Series Review: His Dark Materials – Season 1 (2019)

Adapting books is difficult. There’s a risk of alienating old fans if you fuck it up, and there’s a chance of alienating new ones if you just adapt word for word, with no regard for the viewing experience. We’ve covered some good ones, and some bad ones on the blog before… so let’s see where this falls into the spectrum

Ladies and gentlemen… “His Dark Materials” season 1.

Set in an alternate universe England, the story follows Lyra (Dafne Keen), a girl looking to find a way to get out of her boring scholastic existence and into some adventure. Well she soon finds her wish coming true when she gets dragged into a big, magical adventure through this mysterious, alternate world. I really enjoyed following the story here. It’s a fresh take on the familiar “child hero” fantasy formula. And unlike so many other such adaptations it manages to balance a generally family friendly approach with a lot of darker moments that dare to challenge younger viewers a bit. It reminds me of the “Harry Potter” movies a bit in that sense. There’s also enough interesting twists in the story to keep me on my toes. The pacing does feel like it slightly drags at times due to how dense with content each episode is, but generally it never full on breaks the show for me. It’s still a really engaging and entertaining story.

The characters in this are layered, flawed, and overall just interesting. Dafne Keen plays Lyra, our protagonist. She’s clever, crafty, adventurous, and just a really entertaining protagonist that I loved following throughout. And Keen is great in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Ruth Wilson, Kit Connor, Amir Wilson, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ariyon Bakare, James Cosmo, and James McAvoy, among many others. And they all do very well in their respective roles.

The score for the show/season was composed by Lorne Balfe, and it is absolutely fantastic. From the beyond catchy main theme, to many of the quieter pieces, to some of the bigger tracks, it is all fantastic. What I also like is that as we switch between a few different settings within the show, Balfe actually plays around a bit with his instrumentation, not only relying on the typical orchestral stuff. So yeah, this show has some great music.

Based on the beloved novels by Philip Pullman, “His Dark Materials” is a co-production between BBC and HBO, written by Jack Thorne, and directed by a bunch of cool people. And the craft here is seriously fantastic. The direction manages to capture the sweeping nature of the epic fantasy story it sets up, while still staying intimate with the characters, bringing us further into the world in a wonderful way. And this show is also proof why HBO should be allowed to help out with the financing of a show, because in terms of sets, effects, props, puppetry, and all such production values, this is one of the most well crafted and expensive-looking shows I have ever witnessed. It is stunning what they’ve made here.

This season/show has generally been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 80% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 67/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,2/10.

It’s of course not flawless, but I still kinda loved season of “His Dark Materials”. It has a great plot, great characters, great performances, great music, and great directing, cinematography, and effects. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 1 of “His Dark Materials” is a 9,55/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “His Dark Materials” season 1 is now completed.

I’ve had a weird void in my life since the “Harry Potter movies ended. And this show has kinda filled it for the past two months.

Series Review: National Treasure (2016)

Sexual assault. A horrible thing that I wish never existed, but unfortunately is all too common in our world. It’s a very uncomfortable, but very important topic that needs to be discussed if we want change. On that note, here’s a show about being accused of such things.

Ladies and gentlemen… “National Treasure”.

Paul Finchley (Robbie Coltrane) is a comedian with a very long career, beloved by many people, a bona fide national treasure. But he soon finds himself in hot water when he’s accused of sexual assault. So we follow Paul as he tries to deal with these accusations and how they affect not only his life, but the lives of the people he loves. So now we have our drama. And I have to say that I found this plot quite compelling. Seeing Paul’s life go through change because of these accusations makes for some really solid drama. Another great element of the plot is that you never really know if Paul actually committed the acts or not, which makes you doubt everything, which adds a layer of tension to it all. I don’t wanna say too much because I don’t wanna ruin anything, but I’ll end this part by simply saying that this plot is great. Tense, emotional, and utterly compelling.

The characters in this are all layered, damaged, and really interesting. Robbie Coltrane plays Paul Finchley, the man at the center of this story who finds himself accused of sexual assault. As previously mentioned, Paul is a comedian with a very long and successful career, leading to him being loved by many people. So seeing that slowly peeled away because of these accusations leads to some great character stuff, especially as we learn more about his life and see how all these things affect his life. And Coltrane is fantastic in the role. Julie Walters plays Marie, Paul’s wife. She’s a tough, take no nonsense woman, but she does show a few more vulnerable sides to her as well throughout, which of course happens because of the accusations against her husband. And we do learn some things about her too throughout that adds to her character. And Walters is just absolutely fantastic in the role. Then we have Andrea Riseborough as Dee, Paul’s & Marie’s daughter. She’s a former addict now trying to get through the aftermath of that while also getting tested emotionally because of the accusations against her father. And Riseborough is fucking great in the role. Then we get some supporting performances from people like Babou Ceesay, Tim McInnerny, Mark Lewis Jones, Trystan Gravelle, Susan Lynch, and many more… all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the show was composed by Cristobal Tapia De Veer and it was good. While the style wasn’t my cup of tea, I can acknowledge that it was well composed and worked well within the show, using a very electronic style that often helped create an uneasy and emotional feel within the show. It’s not something I would find myself listening to during my spare time, but I think it works for the show.

The episodes were written by Jack Thorne, and directed by Marc Munden. And the combination of those two is quite good. The direction somehow manages to capture the feel of unease and confusion of the characters. Combine that with the writing and you get some compelling stuff. And the cinematography by Ole Bratt Birkeland is stunning, this is a great looking show. There are a few weird cuts throughout the episodes, but none of them makes me think less of the show… just confused why they were there.

This show has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 100% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 83/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,5/10.

“National Treasure” isn’t always an easy watch, but it’s a great and I’d even say important miniseries. It has a great plot, really good characters, fantastic performances, good music, and really good directing/writing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “National Treasure” is a 9,71/10. Which means it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “National Treasure” is now completed.

This is not quite how I’d imagine the Hagrid’s and Mrs. Weasley’s reunion going…