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S2: For centuries, they have been trying to keep us where they want us.
S3: Watch demons disappear when you die. And yet humans being these nasty skeletons behind.
S4: With children. Welcome to the authority slates. His Dark Materials podcast. It’s Season 1, Episode 8, the season finale Betrayal where Slate’s resident scholars of experimental theology. I’m Dan Coats and my demon is a prairie vole named Gilda.
S1: I’m Laura Miller and my demon is the sea otter named Saki.
S5: So in Episode 8, The Betrayal as Aureole has a late night conversation with Lyra about Dustin, fatherhood then steals away with Rodger up on a high mountain top. He cuts away Roger’s demon and uses the energy that produces to open a doorway to another world. The city in the sky. A very, very rude thing for a dad to do with his daughter’s best friend. In my opinion. Meanwhile, Mrs. Coulter claims she finally wants to be lyra’s mother, but that doesn’t stop her from shooting at lyra’s other best friend Yorick from a blip. Also, rude behavior for aparents. You know what? Philip Larkin said it. The fresh prince said it. Props to Roger for saying it straight out.
S6: You know, why pack to more trouble than they’re worth? This season finale covers the last 30 pages of the Golden Compass, the crucial, enormous twist and turning point of this story. The ascendance to the mountain top. The betrayal and sacrifice of Roger is the climax of everything that we’ve been leading up to. And it’s a part of the story that crazily was left out of the 2007 film of the Golden Compass. That original failed film directed by Chris Whites in 2007. That movie ended before we even got to learn as Reelz hideout. So this week, as we talk about how this first season of the TV show, His Dark Materials worked, we’re also going to take a deep dive into that failed movie, an epic disaster that flopped so bad. We fans of the books thought we’d never see this series adapted again. Why was the Golden Compass such a failure? What went wrong? And what do the creators of this series seemingly learn from new mistakes?
S1: But first, a warning. We will talk about the world of Philip Pullman’s books and the television series, his dark materials. But we will strive not to reveal any of the details of the plot. However, if you are very spoiler sensitive, he might want to avoid this podcast or read the books.
S6: All right. So let’s dive into some discussion of this episode of Episode 8. It starts out with Lyra way up north and Lauda, a real secret experimental clubhouse. I’d like to talk a little bit about these two big conversations between them. They take up much of the first half of the episode. The first one about lyra’s disappointment in Lord Isarel that he never told her he’s her father. And the second one about dust and original sin. Now, this is a very shortened version of a long, crucial conversation in the book between Lyra and Arsdale. And I’d like to highlight the difference between this shows Lord Azriel and Philip Pullman’s Lord Ezreal, the first conversation between Lyra and Azriel in the show. It’s really quite lovely. Even with the pot shot that Lyra takes and Mrs Colter, let’s listen to it.
S7: Tell me tell me why you lied to me about being my father. I would have been so proud.
S8: Why would you have been proud? Because you.
S7: No, TasRail. You’re my father. Your mother, she you know, your mother is a strong woman, is almost as bad as your truth and bass.
S9: Now, you can’t see James McAvoy there, but he is really acting up a storm. We see real regret and lord as eyes, we see grief that he couldn’t, in fact, be a father to Lyra. Contrast that to how that particular moment is played in the book. I’ll tell you, if you tell me something. Lara said, you’re my father, ain’t you? Yes. So what? So you should have told me before. That’s what you shouldn’t hide things like that from people because they feel stupid when they find out. And that’s cruel. What difference would it make if I knew I was your daughter? You could have said it years ago. You could have told me and asked me to keep a secret. And I would. No matter how young I was, I’d have done that if you asked me. I’d have been so proud. Nothing would have torn it out of me. If you asked me to keep it secret. But you never. You let other people know. But you never told me. Who did tell you? John Farr. Did he tell you about your mother? Yes. Then there’s not much left for me to tell. I don’t think I want to be interrogated and condemned by an insulin child. I want to hear what you’ve seen and done on the way here.
S5: All right, so a little bit colder of a treatment, Lyra, I heard YASRIL Laura, which Lord Isarel do you like better? What is the show doing in making lyra’s parents more visibly upset at the ways that they failed her?
S1: Well, I definitely prefer this Lord as regal. He’s less like Milton’s Satan. He’s less the sort of grandiose, narcissistic, self-styled freedom fighter, and he’s more human.
S10: Of course, we could be just seeing him through lyra’s eyes in the book, which, you know, there’s all sorts of things that Lyra misses and her interactions with adults that that we can see in the film version, although also offered.
S9: Philip Pullman tells us those things.
S11: It’s true. stepladders. He doesn’t he’s not he’s not into a lot of narrative tricks.
S10: The television series has a lot more time than the film, and I have to say even than the books to really show us the vulnerability of astral.
S1: It’s it’s not even clear in the book that he understands that what he’s doing to Roger is wrong, where the series makes it really clear that like Mrs. Coulter as real, believes that the means justify the end. So that’s the kind of person that both of them are. Might explain why they were drawn to each other and because, you know, we’re made to feel more the cost of that both to the people that it’s done to, but also to Azrael and Mrs. Culture themselves. I think it just reveals a lot more of what I think of as also Philip Pullman’s ambivalence about the intellectual principles that Astral represents.
