From Pie to Pantalaimon?
December 7, 2004 11:16 AM   Subscribe

An Pre-Emptive Interview With Director Chris Weitz. "On the surface of it, as a fan of the books I would be terrified if I read that I was going to adapt [The His Dark Materials Trilogy]. Let me try to put at ease anybody who is of a mind to be convinced at all..."

(Could be considered a follow-up to this post from 2002.)
posted by grabbingsand (33 comments total)
I can't imagine it matters how he adapts them, they will still make no sense and have the dumbest ending ever.
posted by fshgrl at 11:33 AM on December 7, 2004

Got to admit, I'm looking forward to seeing what he makes of these books. Some of the most subversive storytelling I've read in a long while.
posted by cptnrandy at 11:36 AM on December 7, 2004

Samuel L Jackson as Lee Scoresby? I'm not picturing him at the pass with Hester directing his rifle shouting "Say what again, motherfucker!" as he blasts away at the approaching troops.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:37 AM on December 7, 2004

I take his comments about softening the anti-religious aspects to mean they will not kill God in the third movie. That bites.
posted by amber_dale at 11:38 AM on December 7, 2004

How funny! I began re-reading the trilogy this last weekend for the umpteenth time and found myself wondering why the first book, at least, hadn't already been adapted (ideally, by someone with a Peter-Jackson-style source material fetish).

I'd really love to see what Pixar could do with Iorek Byrnison.
posted by clever sheep at 11:45 AM on December 7, 2004

(Am I the only one here who hasn't ever heard of these books before? Sounds intriguing.)
posted by neckro23 at 11:55 AM on December 7, 2004

fshgrl - hey, thanks for being the first one in the pool and taking a dump. Nice one.

Sorry you don't like the books. Why don't you go kick a kitten or something about it?
posted by papercake at 11:55 AM on December 7, 2004

On topic - the "interview" did quite a bit to make me want to trust this guy. Still, I can't believe that they dumped the Tom Stoppard script.
posted by papercake at 11:58 AM on December 7, 2004

The fact that he tossed Tom Stoppard's work is frightening no matter what. I've read his take and it was GOOD.
posted by velacroix at 12:04 PM on December 7, 2004

Hearing that New Line is producing this leads to the inevitable comparisons with the LOTR movies. If I had to make a prediction, I'd guess that as with those, the first one will be good but then the filmmakers' ego will get in the way of the story by the end. Of course, it has already been observed (perhaps too snarkily) that the last book is the weakest anyway.

Recipe for disaster, but yeah, I'll still go see them.
posted by norm at 12:06 PM on December 7, 2004

I don't envy Wietz this job-- nearly unnavigable shoals of fan expectations, a long, dense trilogy, and a studio that (understandably) wants a commercially viable movie. *shudder*

I will no doubt be there opening weekend, but with trepidation. Weitz was pretty clear that he's going to at least veil the anti-ecclesiastic elements. I get why he would want to, but on the other hand, that is what the books are about. "His Dark Materials" isn't a reference to Where The Sidewalk Ends, it's an allusion to Paradise Lost, fer chrissakes.
posted by everichon at 12:10 PM on December 7, 2004

Without the anti-religious stuff it'll be just more low-brow schlock.
posted by rushmc at 12:11 PM on December 7, 2004

velacroix - where'd you read it?
posted by papercake at 12:14 PM on December 7, 2004

Yeah, Velacroix ... now that you have our attention, please lead us to the goods.
posted by grabbingsand at 12:27 PM on December 7, 2004

Personally, when I saw the promo for The Polar Express, the look and feel seemed perfect for how I pictured the movie versions of Pullman's books.

I thought the first two books were fantastic and the third one dreadful.
posted by Doohickie at 12:38 PM on December 7, 2004

Weitz was pretty clear that he's going to at least veil the anti-ecclesiastic elements. I get why he would want to....

Do you think the studio would give him a choice? It would be an awfully big risk, making organized religion the bad guy in a movie you're trying to sell to a broad American audience.

