Skip

Lyra and her dæmon moved through the darkening hall...
July 31, 2006 11:11 PM   Subscribe

The His Dark Materials movie is taking shape. The award-winning children's series, considered the "anti-Narnia", is due on the screen in 2007, starring a actress found in open casting, along with Nicole Kidman (as Mrs. Coulter, for those who know the books). Unfortunately, the screenplay by Tom Stoppard has been dumped, though the new one appears to be to the author's liking. There is no official trailer yet, but there are several more or less painful fan-made ones. The series has also been made into a successful play, and a radio program. For those who haven't read it, an excerpt is here; and for those that have, try the interactive alethiometer or find out your daemon's name. Previous discussion on the debate with the Archbishop of Canterbury was here.
posted by blahblahblah (52 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Nice. Chris Weitz is a goog director, I hope he can pull it off. It's been years since I read the books and I forget a lot of details, though maybe that's best for the movie--I think I'll wait and if the film does its job then everything should come back. Wonderful series.
posted by zardoz at 11:23 PM on July 31, 2006


How I tried to love those books ... just didn't happen.

Slapping around the religion, having feral child monsters, etc., seemed so great in theory. I know some people are huge fans of the stuff -- I learned about the series from a Christopher Hitchens column in a magazine -- but it really didn't move me.

As a militant non-Christian, I still love the CS Lewis books about Narnia. But that recent movie was the worst piece of crap I've ever seen ... the 15 minutes I sat through, at least.
posted by kenlayne at 11:23 PM on July 31, 2006


Your Dæmon's name is: Aeternuinfrenatome

Yeah, but I want to know the species! Still to read the last book. Rather enjoyed the first two.
posted by nthdegx at 11:32 PM on July 31, 2006


Will God be in it?
posted by homunculus at 11:42 PM on July 31, 2006


My library's website says they have one copy of the first book available. I hope I can get to the library before some grubbly little prepubescent, snot drenched, incontinent mac&cheese eater snags it. I really ought to complain that they don't have a Young Adult section reserved for adults.
posted by stavrogin at 11:43 PM on July 31, 2006


Excellent series, I enjoyed it quite a bit. It will be interesting to see what they do with it for film. Not holding my breath on a good transition, but who knows?
posted by nightchrome at 11:48 PM on July 31, 2006


Anti-Narnia, eh? "The production has already caused controversy because Weitz removed references to God and the church from the script, despite being dominant themes in the book."

If you genuinely believe that Hollywood will produce some kind of cinematic morsel to delight the senses and tickle that inner child crying out for a dark narrative, then you're as naive as C.S. Lewis was. But god bless all the same. This is all about a dreadful little variable called money. It's about filling seats and reaching the lowest common denominator. And if that means diluting or extirpating some of the more subversive themes in the book to appeal to a broader audience, then so be it. Keep in mind that we're talking about Chris Weitz, the fauxteur who gave us the American Pie movies. It's safe to say that Weitz is hardly a Kubrick or a Gilliam.

Okay, so Mr. Pullman digs the latest script. But he'd be foolish not to. The movie could blow goats, but it easily means an upstep in filthy lucre for him with the inevitable mass market paperback tie-in. He'd be utterly foolish to dissuade people from checking out the original source. Keep in mind that this is the most lucrative film made from his works ever.

The notion then that this film could be somehow different, before you have even bothered to see it, is no less than buzz marketing. A pox on you for believing a film foolish enough to shitcan Tom Stoppard, a playwright with an innate sense of wordplay and narrative, from the production.
posted by ed at 12:05 AM on August 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


Jeez, ed, cynical much?
posted by zardoz at 12:15 AM on August 1, 2006


The Anti-Narnia?
I like it already.
posted by squidfartz at 12:33 AM on August 1, 2006


The first two books in the series are quality reads. The third one goes to far into anti-religous preaching and the story suffers for it. Still enjoyable though.
posted by Fence at 1:05 AM on August 1, 2006


The fact that Stoppard is no longer associated with this makes me about three hundred times less interested in it.

If the reports about Weitz removing references to god and the church from it are accurate, my interest just dropped to zero, seeing as how that was, you know, the whole point.

