HBO’s His Dark Materials – A Few Thoughts

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My daughter is a voracious reader, and though she’s never read His Dark Materials, I thought she might enjoy the show primarily due to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s participation. (She’s a huge Hamilton fan.)

Of course, because it’s HBO, I decided to watch it with her both in order to spend time together but also to make sure it was appropriate.

Honestly, I’m not sure which of us enjoyed it more!

I’ve also never read His Dark Materials (despite also being a voracious reader), so I really didn’t know what to expect.

His Dark Materials’ actors are among the best of the best with names such as the aforementioned Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ruth Wilson, James McAvoy, and Dafne Keen (of Logan fame). There’s also many other actors that are exceptional but not necessarily household names.

The story itself takes place in a fully realized alternate reality. This world they create is much like ours, but just a little bit different. Those differences will become obvious almost immediately. However, this world looks very lived in. It references historical events in passing, has crumbling buildings, ancient books, and aged tombs. In other words, it feels real.

Speaking of real, the CGI in this show is excellent. I won’t spoil much for you, but there are a great deal of animals in this show, and the vast majority of them are CGI. However, there were many instances when I truly couldn’t tell if they were using a real animal. Even the really big animals, the ones that usually look CGI, were nearly seamlessly inserted into the scene. It was amazing to behold–some of the best I’ve seen mixed in with live-action.

Furthermore, every single episode is cinematic in scope. Each installment  looks like a movie. The acting, the locations, the set pieces, the scenery, the costumes, the special effects, and the CGI are of the highest quality.

Besides looking wonderful, though, the plot is what’s really got us engaged. Again, I won’t spoil it, but His Dark Materials seems to be about one thing, but then it adds a very complex addition to the plot, and then it does so yet again! I’ve heard the books making up His Dark Materials are quite controversial to some, and it appears that the show is not shying away from the more challenging material. I’m fascinated to experience these notions alongside my daughter–I’m sure it’s introducing ideas she hasn’t previously considered.

If you’re looking for a show to watch with your children, I recommend His Dark Materials. It is somewhat violent with some difficult moments that probably aren’t suitable for kids under 12, but the older kids will love it, and you will, too.

(One minor spoiler: Lin-Manuel Miranda does not sing, rap, or dance in His Dark Materials.)