It seems like he might try to take out religion entirely, and make it an anti-authority story. This might hold up fine for the first book, but since the entire third book is about a war against God, I have no idea how it'll be adapted.

In a similar vein, I've been wondering about the inevitable adaptation of The DaVinci Code. Is there any way to make that movie without generating significant protests from Catholics?
posted by mr_roboto at 12:40 PM on December 7, 2004

I, too, would very much like to see the Stoppard script.

As for the books, the third one pretty much contains the most interesting and most provoking material, and the first two, while beautiful and engaging, are, I think, just building up the foundation for the third one.

And I weep for the fact that an exuberant assault on Christianity that HDM is has to be watered down because the only place that has sufficient financial resources and expertise to visualize it is in a country where the very traits of the religion it criticizes are most obvious.
posted by azazello at 1:22 PM on December 7, 2004

given that much of the book deals with class in a complex and thought-provoking manner, i shudder at the thought of chris weitz coming anywhere near them. anyone want to bet that the main gyptian is called "joe bob"?
posted by pxe2000 at 1:32 PM on December 7, 2004

I just read these recently. I agree that the story deteriorated somewhat as it progressed; I wasn't sure what the last book was about at all, although anything that has God dying is good in my book.

The kids are supposed to be young and, later, in love. Will they Disney-fy this dynamic to make it safe for American prudish audiences that think the concept of children loving each other is tantamount to pedophaelia? I wonder. The books are very subtley subversive, and I am guessing they will clean it up until it's unrecognizable.
posted by cj_ at 1:50 PM on December 7, 2004

...exuberant assault on Christianity...

azazello: I don't want to say that you're misreading the books, because your interpretation is a potentially valid one. I think it goes a little deeper, though. There are some interesting ideas in this dialog between Pullman and the Archbishop of Canterbury (and in the subsequent Metafilter discussion).

given that much of the book deals with class in a complex and thought-provoking manner, i shudder at the thought of chris weitz coming anywhere near them.

Did you read the interview? I though Weitz came off as incredibly thoughtful and respectful. He's obviously an intelligent guy: I don't think it's fair to pigeonhole him as a buffoon simply because his first big break happened to be directing a teen sex comedy. About a Boy, while not particularly "deep", was a thoroughly enjoyable movie, with very competent direction of a child actor. So I'm hopeful.

What I really, really want to see, though, is the play. My wife and I seriously considered flying to London after reading the glowing opening reviews. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it makes its way to the States.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:17 PM on December 7, 2004

And now that I reread that old metafilter thread, I see that you actually participated in it, azazello, and probably didn't need to be directed to it. I'd still like to respectfully disagree with your interpretation of HDM as an attack on Christianity. I view it as more of an attack on authoritarian systems in general: interestingly, Lyra's world, with its powerful authoritarian Church, exists in a parallel timeline in which the Reformation never happened. The criticism of that Church as an organization can't be read as a simple criticism of modern organized religion. I think Lyra's Church is a literary vehicle representing idealized (in the Platonic sense) authority, based on the old Roman Church's political hold on pre-Reformation Europe. As for the metaphysical stuff, yeah, killing God sure does look like and attack on religion. I read it more as metaphorical fantasy, though. Pullman isn't actually suggesting that the Christian God exists as an evil entity that must by destroyed: he's just using ideas from gnosticism and Milton to frame a human story (and philosophical argument).
posted by mr_roboto at 2:32 PM on December 7, 2004

mr_roboto - I'm thrilled to say that we're flying to London in March to see it. I wouldn't hold my breath, if I were you, for it to come to the US. Huge cast. Puppets. Material that's not as popular here as it was in the UK.
posted by papercake at 2:41 PM on December 7, 2004

Some of the best books written last century. Really.

