His Dark Materials

His Dark MaterialsCredit:    

New series ★★★★

Tuesday, November 5, 8.30pm, Showcase

The less said about the Hollywood version of Northern Lights – the first in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy – the better. Except that if it put you off any kind of screen adaptation, please reconsider. As has been frequently noted, episodic television is a far better fit with literature than film, both because there’s more room to move and because in the age of streaming there’s not the same compulsion to please everyone and offend no one. Which means this luscious piece of work gets all the things right that Chris Weitz’s The Golden Compass got wrong. For a start, no one’s too pretty – especially not Dafne Keen as Lyra. Swarthy and sturdy, she looks like a girl actually capable of derring-do. And in the hands of showrunner Jack Thorne – a writer we’re starting to feel can do no wrong – Lyra is as prickly and frustrating as she is vulnerable and winning. There’s so much else to praise about this clever interpretation (including the way new elements are so seamlessly integrated that it’s almost impossible to tell what’s original and what’s not). But the CGI deserves special mention: someone has finally, thankfully, decided that less is actually more.

Melinda Houston

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