S12: You know, he is the champion of free thought and of reason, of inquiry and of science, you know, and and because Philip Pullman is sort of a famous atheist or agnostic, whatever, you would think he would be on that side. He would be like this Richard Dawkins kind of person. But in fact, the person who probably the most represents the most sort of Galileo esque person in this narrative does something just horrific. And we see that like the Magisterium, he is willing to sacrifice the human for abstract principles. And I think Philip Pullman does not like that, no matter what those abstract principles are.
S6: I agree with you that this Lord Azrael is certainly more compelling a human character than the Lord has written the book, who sort of by design one dimensional, whether it’s seen him through lyra’s eyes or whether that’s Philip Pullman’s design. But it also makes me wonder, without spoiling what is to come or it’s not even spoiling. He says in this episode, I’m you know, I’m waging war on the authority. Part of the reason that it’s believable in the books that Lauda, Azra all would do this patently insane thing to wage war on God essentially is because he is because he shows no doubt he is resolute. He does not show seemingly any human weakness. And that makes him seem like a foe who could credibly challenge the authority and some future war. And I’m very curious whether this more human version of Azrael can pull off the kinds of stuff that he’s going to have to do in Season 2 and Season 3 and however long this goes or whether that’s gonna end up not playing as a result of all the work that James McAvoy and the writers are putting into three dimensional ising his character and how well we do see the scene where Roger is begging him not to do this terrible thing.
S13: I mean, I don’t see how you could get any worse than a child begging you not to harm him and yet going ahead with it while you’re looking at that child in the face. I mean, I think he’s morally aware, but he’s still enough of a fanatic that I mean, he hasn’t demonized everybody who he wants to use to these ends, you know, but he’s still enough of a of a fanatic that he he is he can’t be stopped by even the most sort of basic appeal to someone’s better instincts.
S5: Right. His responses. This is a war and there are casualties in war. Sorry, kid.
S12: Yeah. And usually the people who say that are not looking right at the casualty as that casualty is casualised. So, you know, I think that he’s proven he’s completely ruthless. He’s just not oblivious to to the fact that he’s doing something wrong. So then we come to the second big conversation between Lyra and Azrael when Azriel speaks to her about original sin.
S14: When did Eve’s demon settle on even the Apple Act? I can told her to tell them. The serpent said you shall not surely die. The authority does know that on that day that you eat there, all of your eyes shall be open. Your demons shall assume their true form and you shall be as gods knowing good and thus.
S1: Lyra remembers the word as evil, but Azriel says dust. This line is basically Genesis 3 5. The temptation of Eve and it’s only possible to be evil in the way that this story is constructed. If you deliberately choose to be evil, so you must know the difference between good and evil and free and b and you must be free to make that choice. That’s the whole point of freewill, is it? You can’t really also be good unless you have the freedom to not be good. So this is also like the legal standard for sanity. You’re only only people who know the difference between right and wrong can be guilty. And this is the freedom that the general oblation board and the magisterium at large. Who knows if the whole magisterium, but the leadership of the Magisterium is attempting to eliminate. It’s that moment when the eyes are opened and you know the difference between good and evil, and that makes you like a god. So the question, though, is, is does the equivalent of evil? In other words, the opposite of good? Or is it rather what opens Adam in Eve’s eyes? In other words, freewill or consciousness? Now, Philip Pullman would be very, very familiar with these lines. He might have even memorized them at some point. And the other stories in the language of the King James Bible, because his grandfather was a clergyman and he was a great storyteller, Pullman often says that he thinks that that’s where he got his own storytelling impulse from, like his grandfather would just walk around and point things in the landscape and tell him and his brother all these these stories about them. And he doesn’t even though he’s not a believer himself, he doesn’t see any reason not to incorporate these stories. Are these ideas in his fiction? There’s this moment where Lyra ask as real of the Adam and Eve story is just a fairy tale, because one of the scholars, Jordan, once told her that. And he says to her. Think of Adam and Eve like an imaginary number, like the square root of minus one. You can never see any concrete proof that it exists, but if you include it in your equations, you can calculate all manner of things that couldn’t be imagined without it, which is really funny. It’s not often that stories get compared to imaginary numbers. But what he is saying that stories like the stories in the Bible are a metaphorical way of thinking that can help you get at a truth even when they’re not true themselves.
S15: Your mention of this idea that it’s only possible to be evil if you choose to be evil. That that evil and goodness only come from the ability to recognize and choose between them is particularly striking in light of that moment. We just discussed in light of Florida, Israel having a child beg for his life in a cage and then deliberately make the choice to kill that kid. Like that’s pretty potent when you view it, that when you view it in the light of the thematic associations that are running through this episode. And that’s a pretty good example of a way in which this version of Florida has real contributes more richly to what these books are trying to illuminate than the sort of one sided, cartoonish villain who never thinks twice about the things he has to do.
S12: Yeah, I mean, it’s the thought as real. The book is like your classic narcissist. You know, like everybody else is a supporting character in the heroic narrative of his life. And so, you know, of course, they can just be used up, you know, like a resource or urge to just abandon everything in their lives and come with him, you know, because what he’s doing is the only thing that really matters.
