incredible with modern visual effects.

Tiplodocus

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Re: His Dark Materials - BBC series
« Reply #3 on: 05 November, 2019, 07:48:23 AM »
So far so good for me apart from the slight distrust of the audience's ability to work things out by having the extended opening.

I may be misremembering but two phrases that stood out from that opening scene in the master's room were "severed child" and "panzerbjorn". Both just intrigued me and me want to read on. But maybe I missed them here.
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JamesC

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Re: His Dark Materials - BBC series
« Reply #4 on: 05 November, 2019, 09:02:51 AM »
I've never read the book or seen the film.
It was okay. I'll be tuning in next week but more out of a sense of 'this has an amazing reputation so it must get good' than from anything I saw in ep.1.
I thought the animal companions seemed a bit cheesy and silly and I didn't think it was directed particularly well (an example - when the kids went into the tomb, it looked liked the least scary room ever - big and open and bright. Loads of wide shots to emphasize the spaciousness. It seemed very lacking in atmosphere).
The performances were generally pretty good and I liked the airships. I thought the 'dust' photographs looked really cool too.

karlos

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Re: His Dark Materials - BBC series
« Reply #5 on: 05 November, 2019, 09:25:10 AM »
Good stuff and always nice to see BIG fantasy telly.  Feels like a real treat.

Last thing the Beeb did in this vein was Strange and Norrell, wasn't it? 

(Which I loved).

wedgeski

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Re: His Dark Materials - BBC series
« Reply #6 on: 05 November, 2019, 10:05:04 AM »
Exposition title cards are always a warning flag -- and there was nothing whatsoever in them that you couldn't get from the episode. Looked great, very watchable, but a bit flat in the dialogue and tension department.

shaolin_monkey

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Re: His Dark Materials - BBC series
« Reply #7 on: 05 November, 2019, 09:57:01 PM »
I watched the first episode with Michael Van Kesteren, who designed the alethiometer for this show, amongst other things. You may recall him from such things as designing and making the Lawgiver in ‘Dredd’ (amongst other things).

I enjoyed the first episode, and had the pleasure of a ‘behind the scenes’ chat afterwards, from a design and fabrication perspective.

It turns out another of my mates is in this too. He features regularly in Dr Who as the monster of the week, but in this show he was ‘dude with fox that kidnapped the child’.


« Last Edit: 05 November, 2019, 09:59:19 PM by shaolin_monkey »

radiator

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Re: His Dark Materials - BBC series
« Reply #8 on: 05 November, 2019, 10:39:46 PM »
Quote
I didn't think it was directed particularly well (an example - when the kids went into the tomb, it looked liked the least scary room ever - big and open and bright. Loads of wide shots to emphasize the spaciousness. It seemed very lacking in atmosphere).

I haven't seen it yet myself, but this seems like a hallmark of director Tom Hooper, who has a very peculiar, widely derided shooting style, favouring strange shot compositions and heavy use of wide angle lenses, (even for close ups, which is generally considered a no no in photography). I've seen Youtube video essays criticising his framing as being weirdly disorienting and somewhat unsuitable for the subject matter. His involvement has me a little concerned, though on the whole I think the show looks pretty decent.

Quote
Exposition title cards are always a warning flag -- and there was nothing whatsoever in them that you couldn't get from the episode

I'm hoping it's at least better than the truly awful opening voiceover exposition dump they went with in the movie, which completely deflated and spoiled the mystery of the beginning of the novel (which IIRC begins very much in media res and lets the reader figure stuff like daemons out for themselves).

Quote
So far so good for me apart from the slight distrust of the audience's ability to work things out by having the extended opening.

As I understand it, this adaptation brings in elements from the other Philip Pullman books, not just the Dark Materials trilogy, so maybe thats the reason for the extended opening?

radiator

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Re: His Dark Materials - BBC series
« Reply #9 on: 07 November, 2019, 06:42:19 AM »
Just watched episode one, and despite looking very nice, based on what I’ve seen so far I’m not sure its a particularly strong adaptation of the book, sadly.

There’s something a bit stilted and clumsy about the whole thing thats hard to put my finger on, but I just don’t think it does a great job of creating a compelling narrative for people unfamiliar with the books.

