For those who didn’t know, one of my favorite book series, growing up, was the His Dark Materials, by Phillip Pullman. It had great characters. I liked Lyra, LOVED Will. The relationship that develops between the two is just beautiful. The third book, The Amber Spyglass is one of the only books that has ever made me cry. The ending was so unnecessarily depressing, when it could EASILY have been remedied. Lyra and Will were both clever young people. They should have been able to figure their way out of the predicament of never being able to see each other again.
So you might imagine that when they made the first live-action film version, way back when, I was really hoping it wouldn’t be terrible. I’d seen them ruin so many things I love before, but maybe this time would be different. The girl playing Lyra looked the part. Nicole Kidman looked and sounded just as insidious as I would have expected Mrs. Coulter to be. Sam Elliot was flawlessly cast as Lee Scoresby, with that southern charm. I liked having Kathy Bates voice his Daemon too. That was great casting. Oh yeah, and they got Sir Ian McKellan to voice Iorek Byrinson. Everything seemed to be set for something great.
What we got was something that shit ALL over the source material. For starters, Roger lived at the end! Um…no! He was fucking dead by the end of the first book. That’s important for the plot of the sequels. His gruesome death was a key point to how he is brought back into the plot in the third book at the world of the dead. Next, the film didn’t end with Lyra stepping into another world. That’s how it ended. Her friend was dead and the base was destroyed. She knew her enemies were hunting her so all she could do was run. So she followed through the same window that Lord Asriel went through, not knowing where she would end up. It sets up the next book, where she meets Will in the other world.
But the thing that bothered me most was the fact that they took one of the central plot points of the series and basically gave it the finger. That plot point was the fact that the main antagonist of film was not the church, but this vague government entity call The Magisterium. Phillip Pullman was not subtle in the fact that the true villain of the book was the church. The whole series can be viewed as an analogue to the battle between the Catholic Church and the Protestant Reformation. That wasn’t an accident. It’s important. There are multiple characters representing the church throughout the series, and even angels who the characters interact with.
Pullman was making a very direct statement about how the church, religion, and faith are all corrupt, led by people who are evil and manipulative, using the brainwashed masses to do their bidding. Lord Asriel stood as a beacon of rebellion against them. And so the church did everything in their power to destroy him. The third book has a massive battle between the church’s forces and the army Asriel builds, which ends with Metatron, one of the biggest angels of all getting killed, along with Asriel. It’s implied that both sides are utterly destroyed.
When I heard that a trailer had dropped for a new series that HBO is launching for this novel franchise, I was wondering what they would do with it. So I watched the trailer. And…I’m pissed. Won’t get into the fact that Lee Scoresby has been turned into a none-Southern dude and all that southern charm has been sucked away. Whatever. Or that we don’t hear Iorek speak. That’s weird. He did. It was him who gave Lyra the moniker Silvertongue, due to her ability to lie so well.
But the thing that has me pissed off is this – why is the villain the Magisterium again?! They were a puppet government who was basically a branch of the church! It wasn’t them who was ever referred to as the main antagonist. It was always the church! Why is it that no production company is willing to do this right? Is everyone just too afraid to shit on America’s religion of choice? Is no one willing to take the steps Pullman did by making it understood that religion and faith are the enemy of logic and reason? Of course not. Because you have the Christian right shitting bricks and getting just as pissed off as the regressive left would for their hot-button issues. How either side can call the other “snowflakes” is beyond me.
I wouldn’t be so upset about this if it wasn’t a central conflict in the story. Huge portions of this narrative revolve around the war between Asriel and the church. Especially in the third book. By then, Asriel has basically declared war on Heaven itself. And the implication is that he wins, albeit by taking the highest angel down with him. Why can nobody run with this? You’d think HBO would have more stones than a big movie production company. They can afford to take risks. But no. I guess they have to play it PC for the right, because fuck what Pullman was trying to make.
Not gonna watch it. The books will always be better anyway. A pity that Will McAvoy is having his talents wasted in this piece of shit. He’s a phenomenal actor and could probably play a good Asriel. If only he was in a better production.
Until next time, a quote,
“All the history of human life has been a struggle between wisdom and stupidity.” – Mary Malone, The Amber Spyglass