S13: You know, he’s very he’s he is definitely a textbook case.
S5: Meanwhile, Lord Burrill finally gets as a Lethe obiter reading from FRAP Hovel in the Magisterium for up tells him a status source. Grobman has discovered a knife in a tower surrounded by angels, and his son will lead you to it. He does not say if it’s a subtle knife or one can only assume. And where is that son? Will that Sunstein’s DataSource Grumman’s son has been hiding in cafés around Oxford. Our Oxford. And in order to avoid the people he thinks are looking for him. And it becomes clear to him that the cops are looking for him. And so to avoid them, he jumps into a garden. And in fact, it’s Lord Boral’s guarding the place we’ve seen Lord Burrill come out of. When he travels between worlds. Meanwhile, Mrs. Coulter is discipline on her way to learn as rules clubhouse, and we see very early in the episode the shot of her and her monkey, both just like vibrating with rage and anxiety. It is really something. And it makes me want to move to the mailbag for this episode, because we got a letter about this exact thing, SLUTZ, it’s almost her mail. If you’ve got questions about his dark materials or responses to the show. E-mail us at aspy Authority at Slate.com and we will answer them through email or on the show one year from now or find us on Twitter whereat at Dan Coats and at Magician’s Book. Here’s an e-mail from listener Jessica. She writes, Have you noticed how amazing Ruth Wilson’s physicality is in the scene when she jumps down from the vents and in the scene where she’s beating up Benjamin? She has distinctly ape or monkey like movements. I love that choice, that sense demons settle into a final form that is informed by the personality of their humans. Their humans are likewise influenced by the form of their demons. Jessica, I follow this e-mail. Fascinating. I didn’t see it like I I don’t. Or rather, I saw what I believed to be remarkable physicality on the part of the Ruth Wilson. But I didn’t identify it as monkish. But I do think in general that this scene in the Zeppelin where these two are essentially mirroring each other, is a great example of the series, doing a great job of showing us how humans and demons interact and how that bond is shared.
S12: Yeah, it’s I know exactly what Jessica’s talking about. There’s this scene where she has Benjamin down on the floor and she’s sitting on him and she’s sort of pounding him with her hands and her arms are moving in this kind of sinuous way. That scene at the time, I just thought that is a really strange way to be beating someone up. Yeah, it will. And especially since it’s it’s he’s she’s not a big woman. I mean, when you see the scene, she’s very confident in her domination of him. But, you know, if you think about it, they should be at least equally matched set. But there’s just this kind of complete abandon to the way that she’s sort of pounding him. That sort of establishes the fact that she has, you know, that he’s at the disadvantage. And it is sort of monkish, although I’m not actually I’ve never seen monkeys really fight. So I don’t know if they slap each other in that way all at all.
S5: I think we will be further praising Ruth Wilson later in this episode, but she remains great. And this week, though, we’re recording as the week of this truly terrible story came out about Ruth Wilson’s unbelievably awful experience being just sexually harassed forever on her previous show, The Affair. So I will just hope that she has had a much better time filming this than she did having filming that.
S1: Yes. She is a great artist and she deserves better. All right, Laura, take our next letter. All right. So Maya writes, Dear experimental theologians Dan and Laura, I’m absolutely loving this podcast, though. Curiously, I’m not, in fact, watching the TV show. This is this is fascinating. Part of me feels I already have the perfect version of his dark materials in the form of the novels. And I don’t need the story told in any other way. Could you ask your Lethe ometer if I’m making a mistake? And did you have any similar concerns before the TV show or did you always know you’d get engrossed in the series? Thank you for writing.
S6: This is really an interesting question. And this letter, which you actually sent a couple of weeks ago, inspired our deep dive for this week’s episode because of course, I did have some concerns and the concerns I had had mostly to do with the 2007 movie of the Golden Compass and how badly that movie botched things. So today we’re gonna explore that movie and what went wrong the last time someone tried to put his dark materials onscreen. All right. The year 2002, I hope you remember it. A new line has just blown away the movie world with you ferry first Lord of the Rings movie, an enormous faithful adaptation of a beloved fantasy trilogy with incredible special effects. So fresh off that success, they buy the rights to his dark materials and start developing it as three movies, just like Lord of the Rings. When someone asks Toby Emmerich, the head of production at the time at New Eye, why he bought these books, he replies to words Yorick Beerntsen. So the first screenplay for The Golden Compass comes from Tom Stoppard. I read the screenplay many, many years ago. I wrote about it in Vulture where where I worked at the time that the movie came out. My notion for years had always been that this screenplay, this Tom Stoppard screenplay, it was like a lost masterpiece. And if they had only shot that screenplay, the project would have been saved and the movie would have been an enormous success. But when I read the screenplay, I discovered I was probably wrong. The screenplay was enormous. It was about one hundred seventy eight pages. That’s probably three and a half hours. View film it straight. It included almost every single plot point from the books and then also added scenes of bearded scholars just talking about experimental theology. You can imagine and and like like this TV series almost 20 years later, it introduced Will early and hinted at his importance to the greater story. It was OK. It was not particularly stop ready. It was Stoppard’s best grasp at doing the most Philip Pullman screenplay he possibly could. In 2004, newlines scraps that stoppered screenplay. They hire Chris Whites to write and direct. So whites at this point was best known for American Pie and for his Oscar nominated screenplay for About a Boy, an extremely good movie with a great screenplay. Whites convinced his new line to hire him with his passionate, now legendary 40 page memo. Relgious lays out everything he understands about the stories and and the classical literature behind them. He went to Oxford or Cambridge, a camera broach, one where he read English literature there at university, even though he’s American and he had all this background knowledge that really impressed them. So then Chris White’s writes the screenplay stole about three hours long. It’s a hundred fifty six pages. This screenplay includes much of the book. But one thing it does right away is that it softens the impact of the Magisterium, the church as the villain Hodda Rosen, Slate’s beloved Hotta Rosen reported at the time. In a feature in the Atlantic about this project, White says early drafts included a scene with this alternate diverse form from Genesis, the one that the Lord Azrael reads. In this episode today. But he told Hoda that movie, a movie that included that alternate verse, was not going to get made. And so that over the next couple of years, the screenplay gets trimmed and trimmed and trimmed and the spiky religious stuff gets sanded down and sanded down in exactly the way you’d expected to when a big Hollywood studio starts thinking about the amount of money they have invested in this project. So let’s start out our discussion of this movie by talking about what the Magisterium is in the movie. Laura, how is the Magisterium portrayed? And what was the response to the movie’s religious themes or the lack thereof?
