For those who didn’t know, there are articles all over the place about how the ‘His Dark Materials’ series is going to be getting a series devoted to it. More than one publication has called it the new Game of Thrones. I have an issue with this. I want to be hopeful for this series, but there is a problem. One that I have seen before, and unfortunately is too big an elephant in the room to ignore. After all, we’ve seen this before, haven’t we? We saw an adaptation of this book series. Some disclosure, the last book in the series, The Amber Spyglass, is one of my favorite books of all time, save that ending, which is pointlessly depressing, and also a plot hole (for real, there is NO reason that Will couldn’t have just opened one last portal to Lyra’s world, and closed all the rest. Nobody was holding a gun to his head, so he could have done what he felt. So dumb). Still, I love this series. Which is why I have this real misgiving about a new adaptation. But to talk about this, I’ll have to talk about the last one.
In 2007, there was the first of what was meant to be a series of films devoted to the book series. And…it sucked. No joke, total garbage. Why was it so bad? Because the film had a clear lack of spine to deal with something that the books waved a flag about. The truth is that the ‘His Dark Materials’ series was written as a direct middle finger to the Catholic church. Phillip Pullman made no effort to hide it. He clearly despised the Catholic faith, and wrote this entire series to show the corruption and abuse of faith. He took umbrage with the entire Christian religion. The neat thing was that he was able to use history as a better way to make his point about the Catholic church. Lord Asriel was very much representative of the protestant reformation, since he believes in another path than the faith of his world. That was kind of brilliant.
The film was utterly unwilling to face down the overtones of the book series about faith and how corrupt and delusional it is. They wanted the films to be family friendly, because the book series was written for kids, right? Well, the books were divisive among people because of the statements about religion, and clearly the filmmakers weren’t immune to this.
So if they are going to be doing a new adaptation, are they going to have the guts to be faithful to the source material? Are they going to have the will power to take that on, without bowing to corporate pressure? What network has the guts to go that far? If it’s HBO, then maybe that would work. But it is still a real concern. Every network wants to please as many people as possible. This series was written in such a way that a large chunk of the population is going to hate it, even before it comes out. After all, it’s not just the fact that it insults the Catholic church. The books make a clear point that religion in any form is corrupt, and the people who have blind faith are delusional. There are priests who are heartless killers on behalf of the church. You have angels who want to murder mortals, and angels who lose faith and walk away from God. It’s pretty nuts, when you think about it. Heaven is not some great place, but rather a purgatory that is nothing but an endless plain where one cannot find joy. The climax of the third book is when the angels, mortals and the dead all have a giant battle, that is as bloody and insane as it gets.
This kind of religious stuff can be off-putting to most people. I liked it as a kid because I thought that religion was kind of dumb. I like it now because I know that Pullman was absolutely right, and the faith is corrupt. Religion itself is dumb as well. Whatever is after all this, it could just as easily be that endless purgatorial plain. Hell on Earth. Is this series going to stay true to that? Will it go all the way?
If not, best that it doesn’t get made at all.
Until next time, a quote,
“But I stopped believing there was a power of good and a power of evil that were outside us. And I came to believe that good and evil are names for what people do, not for what they are. All we can say is that this is a good deed, because it helps someone, or that’s an evil one, because it hurts them. People are too complicated to have simple labels.” -Mary Malone, The Amber Spyglass