Oh, well. Teach me to get excited about something.
posted by kyrademon at 1:42 AM on August 1, 2006


I still don't get the "anti-Narnia" thing. I haven't read the books, and the Catholic Culture article linked above quotes a Washington Post critic's use of the phrase without any explanation.

The story also references a book I hadn't heard of, but now want to read: Mikhail Bulgakov's "The Master and Margarita."
posted by Tuffy at 1:44 AM on August 1, 2006


I thought it was the anti-Harry Potter.

The HDM books were grotesquely overrated snoozefests, but this movie can't be worse than Narnia's.
posted by fleacircus at 1:45 AM on August 1, 2006


From an interview Chris Weitz did a while back, from the first time he was attached to write and direct the film, addressing the worries fans had about toning down the religious aspects of the books:

"New Line is a company that makes films for economic returns. You would hardly expect them to be anything else. They have expressed worry about the possibility of HDM’s perceived antireligiosity making it an unviable project financially. My job is to get the film made in such a way that the spirit of the piece is carried through to the screen, and to do that I must contend not only with the difficulties of the material but with the fears of the studio. Needless to say, all my best efforts will be directed towards keeping HDM as liberating and iconoclastic an experience as I can. But there may be some modification of terms. You will probably not hear of the "Church" but you will hear of the Magisterium. Those who will understand will understand. I have no desire to change the nature or intentions of the villains of the piece, but they may appear in more subtle guises."

The subsequent reports that "god was cut out" stem from that one article in The Times, which took this segment of the interview and, basically, distorted it completely out of proportion. Assuming that Weitz is returning to his original script (which seems to be the case), then it seems quite a stretch to declare that the entire central theme of the books has been disposed of.

It's an interesting interview. My heart sank when I heard that the director behind American Pie was going to take charge of HDM, but he seems to be a clever, thoughtful guy - certainly not deserving of the casual dismissals he's recieved from some.
posted by flashboy at 2:12 AM on August 1, 2006


Let people be christians if they want to. The book was anti-religion, religious fundamentalism, to be more exact and using a the church, as an example - IMHO of course.

As for the books. I liked the first one, the second one was OK, the third was boring. The film might be good, but probably not with Chris Weitz on the team.

But right now I'm enjoying the bible. The PHP-bible that is.
"On the first day he made the php tag. And on the second the $variable."
posted by Grums at 2:31 AM on August 1, 2006


Phillip Pullman used to live next door to a friend of mine in Oxford - whilst I never actually met him, I almost certainly kept him awake with drunken partying...must read his books by way of apology...
posted by prentiz at 3:17 AM on August 1, 2006


Apparently they're removing all references to Dust in the movies.

Which is also the whole point of the story.
posted by divabat at 3:41 AM on August 1, 2006


I don't know if it ever tours, but if it does and it comes anywhere near you, then break down doors to see the National Theatre stage version. It's very, very long, but one of the most amazing productions you will ever see. They've pared the story down well (it's all three books), and the stage effects are just magnificent.
posted by ciderwoman at 3:51 AM on August 1, 2006


Of course, there was always the stage adaption that played in London a couple of years ago. I didn't manage to get along, but I think most of the key themes survived intact. Gutted I didn't see it actually, I was really interested to see how they would recreate the armoured bears.

I mean, armoured bears!

On preview, the stage version is already linked - anyone seen it and know how faithful it was?
posted by Happy Dave at 3:58 AM on August 1, 2006


Ahem, *points up*

Very faithful, is the answer.
posted by ciderwoman at 4:04 AM on August 1, 2006


God, I loved this series. I always thought it was great, and I only hope that they work their asses off bringing the same quality to the screen that I remember from the books.
posted by QuarterlyProphet at 4:45 AM on August 1, 2006


So somebody is making rules whereby I'm not allowed to like HDM AND Narnia AND LotR AND HP AND probably Star Wars as well? How about, fuck off losers?
posted by i_cola at 4:49 AM on August 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


I don't believe the His Dark Materials series are anti-anything, really ... except perhaps anti-ignorance. The world that Lyra occupies is parallel to our own, but it certainly isn't our's at all.