S1: Well, one thing that’s important to keep in mind, if if you’ve read the books but haven’t seen the movie, is that the Magisterium is sometimes referred to as the church and the books are often referred to as the church. And that word is never used in the screenplay, which was something a lot of people commented commented on at the time. Toby Emmerich once described the Magisterium in talking about this movie as vaguely kind of like a fascist totalitarian dictatorship, Russian KGB SS combination. And he said dust was basically the force. So far, so forthright. So the Magisterium, the film has like some religious trappings, like how said the character from Pavel is dressed in a way that makes him look like he might work at the Vatican. But that’s about it. It’s got this logo that is like weirdly like it’s sort of Harry Potter ish and also a little bit like the Warner Brothers Studios logo. But that said, you know, there there is not a lot of time in this movie for anybody to talk about, you know, what the Magisterium is or anything, you know? I mean, every second of this movie is like focused on moving the plot forward.
S10: And so you could almost not notice that whatever the Magisterium was just as vaguely authoritarian force toning down the ideas of the book series for the film was nevertheless just a completely no win position for new line since everybody.
S1: Yeah, the books were already very popular in the U.K. and pretty. Popular here. And so Pullman’s anti theocratic message was well known, and there are there are these and there are a handful of believers writing in British papers, most notably Peter Hitchens, who is a Catholic who complained about and still complain about Pohlman.
S10: So in the U.S., the Catholic League denounced the film all the same. I mean, the whole story, the books in the film are taken sort of more personally by Catholics, it seems, because the word magisterium is used in the Catholic Church for the authority of the church. And it’s it’s more centralized in the way that the Vatican is than most Protestant denominations. But anyway, the Catholic League, which is debatably just like one cookie dough guy named Bill Donohue. But nevertheless, manwich always to make a certain number of headlines. They denounced the film and so did the Vatican newspaper. That’s in spite of the changes made by the film, because their argument was that even without overt anti-religious messaging in the film, the film might encourage children to go read the books. And it’s pretty obvious what Philip Pullman thought of religion when you read the book. So they saw the film as just a big advertisment for the books, which they definitely didn’t want people to read, especially young people. And meanwhile, everyone who loved the books for the sort of intellectual substance and that sort of big ideas was just enraged at the idea that the film version would dumb it down. So they really literally could not win with the strategy.
S5: It really seems like the cast and crew of the movie and Chris wights took that that Vatican and Catholic League denouncing pretty personally had Sam Elliott, who’s in the movie, plays a really great Lee Scoresby. He has maintained in interviews since then that the movie failed because of those protests, because of the controversy that it raised. But I don’t really think that that’s true. I think in the end, the movie failed because it’s only two hours long. And so to the uninitiated, non-reader, it just made no freaking sense at all. So remember the beginning of the movie, The Fellowship of the Ring, that scene where like Cate Blanchett is intoning the whole story up to now get all the actors you’re gonna see in the movie sort of woosh around the screen. So new line, having just made that movie and had a huge success with that, basically tried to do the same thing in the Golden Compass. They have Evergreen, who plays Sarafina Pakkala in the movie. She opens the movie intoning all this crap about dust and the ruling power.
S16: Here’s what it sounds like so many while connecting them all is dust.
S17: Dust was here before the witches of the Egyptians for water and the bones of the ice. In my world, scholars invented an early field, Mitta.
S18: Golden Compass. And it showed them all that was hidden.
S17: But the ruling power fearing any truth that Iran destroyed these devices and made the very mention of dust.
S19: And even so, even despite this prelude, the movie moves at such an insane clip, just trying to pack every single thing it can into two hours that it basically makes no sense at all. It’s like Mrs. Colter walks into Jordan College and three minutes later, she and Lyra are off to London. And Lyra gets in a fight with Mrs. Coulter in London.
