The BBC’s new adaptations of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy proves that fantasy novels deserve to be made into TV shows, rather than films.
The Northern Lights, the first book in critically acclaimed series, designed originally for children, was adapted as a film a few years ago and renamed The Golden Compass.
The film was a flop, for the simple reason that it tried to fit so this vast book, with all of its exposition and explanation, into one film. It was a long film, but not long enough to fit in all of the knowledge required to make viewers fully understand the concepts and worlds Pullman created.
The appeal of the show, rather than the film, is that it doesn’t ‘tell’ the story so much as it shows you. There are no huge info-dumps, nor any rambling conversations that are exclusively exposition designed to fill you in quickly before something else happens. Instead, the show draws you into the world of Lyra and Pan, showing you everything that happens whilst not overwhelming you.
The critical success of the TV series also shows that fantasy epics belong on television, not in films. HBOs beloved Game Of Thrones is another good example of a book set that would’ve made an awful film series, but as TV show it flourished (until the writers went and blew it on the final series).
Sometimes films can bring fantasy books to life, as is the case with Lord of the Rings, however it can be argued that the films are far too long, and would be better off serialised on TV. Indeed, Amazon has commissioned a series based on Tolkien’s epic novels, proving that the stories have yet more potential that, I don’t think, more films could fulfil.
Overall, it’s clear to see that fantasy belongs on TV. Adapting it for films means cramming it into too little time, or creating far too many, far too long movies that are hard to sit through. The best way to experience fantasy is always to read it, as that way you can let your imagination run away with you and really immerse yourself in the ideas and new worlds the author has created. However, if you’re going to watch fantasy, I urge you to watch a TV show version of your favourites, rather than slogging your way through a boring film