In her reality, a subtle knife can carve dimensions, a compass can assess your fate and God is a paper-thin construct. And how is that any more incendiary than another world where wraiths hunt after a magic ring, a boy with a scarred forehead rides a hippogryph or the Force pervades all living things?

Basically, if well-written fiction -- because that's all it is -- is enough to shatter your religious foundations, then perhaps the flaw is with the original construction.
posted by grabbingsand at 5:09 AM on August 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


Tuffy: I still don't get the "anti-Narnia" thing. I haven't read the books, and the Catholic Culture article linked above quotes a Washington Post critic's use of the phrase without any explanation.

I suspect that the "anti-Narnia" thing is a bit overhyped as well. It's not as if HDM is a page for page refutation of The Last Battle or The Silver Chair. Although Pullman is harshly critical of Lewis, but he isn't presenting a simple inverse story. This New Yorker story has some more detail.

It comes down to this. In the cosmology of Narnia, original sin and loss of innocence is a big problem. Edmund's seduction via. turkish delight is analogous to the seduction of Eve in Genesis, and results in him becoming thrall to the queen. In The Last Battle the protagonists of the earlier books return to fight the battle of Armageddon in early adolescent form, with one companion conspicuously missing due to factors that may or may not be related to her loss of innocence. (Friendly interpretations put the blame on materialism rather than sexuality.)

In His Dark Materials the varieties of loss of innocence is a vital part of what makes us and the universe self-aware. As the story progresses, Lyra is forced to deal with a number of conflicts related to maturity including (off the top of my head), realizing your parents have flaws, betrayal, spiritual crisis, realization of death, sexuality, and loss of love. In the end, we find that the "original sin" was a good thing for everyone involved, and the people trying to prevent it are misguided, (and act in evil ways as a result.) In HDM "gods" exist, but in more of a Buddhist sense that Gods are products of the universe rather than its creators.

The fantasy cosmology in which "God" and "Satan" are just two powerful cosmic beings duking it out over an abstract concept with humanity stuck in the middle isn't unique to Pullman. Other notable examples include the comic book universe crafted by Moore, Delano and Gaiman in the late 80s and early 90s. Prachett and Gaiman's Good Omens, and Heinlein's Job: A Comedy of Justice.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:23 AM on August 1, 2006


>>> The fantasy cosmology in which "God" and "Satan" are just two powerful cosmic beings duking it out over an abstract concept with humanity stuck in the middle isn't unique to Pullman.

Not unique at all.
posted by grabbingsand at 5:35 AM on August 1, 2006


grabbingsand: Certainly. I think one of the key differences though comes from how the Book of Job is interpreted. Traditional Christian interpretations hold that God is the benevolent God the Father allmighty, maker of heaven and Earth and the happy ending for Job involves being brought back into the happy fold of his favor through obedience.

More contemporary fantasy interpretations hold that "God" is something of an authoritarian prick, and the happy ending involves some form of humanist spiritual anarchism that values human free will and independence.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:49 AM on August 1, 2006


I really want to be able to get excited for this movie. I loved the books and even went to London to see the stage production, which was mind-blowingly good. But to dump the script by Stoppard seems the height of stupidity. Weitz had a great opportunity to work with one of the most intelligent and talented dramatic writers of the late 20th century and chose not to because he likes to write his own scripts??? Ah well, I won't give up hope yet, but all signs point toward the bland Hollywoodization of a dark and beautiful story.

The fantasy cosmology in which "God" and "Satan" are just two powerful cosmic beings duking it out over an abstract concept with humanity stuck in the middle isn't unique to Pullman.