S15: At three minutes later, she’s on a boat with Egyptian’s Laura in compressing this movie into this two hour package. Do you think there is any way that this thing could possibly have worked for? Was it? Was that always gonna be a fatal flaw?
S13: I mean, conceivably you could do it if you just didn’t try to explain anything. You just put the world out there and let the audience. I mean, I don’t think it would be any less confusing for the audience to have anything, everything explained. But no. You know, I mean, the problem is there’s there’s this immense amount of world building. And what’s tricky about the world building is that the world is sort of similar to our world. And yet there are these important differences. And so you don’t have the the sort of effect of, well, here’s a completely alien place that you can just assume everything is strange.
S1: And yet at the same time, it’s not totally familiar either. So it is just it’s in a bad place for a really compressed narrative. And the only way to do it is just to go full already on the on the viewer and just go. We’re just going to tell this story is if you already know all of this stuff and try to keep up.
S19: All right. Which, of course, they don’t do. There’s all these lines like it’s an Lethe ometer, a golden compass. And over and over again, you can feel them straining to like reach out to people and then making choices to completely just eliminate any discussion of any other or some other part of the world, because it would just take too long and be too confusing, which maybe if they make that choice about everything, it works, or at least it works for very poor viewers who are like ready to dive into that world. In researching for this podcast, I looked back at the original Slate review of the movie, which Dana Stevens, still our film critic, wrote this amazing line because she had not read the books prior to going into this movie that she wrote without at least a working knowledge of the dark material Cosmos. This movie is a near impenetrable murk, a blur of CGI obesity’s shimmering dust clouds and vaguely mystical blather. And oh, it does have a lot of vaguely mystical blather, as our listeners heard just in that 40 second clip from the opening.
S13: Well, I would. One thing I would like to point out with this problem is that every time the fan of an adapted property says, oh, it’s missing this right one, see this? Or there is the sense that that because you love it, you need to see every single piece of it.
S10: And this is what happens when you approach a really complex story in a complex, imagined world in this way where you just you have to get everything in. It becomes just this pell mell hodgepodge of of of stuff that it’s almost impossible to follow.
S5: And it doesn’t even get everything in. It leaves so many good things out. Yeah, well, let’s talk about some stuff that really does work in the movie to start with, both on an effect’s level and on an emotional level. This movie, it turns out, really nails the idea of demons.
S20: Absolutely. Lyra and Pan are always cuddling depending on each other, whispering to each other.
S21: Really see how fun it is to have a demon when you’re a kid and how demons are everywhere. Part of everyday life.
S20: It’s not like the TV series where crowd scenes leave a bunch of the demons out. A squadron of tartaro shows up.
S5: They’ve all got terrifying dog demons, which in turn makes those fight scenes really great because the demons are out there fighting alongside everyone else.
S21: Yeah, and they evaporate beautifully when they’re humans get shot. It’s a really cool effect.
S1: It’s also, for all its flaws, got better and less clumsily expository dialogue than the series. Now, I’m not saying it has no clumsily expository dialogue, as Dan pointed out, but it’s a little less kind of on the nose.
S5: It’s a it reaches for poetry a little more often in ways that I guess.
S10: And there’s some sense of that you might be able to accomplish getting across what? The viewer needs to know without completely spilling everything out. I mean, there’s a scene in the series where Lyra and Yorick are about to go up to the the mountain top or Lord Azriel is doing his fiendish experiment.
S11: And and Eureka’s bears come and she says, you’re calling the bears. And he says, I think I have a feeling we might need the split. Why is that? I like even there.
S13: Speaking of the bears. One thing I really like about the movie is the bears wear their armor when they’re fighting like an armored bear.
S1: Sure. It has a pretty great fight scene. And I also think that the battle scene at bov anger is an excellent battle scene. They’ve sort of rearranged the plot so that Erik reclaiming the throne comes before the liberation of both anger. So we get the battle as like the big cathartic climax of the story. Whereas in the book, it’s just part of like this kind of unspooling epic tapestry. And also one thing I really like about that scene with Yorick and he’s he’s he’s they’ve given yo for a different name. He’s called like Ragnar or something like that.
S19: Ragnar started. They thought to be too confusing if there is a your.
S13: Yeah. Their names are very, very similar and that actually is completely reasonable change. But it reproduces the scene that Dan read last time where yawk just whacks off the entire lower jaw of his opponent. And there’s this cut to Lyra where she just has this look of like satisfaction on her face. And she you know, she unlike the lyra in our series, she’s not like kind of crouching and covering her eyes. Instead, she’s she’s looking on with like, you know, approval of blood, almost bloodless, like there’s my king. Which leads me to Dakota Blue Richards, who I had not really remembered being that memorable. But I do realize rewatching it, that her lyra has more of that kind of savagery that Pohlman talked about. She’s a she, despite being this kind of Pre-Raphaelite, pretty almost dull, like in appearance, she’s very fierce and kind of a little urgency, you know, like she she emphasizes lyra’s gutter slang that she uses. Oh, yeah, very much. And she when she gets angry, she’s you know, you think you do not want to make this girl mad, like you’re just glad that she’s a child and she can’t really act on that.
