Shot by Shot with the ‘His Dark Materials’ Trailer

Fans of Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials book series have been waiting for a worthwhile adaptation of the series for decades.

Despite the fact that The Golden Compass won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects and features a phenomenal cast including Dakota Blue Richards, Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Ian McKellen, Sam Elliott, Derek Jacobi, and Christopher Lee, the 2007 film adaptation was just… awful.

Overly laden with exposition and somehow still not taking the time to flesh out the world enough, it’s a confusing mess with obnoxious voiceover narration and significant cuts from the plot of the novel it’s based on. Couple that with significant boycotting and bad press from religious groups, and it was a complete commercial and critical failure. The planned sequels were canned, and fans were left with the single, disappointing installment.

However, the fans’ patience has paid off. Eventually, the rights for the series reverted to Pullman, and the BBC optioned them for development into a series written by Jack Thorne (Skins and the screenplay of The Cursed Child) and directed by Tom Hooper (Elizabeth I, Les Miserables, The King’s Speech). So far, there has been one teaser and two trailers for the upcoming His Dark Materials series, which will air internationally on HBO.

While the earlier San Diego Comic-Con trailer focused on Lord Asriel (James MacAvoy), his conflict with the Magisterium, and introduced the characters, the latest trailer seems a little lighter. Instead of focusing on topics of war, evil, and betrayal, it broadens our perspective of Lyra’s (Dafne Keen) world and the peoples that live in it. Let’s dive in.


The trailer opens on a creepy nurse with a vacant stare at the bleak, institutional Station (known colloquially as Bolvangar, meaning “Fields of Evil”). This shot had been modified from the previous trailer which featured an eerie dimming of the lights.

There is a quick cut of an aeronautical fleet high up among the clouds, loaded with what looks like bombs. Presumably a force of the Magisterium, this could be the allied Tartars that Mrs. Coulter (Ruth Wilson) brings north to Svalbard.

Speaking of Mrs. Coulter, she descends steps at a building loaded with sinister-looking symbols. It is almost certainly a Magisterium building, or more specifically for the ominous General Oblation Board.

A child loaded into an intercision machine. Their dæmon is not visible in this shot but is presumably in the other side of the machine. The child does not look like any named character that has been cast.

This shot is a beautiful panoramic view of Lyra’s home, Jordan College. There are zeppelins visible in the sky, a common mode of transportation in this world that parallels our own.

James MacAvoy, looking extremely dapper as the explorer and former nobleman Lord Asriel, looks up to see…


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Samantha Olthof: @SamwiseWrites A politer reciter, a Canadian writer. Hiking with my puppy is my happy place.