His Dark Materials vs. The Golden Compass

The Golden Compass and His Dark Materials are both examples of modern time adaptions of the book Northern Lights, written by Philip Pulman. This is the first book in a series of three, and the main title of the trilogy is His Dark Materials. But, which one is the best and which one is worth watching? Or maybe you should watch both of them?

I didn’t know about the trilogy, nor the movie The Golden Compass until recently. I guess the movie from 2007 never caught my attention, and that is how I ended up first hearing about it in 2019. His Dark Materials is the name of the BBC and HBO series that was released in fall 2018, and it became a big success. Both the movie from 2007 and the series in 2019 were based on the first book in the His Dark Materials series, Northern Lights. So, which one to watch?

I watched the entire first season of His Dark Materials before I watch The Golden Compass, so that might be useful to bear in mind as you read through my thoughts on the matter. If you wonder how and where to watch the movie and the TV series online, check one of the articles beneath.

The differences between His Dark Materials and The Golden Compass?

The Golden Compass vs His Dark Materials

It is easy to understand that there have to be big differences between the movie and the TV series. Each of the eight episodes in the first season of His Dark Materials lasts for around 55 minutes, while the movie itself lasts for 1 hour and 50 minutes. So, there is why more time for the full story to be told in the TV series.

And believe me, after watching the TV series, one of the things that make watching the movie strange is the lack of time for details. You might get to see all the important events, but still, you miss out on so much, and to be honest – the movie feels like someone trying to make a way too long and complicated story fit into less than two hours.

Will Parry, one of the main characters in the trilogy isn’t featured at all in The Golden Compass, while he is getting more and more attention in His Dark Materials. But, it is interesting in the movie to notice that Daniel Craig has one of the main roles, but we only see him a few minutes at the start of the movie. How come? There simply isn’t enough time to let us get to know his character. So, the movie feels stressed up and there are too many characters, too many introductions, and way too little time to actually get to know them. And in the end, it feels as if they just had to end the story in the middle of nowhere.

It might be that they hoped for the movie to turn into a big success, which again would lead to a second movie in the series. But, that never happened, and based on the accomplishments of The Golden Compass, I would not be very interested in a successor either.

Once again, the movie is a big disappointment. That is not because of the lack of Daniel Craig (only), but simply because it tries to give pieces of information, without being able to give all the viewers need to actually enjoy the show. And that is why His Dark Materials is a way better solution.

But, if I had to pick, I would most likely go for Dakota Blue Richards in the role of Lyra (from the Golden Compass) instead of Dafne Keen who plays the role in His Dark Materials. But, when it comes to the character of Mrs. Coulter, I feel like Ruth Wilson suits way better for the role than Nicole Kidman. There is something about Ruth Wilson that makes her perfect for the role (as well).

His Dark Materials or The Golden Compass? Which to watch?

What is the conclusion? The Golden Compass vs His Dark Materials?

I would definitely go for His Dark Materials. It is way better, it is more modern in the style, and it tells the story in a better and more complete way. Not only is it hard to follow all the characters and storylines in The Golden Compass, but it is almost impossible to enjoy, simply because there is so much to tell in so little time. It isn’t a coincidence that The Lord of the Rings needed three movies (very long movies) to tell the story. The Golden Compass is a failed attempt to tell the story written originally by Philip Pulman in The Northern Lights.

His Dark Materials is a way better attempt, meaning that that is the direction you should go if you want to stream it online.

Congratulations to BBC and HBO for their job with the show. You can still stream the first season on the BBC website and on HBO Now.

Have you seen both the movie and the TV series? Do you have a favorite? Do you agree with me or do you disagree? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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