S19: I, too, found her more satisfying this time around than I think I did the first time when I was comparing her only to an imagined liar in my head. And it’s worth noting I do. And I have ended up liking Lyra in the TV series as well. Who who delivers a very different kind of performance than this one. But yeah, Dakota Blue Richards is good and she’s one of a bunch of really good actors in this movie. I mean, at the time that this movie came out, it seemed like a real triumph of casting, right. That you had Daniel Craig playing as real and you had Nicole Kidman playing Mrs Colter. And then every other every role in the movie is filled with just like an extremely accomplished actor, just like acting their fucking head off.
S11: I just I’m going to have to jump in and say that I think Nicole Kidman is terrible in this matter, but it seemed good before we saw it. Yes. Yes. She’s I mean, she’s the right type. Right. But, you know, she’s it seems that her face has been sort of botoxed into immobility and she’s got makeup traveled all over it. I mean, she seems not quite human in this role.
S10: And part of it is her some of her outfits are really over the top.
S19: But yeah, now her outfits are what worked for me made me think that this movie could have in another world with maybe like like 10 more ounces of cheese become a kind of camp classic. And it’s a shame that maybe they didn’t lean into that more if it wasn’t gonna work anyway. One small role that I really liked a lot was Tom Courtenay as farter chorea. He is great. He is just lovely and sweet. Also a very different farter Corum than the one in this TV series, but extremely convincing as a guy who 40 years ago was unbelievably handsome in a which fell for him because he’s still Tom Courtenay. So he still looks pretty great. And then, of course, there is the movie’s biggest choice. And this is the one that drove fans sort of most insane fans of the book, most insane. The Happy Ending. The movie ends with the kids freed from Bowl Vanger and York made a king of Lyra headed off with Lee to see your father. And then just. Credits. There’s none of that stuff that’s in this week’s episode in the movie. There’s no betrayal, there’s no sacrifice. There’s in fact no opening of the door to other worlds. There’s no payoff to this idea of other worlds. Why did they do this and why? I mean, what could they possibly have been thinking?
S1: Well, I mean, Ponemon himself said, and I quote, They needed an ending that would work for a single film, but one that would also work if it was the first of a trilogy. They wanted both the cliffhanger and a resolution, and you just can’t do that.
S10: And also, I have to say, the resolution is just so much less exhilarating than that clip. I mean, that is one hell of a cliffhanger where you have your character walking off into another universe to face God knows what.
S15: Right. And I mean that the decision speaks to the sort of cautious way the new line ended up approaching this material after being totally gung ho for it when they bought it in 2002. Right.
S19: They at some point in this process, their opinion of these books clearly changed from they are the perfect thing to treat exactly as we treated the Lord of the Rings, which is to say a series we had absolute faith in, produced at extravagant cost and length and a shot all at once, made a three movie commitment and declared from the beginning, we’re doing this whole thing no matter what. At some point in this process, his dark materials transformed from that kind of property into a property where they felt like were a little bit nervous about how this will play. We don’t really understand how to handle the villain in this without angering people, without angering churchgoers. We think we need to love this movie and we’re not going to commit to three movies. We’re gonna make this first one and then we’ll see we’ll see what happens. And Chris Whyte’s spoke a lot. I mean, at the time that the movie came out about making tons of concessions to New Line in order to try and get the next two movies made. Philip Pullman talked about that in that interview with How to Rosen in the Atlantic. He starts talking shit about. About like what the movie could have been if they just embraced the Magisterium as the villain. And also, he just stops himself and he goes, all right, I’m saying too much.
S15: I don’t want to say anything else because I want these next two movies to get made. So let’s just leave it at that.
S13: Yeah, it’s worth it’s worth remembering that at the time there was an evangelical in the White House and there was a kind of let’s all pull together after 9/11 and for this war. And there was a sense of the sort of cultural power of evangelicals that they still are powerful in many ways, but that there was a way that the mainstream like you had to attend to them in some way. That is not really so much the case now.
S19: So they made all these concessions, they made all these cuts. They dumbed down. And in the end, it didn’t work. The movie completely bombed in the U.S. They spent a hundred eighty million bucks on it. It made 70 million in the United States. It actually turned out to great overseas. This is a story that didn’t get told much at the time because it’s been so large in the American consciousness as a flop. It it hugely outperformed expectations overseas, but knew I didn’t see any of that money because it had given away all overseas rights in order to raise that hundred and eighty million dollar budget. So the movie comes out at bombs. New Line loses an enormous amount of money in it almost immediately after the movie Bombs. We hit the Great Recession and in early 2008, new line is shut down, shut down as an independent studio merged with its corporate or owner, Warner Brothers. This is a move blamed in large part in coverage at the time on the failure of the Golden Compass. And you know, at that point, everyone knew we were never going to see a movie of the subtle knife. We were never going to see a movie, ever. The Amber Spyglass at a high.
S15: Remember at the time, even though I didn’t like this movie being crushed, crushed by that news, which sort of brings us around to this original mailbag question that we fielded from Maya. The question is why when we really, really love a book, are we so eager to see it on a screen for our week? Why are we so eager for someone to make it into a movie or a TV show or something? You know, I thought the Golden Compass movie was bad, but I still more and those movies that I didn’t get to see. And then 12 years later, I was excited, hugely excited about this series. Despite my previous experience being disappointed by an adaptation of these books, why is that? What drives that impulse? I don’t know.
