The legions of passionate fans of Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy have long viewed New Line’s upcoming film adaptation with some trepidation. True, the casting seemed perfect, with Daniel Craig playing imperious Lord Asriel, and Nicole Kidman as the beautiful, villainous Mrs. Coulter. But was Chris Weitz really the right writer-director? Sure, About a Boy was great, but did that mean he was somehow qualified to tackle a sprawling, beloved fantasy epic?
The teaser trailer for the first film in the series, The Golden Compass, assuages these worries a bit. The scenery is gorgeous, and the effects looks wondrous — especially that final shot of the trilogy’s heroine, Lyra, galloping across the tundra on the back of an armored polar bear. We were given pause by near-total lack of daemons, the personality-revealing animal companions who stick near every human in Pullman’s fantastical world, but there is a quick daemon shot near the end, and it seems likely that the digitally created daemons were mostly left out of this short teaser trailer to avoid overloading the audience with confusing information.
But, wow, New Line sure makes no bones about the marketing plan.
The trailer opens with a golden ring spinning slowly while words flash on the screen: “In 2001, New Line Cinema opened the door to Middle-earth.” As the ring morphs into an alethiometer, the magical device of the film’s title, we read, “This December, they take you on another epic journey.” So it’s Lord of the Rings IV, is it? We guess as a marketing technique we’ve seen worse, although we actually tend to prefer His Dark Materials to J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy. But it would’ve been nice if the trailer gave Lyra even a hint of personality — after all, it’s her fiery temperament and stubbornly wild behavior that make her such an engaging heroine, and amid all the magic and wonder and golden-hued shots of the worrisomely adorable (and improbably named) young actress who plays the character, Dakota Blue Richards, we fear Lyra’s wonderful ill temper may have been lost in translation.