Yep.
posted by papercake at 5:58 AM on August 1, 2006


The stage version was faithful to the themes, to the point that one can be in six hours on stage. Lots had to be cut, most notably Mary Malone and the mulefa, which was a sore loss. On the other hand, the scenes that opened and closed the play and a few acts of Lyra and Will meeting on the bench in Oxford a few years on were very moving and well done. There's video of a few scenes up on www.stagework.org.
posted by awesomebrad at 5:59 AM on August 1, 2006


Weitz may be some poor director who did the "horrible" American Pie films (were they really that bad?), but let's not forget a schlock horror director who took an unfilmable trilogy and crafted the best fantasy movie of all time.
posted by Dantien at 6:35 AM on August 1, 2006


Weitz also did the perfectly servicible About A Boy, too. Except I thought the Fugees had made Killing Me Softly cool.
posted by zsazsa at 6:46 AM on August 1, 2006


I'll see this if Alanis Morrisette plays God again.
posted by escabeche at 6:47 AM on August 1, 2006


Dantien, Meet the Feebles is not schlock horreur, it's quel horreur on a grand scale, and every bit as valuable as LOTR.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 6:57 AM on August 1, 2006


Nicole Kidman to play Ann Coulter? Ex-cel-lent.
posted by melixxa600 at 7:10 AM on August 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


I can't wait till they make a movie out of Small Gods, ain't no hiding behind the word "Authority" there. :)
posted by jeffburdges at 7:17 AM on August 1, 2006


Reading the books years ago, it seemed clear to me that the baddies were modeled on the Catholic Church. Made sense to me.
posted by pointilist at 7:43 AM on August 1, 2006


My apologies, I still havent seen Meet the Feebles. And, in fact, I loves the Frighteners! But my point still stands...freaking out about Weitz since he hasn't done any pictures like this is pretty absurd at this point.

For the record, halfway through the first book and didnt know about the film until yesterday. Beginning to get interesting now that they are heading north.
posted by Dantien at 7:45 AM on August 1, 2006


Put me down as one of those who likes Narnia and HDM. (At least the first two books--I'll be finishing it up by listening to the audiobook of The Amber Spyglass on a road trip next week.)

The fact that they have different worldviews, neither of which matches our own world, makes them no less entertaining as works of fiction. I'm a fairly hard-core skeptic, and yet I enjoyed The X-Files.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:09 AM on August 1, 2006


>>> The fantasy cosmology in which "God" and "Satan" are just two powerful cosmic beings duking it out over an abstract concept with humanity stuck in the middle isn't unique to Pullman.
Well, yes, but in my opinion what the children do to God at the end of the third book is unique to Pullman.
posted by Nyrath at 9:55 AM on August 1, 2006


Arriving late as usual, I just want to say, this is why I read Metafilter. This time posters are articulate and thoughtful. This time it is not Fark.com, nor a snipe fest.

I'm with ed on the film prospects - when anything of quality comes out of Hollywood it is a freak accident - but the books have gone on my list (currently trying to get through Rushdie, so something "young adult" will be a breather).

Lewis exemplifies for me a whole sector of Christianity, and even the thought of his books makes me queasy (but I read something of his for adults). LOTR is overrated and I now understand it as anti-industrialism. On the other hand Harry Potter is delightful and IMHO good for kids. (I favored Grimm and Poe as a kid.)
posted by jam_pony at 10:07 AM on August 1, 2006


but let's not forget a schlock horror director who took an unfilmable trilogy and crafted the best fantasy movie of all time.

Okay, someone already mentioned Meet the Feebles and The Frighteners, but YOU'RE CALLING THE GUY WHO DID HEAVENLY CREATURES A SCHLOCK HORROR DIRECTOR? And if you say you haven't seen that either you really need to stop talking about Peter Jackson. LOTR is an exceptionally pretty and detailed bauble. Heavenly Creatures is one of the best films of the past 30 years.

Yeah, I need to calm down now. Apologies.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 10:09 AM on August 1, 2006


Wow Pink, I hope you do calm down. I hate to see you like this.