Terrified of what a movie would be like, but some recent adaptations have given me hope it can be well done. And I'd love to see those wheel-seed creatures on the big screen.
posted by freebird at 3:00 PM on December 7, 2004

anything that has God dying is good in my book

Tried Towing Jehovah?
posted by rushmc at 4:33 PM on December 7, 2004

Is, perhaps, one of the reasons HDM's attack on an all powerful "church" would not go down well in America that some elements of the religious right see such a dominating authority as a positive. Worth the negatives of a few abhorrent child abusers (as in the books)?
I'm not sure how a christian believer could be offended by these books, as it seems clear the evil characters are largely abusers of power and faith.
The personification of the angels, however, will be very troubling, I expect, to those unwilling or unable to think in Pullman's allegorical terms.
I'll be interested to see how it pans out.
posted by bystander at 4:51 PM on December 7, 2004

Hm, Weitz is supposed to be working on an Elric movie too. Seems to me that it's likely to be one or the other; hope that doesn't bode ill for the albino.
posted by mwhybark at 5:10 PM on December 7, 2004

mr_roboto: HDM is certainly many things, but denying the fact that among them it is extremely critical of a number of aspects of the Christian religion, including the Christian canon and the Roman Catholic Church, is kind of dumb. There are tons of allusions to it in the book. If Pullman wanted to critique authoritarian structures in general, he would not have singled out both a RCC-like "earthly" structure and a massive corpus of "divine" actors alluding to or directly referencing the Biblical canon.

I'm not saying this assault is not encapsulated in a more complex frame and therefore part of a different message (a lot of messages, yes), but if I were to view HDM from the point of view of an RCC minister or even a member of another denomination, I would see absolutely no logical way not to consider HDM an assault at my beliefs and the organization I belong to.

In fact, the fearless ferocity with which HDM attacks the traditional Christian religiousness is one of the things that make it so dear to me. I accept that Pullman himself prefers not to antagonize further than his pages already do, for obvious reasons; however, have you looked at the resolution of the trilogy in the context of the whole? It is certainly centrally a human story like you say, but it resolves in the context of one extremely powerful message: that, in Pullman's own words, the whole concept of the Original Sin is bunk. Of course the book is devoted centrally to Lyra and Will; but the fact that it assaults the foundations of Christianity as well as its age-old earthly corruption is undeniable, I think.
posted by azazello at 5:14 PM on December 7, 2004

Yeah, and the two angels. They're one of the most beautiful images in the book, and there is absolutely no way they will be portrayed truthfully on screen.
posted by azazello at 5:16 PM on December 7, 2004

Sorry, missed the responses. I'd love to post the thing on the net but it's a no can do (at least not till certain people are no longer employed by certain people). It will probably make it there in some form or another down the road. Stoppard kept it as intact as I can imagine anyone doing in 140pp.

(I liked all three, BTW. First is best, but three really wrenched the old gut.)
posted by velacroix at 5:56 PM on December 7, 2004

papercake and mr_roboto, I saw HDM Part 1 at the National theatre last march. It was enormous, incredible show; and fascinating to watch. I hadn't read anything by Pullman, I just knew about the director, Nicholas Hytner. Needless to say I was very impressed both by the direction and the script. The sheer scale of the show is astounding, and the puppet work for the daemons was really beautiful. However like azazello mentioned, there were some parts of the play that couldn't capture the fantasy the way I imagined they would be in the book. The bears especially looked fake, and I remember thinking "God, I wonder if this would be better as a movie." But on further reflection, I think that this is one of those books that should stay a book. But then again, I didn't like the LOTR movies /snark.

But if you want a really cool behind-the-scene look at some of the work that was done in putting up this massive show, and to make your own decisions about how the show looks, check out this site.I wish I could go back to London and see the second half.
posted by geryon at 7:40 PM on December 7, 2004

I'm going to see it at the National in January and I'm very excited. I'm also hoping to see The Firework-Maker's Daughter, another Pullman adaption. Though it's all the way over in dirty Hammersmith...
posted by ninebelow at 4:10 AM on December 8, 2004

Update: He's out.
posted by grabbingsand at 10:58 AM on December 16, 2004

Update: Phillip Pullman's comments.
posted by azazello at 12:47 PM on December 27, 2004

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