S13: I don’t think I have that to the extent that a lot of other people do. I’m not the kind of person who if I have a favorite book, I want to sit around can. Putting it in my head with the movie stars of the time. But I do think that the thing about these books is that the storytelling is so extraordinary. It seems like it would lend itself really well to the movies. And also that, you know, I can remember when my friend, who was movie critic came back from the first Lord of the Rings film, The Fellowship, The Rings. And both of us had been big readers of Tolkien as in our youth, and and that those books had a special place in our hearts. And when he came to me and said, it’s really good. I was like, wow, you’re kidding. Because it just didn’t seem possible. And so, you know, part of it, I think with this movie, I remember being very excited about it as well. But part of it was just the hope that it can, you know, bring that world that you’ve been sort of immersed in imaginatively to life in a new fuller way than you get from reading it, even though reading it is obviously completely sufficient.
S10: I don’t think it’s true with all of my favorite books that I want. I Never Let Me Go by. Kazuo Ishiguro is one of my favorite books, but I have never seen the film film about adaptation and never will.
S19: It does seem like there’s something about these particular kind of narrative that it’s not only that you love it, but that you want to live in it, right? Like exactly. Like Harry Potter has darkened shadows where you’re like art, step into that world. Just once I would give anything to have that experience. And I wonder if the hunger to see it on a screen is in part.
S15: Trying to fulfill that hopeless wish, right? You can’t really go to Hogwarts. But if it’s if someone managed to bring it to life vividly on a screen, you could be immersed in it for a couple of hours. And that would be just a little bit of that magic. You really want. And I guess in light of that in light of that wish and in light of both of our enthusiasm for the series before HBO started airing it now eight weeks ago. What do you think overall? Has it been satisfying watching this season, despite the things that we both acknowledge are frustrating or bad about the show?
S10: I you know, one of the things that I I got from this was a was a better understanding of the characters, a better appreciation of the characters. I think the strength of this series is that you can feel that the focus of the creators is on the characters and their relationships to each other and what they are feeling in a way that. Could easily have been dissipated by just getting into the whole world building situation. And so we have not just great performances by people like Ruth Wilson and James McAvoy and Daphne Keane, but we have directors who who recognize that that giving time to that performance over the plot are not over the plot. But in addition to the plot is really important. So that in this final episode, which I have to say, I thought that the whole last sequence was beautifully shot. The airships coming up over the mountains with the lights were spectacular.
S22: The scene where the bridge between the two universes was beautiful and at the same time terrifying. You know, the moment where it comes down is just enough, but not too much. And then when Lyra is holding Roger in silhouette against this glowing bridge was just a beautiful piece of visual storytelling. Like this beautiful thing has been made at the price of this terrible loss. But one scene that we didn’t mention, we talked about this conversations between Azaria, Allen and Lyra. But I I loved the scene where Roger and Lyra are in the little tent and they’re just being kids and they’re little in their little tent. And they have that moment where he says, I’m glad you changed my life. And I have to admit that while I pitied Roger in the books and I knew that, you know, he’d been treated badly, I did not feel it the way I did in the series because of the time given and the performances given to make that character seem real. And the sense that Lyra has been chasing her father and chased by her mother. There are these blood family relations. But Roger is really the closest thing she has to a family and she really loves him. And that was just really well fleshed out in that little scene. And those are the moments that I really like about this series.
S15: Yeah, I agree. And I don’t think it’s wrong to say that that directors that many of the directors on the show, as well as Jack Thorne, have made the decision to focus on those moments, sometimes at the expense of the plot, or at least sometimes at the expense of some kinds of worldbuilding that they could have been doing otherwise. And so my great disappointments with the show to some extent revolve around the things I sort of most childishly but passionately want out of the show, which is to live in that world. Things that I appreciated the most about it the most are the things that are about actual narrative storytelling getting from point A to point B, developing and growing characters, filming really good scenes between characters and letting those characters, those actors bounce off each other in interesting ways like that stuff is much better than I probably really expected it to be and better in a way than a series like this often gets. And so I guess maybe my answer to Maya’s question is. If you feel you’ve already experienced a perfect version of his dark materials and you don’t feel any hunger at all to see it, well, then don’t don’t watch it. Save yourself the time. If when you think of the idea of experiencing his dark materials again, what you want out of it the most is to is to dive in deep with those characters, to learn, as Laura says, more about them, to get a better sense of them as human beings. Then yes, also watch then watch the show like that. It delivers that if what you want is to feel like to know what it’s like to have a demon, to feel what it’s like to have a demon, as Laura and I get to every day, then don’t then probably die because it’s not going to deliver that to you.
S6: All right, let’s talk about the scene between the shows to showcase actors James McAvoy and Ruth Wilson standing before the door to another world. Mrs. Coulter and Laura Azrael kiss as their demons passionately embrace. This made me a little uncomfortable.
S5: You don’t usually see demons making out on the TV as real urges Mrs. Coulter to come with him to join his war against the authority. Mrs. Coulter demurs because she says, our child is in this world, our places with her.