Despite having a much longer running time at its disposal than the 2007 movie, it still somehow feels very rushed in terms of pacing, and doesn’t feel like its really doing a very good job of establishing character relationships, world building or conveying information organically.

I also don’t care for the portrayal of Lyra, which was one of my main complaints of the movie. Lyra is supposed to be a tough street urchin; especially when we first meet her. Brave yes, but also half wild, rebellious, even violent. Uncouth and hot-tempered, and always getting into trouble.Street smart but not overly book smart. I didn’t get ANY of that from the oddly sedate way they have chosen to portray her, which seems like an odd choice, especially as Dafne Keen was so good playing that exact kind of character in Logan. It seems so strange to me to drastically alter the entire characterisation and temperament of your lead character to such an extent, and as a result Lyra comes across as very flat, and  you totally lose the Pygmalion vibe to how she interacts with Coulter.
« Last Edit: 07 November, 2019, 06:46:37 AM by radiator »

radiator

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Re: His Dark Materials - BBC series
« Reply #10 on: 19 November, 2019, 09:45:58 PM »
Anyone else still watching this?

While episodes two and three were a definite improvement over the pilot, it just isn’t really gelling for me.

While I fully understand that changes and compromises in terms of plot and structure will always need to be made when adapting a book for the screen (especially one as complex as this), I’ve got to question the wisdom of altering the actual lead characters to such an extent that they bear little to no resemblance to their book counterparts. Asriel comes across as really shouty and manic when in the books he is the epitome of composure and steely determination. Ma Costa (played in the series by Anne Marie Duff) is so vastly different in appearance and temperament from the character described in the book that I genuinely didn’t realise who she was supposed to be until I saw the credits.

But the biggest problem of all for me is still Lyra. In the show she just comes across as really passive and dull, almost sullen - and shows none of the rebelliousness, grit, pluck, and simple force of personality that drives so much of the plot of the novels. A huge part of her character in the books is also her telling of tall tales and general trickstery, impish nature, which is something they’re only paying the barest of lip service to. It’s really hard to see how later key plot developments are going to work when the portrayal of the lead character is so lacking in these traits, and when the rest of the cast and the foundation for all of the key relationships are, imo, coming across as so flat and lifeless.

A lot of the acting just seems… quite bad - a lot of clunky, at times almost unintentionally funny line readings, not the standard of performances you’d expect from an HBO production, and some of the minor roles are especially poorly acted. I don’t know if the problem is more to do with direction, writing and editing than the actors themselves, given that the cast is filled with very capable actors?

On a broader plot and writing level the show appears far more interested in overloading the viewer with exposition and lore at the expense character development. And by attempting to set up and over-explain every little thing about how the world works and the mysteries and higher concepts that come into play much later - the alternate dimensions, the Magisterium etc etc - they are actually making an already tricky to adapt story far more confusing and front-loaded than it needs to be.

If you boil the story down, all they need to really establish at this point is the nature of daemons, the Gobblers/rescue plot, and Lyra learning how to use the alethiometer, all of which they are really not nailing imo. The alethiometer in particular is being treated almost as an afterthought rather than, you know, something so central to the story that in some territories the book (and the 2007 movie) were literally named after it.

The title sequence is so amazing - just perfect - it’s a shame that the rest of the show isn’t living up to the promise of it so far.

Colin YNWA

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Re: His Dark Materials - BBC series
« Reply #11 on: 19 November, 2019, 10:03:49 PM »
Watching it with the girl child, who I read the book with, only up to episode 2 and its still fine with problems.

IndigoPrime

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Re: His Dark Materials - BBC series
« Reply #12 on: 19 November, 2019, 10:10:47 PM »
I only watched episode one. My overriding question was where all the animals were, considering every human was supposed to have their soul in one, right?

Jim_Campbell

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Re: His Dark Materials - BBC series
« Reply #13 on: 19 November, 2019, 11:06:18 PM »
I’m completely unfamiliar with the books, and I’m rather enjoying this, to the extent of actually watching it ‘live’, which we almost never do with anything these days.
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edgeworthy

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Re: His Dark Materials - BBC series
« Reply #14 on: 19 November, 2019, 11:40:04 PM »
Next week we are meeting Iorek Byrnison and Lee Scoresby, and they have to get them right!
(Scoresby is being played by the guy from Hamilton.)