My point was only in response to the attack on Weitz due to his previous films. I am, in fact, a big Peter Jackson fan and was not serious about the Schlock Horror comment (although, come on, the guy adores his gore). And I've seen all his films BUT heavenly creatures so mea culpa. But the ability to judge a man's work solely on his previous work, ignoring that a film is a product of hundreds of people, and making assessments about an upcoming film that hasnt really started shooting was what I was aiming at.

still, no one is a bigger PJ fan than myself. He took my favorite books and made them great movies. For that, he is forever wonderful.
posted by Dantien at 10:17 AM on August 1, 2006


PinkStainlessTail: Well, he was a schlock horror director. Don't get me wrong, that's not a bad thing. Dead Alive is also a magnificent film.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:19 AM on August 1, 2006


I'll maybe give you guys Brain Damage as an example of "schlock horror", if only because he didn't have the budget to get proper actors, sets, etc. but everything else the man did is the work of a master director. Just because Dead Alive and Meet the Feebles are incredibly gross, doesn't make them schlock. Schlock to me means Roger Corman or Andy Sidaris or the like.


I've seen all his films BUT heavenly creatures...


You've seen Forgotten Silver but not Heavenly Creatures? Weirdo.

But the ability to judge a man's work solely on his previous work, ignoring that a film is a product of hundreds of people, and making assessments about an upcoming film that hasnt really started shooting was what I was aiming at.

There's a good point here, but past performance is usually indicative of future results. I still think Jackson's a poor example: anyone could look at his previous films and see that he was more than capable of bringing Tolkien's stuff to life. If say, Uwe Boll had been tapped to direct HDM, would you still adopt a "wait and see" attitude?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 10:50 AM on August 1, 2006


I think Dead Alive is the work of a master director as well. I wonder where he went after Fellowship though.

American Pie seems about in the middle though failing to inspire high or low expectations. I think though that there are plenty of reasons to be cautious about past performance however. Singer and Shyamalan seem to be in a slump after some very good movies in the past. Eastwood didn't hit his stride until mid-career. As always, I'll wait for the reviews.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:31 AM on August 1, 2006


PinkStainlessTail, I agree with you completely. Masterwork. God help me, I still can't get that Mario Lanza number (when the girls are running through the woods) out of my head.
posted by melixxa600 at 1:51 PM on August 1, 2006


Yeah, but I want to know the species! Still to read the last book. Rather enjoyed the first two.

The last book was utterly disappointing, IMO. The first two moved along nicely and had a good balance of action and suspense. The last one just sucked, imo. No big climax, really; it just petered out.
posted by Doohickie at 2:04 PM on August 1, 2006


Personally, I think the way to make these books into movies is by way of Polar Express-style animation. When I saw the first few seconds of the trailer for that movie, I thought for a moment it was going to be The Golden Compass. Not because of what was shown, but rather *how* it was shown. I looked exactly as I had pictured Pullman's works in my mind.

I look forward to the movie... with limited expectations.
posted by Doohickie at 2:16 PM on August 1, 2006


Doohickie: When I saw the first few seconds of the trailer for that movie, I thought for a moment it was going to be The Golden Compass.

Well, yeah, but that was partly because it had polar bears, right?
posted by Tuffy at 3:19 PM on August 1, 2006


By the way KirkJobSluder, thanks for the sharp analysis of Narnia vs. these books. I never thought about it, but Lewis seems to equate faith with a young child's unquestioning trust in his parents.
posted by Tuffy at 4:16 PM on August 1, 2006


I also was thoroughly disappointed by The Amber Spyglass. It's almost a fact of life that any fantasy trilogy, no matter how well it starts, will suck hard by the end of the third book.

For anyone who liked HDM even a little bit, I highly recommend Pullman's other major young-adult series, the Sally Lockhart novels. I found them to be much more daring, moving and consistent.

For the record, I am as anti-Christian as anyone, but I still love Narnia. I couldn't give less of a shit about Lewis's religion. Even as a kid, I saw it as a quaint but inoffensive anachronism.
posted by Soulfather at 8:09 PM on August 1, 2006


the Sally Lockhardt books are the ones Rose from Dr. Who is doing?

I liked the trilogy, but can't imagine it without all the Church stuff and the angels and souls and underworld etc-- it was much darker and more "adult" than i thought it would be, esp compared to Potter.
posted by amberglow at 8:14 PM on August 1, 2006


(oh, my daemon's Adama--i asked for a male one) : >
posted by amberglow at 8:18 PM on August 1, 2006


« Older I was much happier before I knew these existed   |   A xylowave occurs everytime an... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post