S15: Really that. Did you buy that for Mrs. Coulter?
S1: Well, what I really like about this characterization is, is the incredible conflicts that are going on within this character, which we, you know, only occasionally see because so much of her personality is about maintaining this completely unflappable facade to maintain her position.
S15: So often that’s required.
S1: Yes. Yeah. Yes. And there is this way, you know, in the book, her decision not to go with him is partly like a failure of nerve and partly not wanting to give up the power that she’s already acquired and magisterium.
S10: And she doesn’t see our places with her. She says my places with her. At least that’s how I remember it. And for me, what makes this character sort of fascinating is that she is actually secretly black-footed, you know, by her maternal feelings. I in my feeling, is that when she went to Oxford to get Lyra, she was sort of in control of her stuff all over her sorted stuff and her schemes, and that she was just poleaxed by how strong her feelings were for this child. And she’s changing her plans along the way because she didn’t anticipate that. And she’s constantly, you know, coping with that and not tipping, trying not to people off. And this is like a really very difficult position for her to be in, because her whole thing is projecting this this confidence that there’s this scene with Father McPhail where she says, you envy Azriel. And I you know, the confidence with which we move through the world. I mean, that is like a big source of her power.
S15: And this this thing with Lyra is nibbling away at that in a way that she’s dancing as fast as she can and she never expected is actually a position it brings to mind this conversation we had a couple episodes ago about whether this book series is truly for children or truly for adults. And one great thing that this TV series has done is it’s taken these children’s book characters. Mrs. Colter, Florida, Israel and turn them into living, breathing, adult characters through pretty good writing, through very good performances. That’s a choice that they made and it’s a choice, I think, that pays off in this scene between Israel and Mrs. Coulter. So as Azrael goes through the door.
S5: Mrs. Culture Leaves makes a perfunctory attempt to find Lyra.
S15: The season ends with Lyra and Pan walking through the door and will in our world stepping through another door to where now in the in the books, Will is walking near the Oxford Ring Road on Sunderland Avenue. Famously, when he suddenly sees right by a row of horn beam trees in the median, a window to a different world, and he enters the world.
S1: There he sees a cat go through a right, right, right. And then he follows. Yeah. And they use the cat in the series. But it’s more hidden in this weird space, which I don’t know if it actually belongs to Lord Burrill. It’s just this sort of walled garden space that he ends up in when he goes through that ruined green house. And yeah. That he seems to have found. Yeah. Yeah. He’s found it his. You know when you see well there you think oh that’s where boreal Parks’s go. At first I like and then I was like oh yeah.
S10: But he parks his car there because he comes out in the bushes, you know, like, you know, some kind of a cat burglar. And that’s just where the the greenhouse portal or window. I believe they’re called windows in the series where that leaves him is in this funny little space.
S6: Incidentally, that’s according to Lin-Manuel Miranda. That’s the exact block that his apartment was on when he was shooting his dark materials. And he had no idea that they were shooting these other scenes there. So then he freaked out when he saw it on screen. But so those aren’t being trees on Sunderland Avenue have a very specific meaning to Pullman. Right. And other real places in Oxford do as well.
S10: Yeah, that I mean, throughout the books, he incorporates real places in Oxford, a city that he deeply loves, those horn beams. Trees are on Sunderland Avenue. And in addition, he has Jericho where the Egyptians more their boats and the covered market.
S1: And then most famously of all, a bench in the Botanic Gardens, which comes into the story much later. There’s a bunch of benches there. There’s maybe three or four of them. And I went there with him and he didn’t tell me which ones which bench it was. He said he never tells anyone. He would rather they just pick the one that they most.
S10: You know, fit suits their imagination the best part. But, yeah, he you know, and fans of the books go to those places and take photos.
S5: And we don’t see those hard MBM trees in this TV show, which is fine. That are not necessarily crucial to the story about what is crucial in the books is that Will doesn’t isn’t going to lyra’s world necessarily. He’s going somewhere else. But given that he’s here in the in Lord Boral’s garden, or at least the garden that houses Lord Boral’s window, does this mean that will his coming to lyra’s world, just as Lyra is leaving for the potentially the world of the city in the sky?
S1: Well, let’s hope that he’s not coming out in the Arctic because he does not have the clothes that she is not dressed at all for that.
S5: I don’t know if his boxing training will keep him alive very long. We will find out where Will comes out, where Lyra comes out, and if they will meet and when they will meet in season two of his dark materials, which the BBC has already filmed and which will appear on your TV screens, I expect, next fall, although no official data announcement has been made.
S4: And we’ll be back then to to dive into the subtle knife, the fantastic second book and Philip Pullman’s trilogy. We cannot wait to talk to you that our producer is Phil Circus Engineering Assistance for Melissa Caplin and Asha Saluda, Slate’s editorial director for audio is Gabriel Roth. On Twitter, I’m at Dan Case and Laura is at Magician’s Book, where you can drop us a line and ask the authority at Slate.com. I’m Dan Kois. I’m Gilda. I’m Laura Miller. And I’m sarky. And remember, without stories, we wouldn’t be human beings at all. See you in season two.