Media Adaptations to Consider: “His Dark Materials”

As a lifelong fan of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials and The Book of Dust trilogies (only 2 books out so far in the latter series), I was excited to hear that the BBC was doing a television adaptation of the first book: The Northern Lights/The Golden Compass. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the 2007 movie. I was disappointed in the interference and the “controversies,” which led to the movie having significant scenes of the story cut from the movie. Fans of the series suffered from this poor adaptation of the book. Now, the wait has been worth it (so far) as we get the adaptation that matches both the mood and the tone of the series—His Dark Materials

            The opening scene is from the book—La Belle Sauvage—well, the end of it anyway, when baby Lyra Belaqua is brought to Jordan College by her uncle, Lord Asriel. 12 years later, Lyra runs the routes, the roofs, and the passages of the college with her daemon, Pantalaimon, and her friend, Roger. Meanwhile, Lord Asriel has made a breakthrough in his research up in the far North, and he has returned to Jordan College to give an update to the scholars, and to ask for more funding to continue his research. 

            Meanwhile, the Gyptians, a community of people who make their living on the sea, have been the victims of the Gobblers, a mysterious group who have been going around kidnapping children. You do NOT want to mess with the Gyptians because they work together to protect their own. After Lord Asriel leaves, Lyra gets another visitor, Mrs. Coulter—a “buffer” between the Magisterium and Jordan College. Her interest in Lyra is unknown, but when she tells Lyra that she wants to take Lyra to the North with her, Lyra agrees. However, it is when Roger disappears that Lyra sees the opportunity as a chance to save her friend. 

            “Lyra’s Jordan” is an amazing introduction to the miniseries. Readers will appreciate the inclusion of what was omitted from the movie—characterization, world-building, conflict, etc.—while viewers who are not as familiar with the series will be able to follow along with the story that is being told in this episode. Unlike the movie, the TV show sticks with the grittiness of the story and the ends some of the characters are willing to go to in order to justify the means. The cast of actors not only present the characters as they are in the books, but also they put enough of themselves within them that they stand apart from the actors who played them previously. 

            This episode presented us with the microcosm that Lyra is leaving behind. This is crucial because the audience realizes that Lyra has been sheltered from the governmental influence of the Magisterium and the dangers both orphan and outcast children experience. The events of “Lyra’s Jordan” starts the coming-of-age journey Lyra will have now until the end of the series. As Lyra learns more about her world, so will the audience. For now, this episode is the beginning of a transcending bildungsroman. 

My Rating: 9.5 out of 10. 

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The Bittersweet Conclusions that are Coming in April 2019

Note: There are some spoilers and theories surrounding Game of Thronesand the MCU. I don’t have any knowledge of what’s going to happen in either Game of Thronesor Endgame.

Just like everyone else, I’m excited for both Season 8 of Game of Thrones and Avengers: Endgame. Both the television show and the movie are continuations of popular media adaptations of speculative fiction. Each one will pick up after a “shocking” ending, and the fandom has no idea what to expect in these upcoming installments. George R.R. Martin has announced that there will be differences in his final two books from the TV show. Marvel and Disney have announced some of the upcoming movies for “Phase Four” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe—Spider-Man: Far From Home and maybe an appearance of the Defenders (?). So yes, no one knows what to expect in April 2019 except for action and heartache. 

            Before I go into the obvious differences here are the similarities. Both Game of Thronesand Endgamewill take place after the characters suffer a major lost and are working to fight and to survive in the final showdown. Both involve forces in which there is little to no knowledge about. And, both have confirmed deaths of many of its characters. How will The North win against The Night King? What methods will be used to defeat Thanos and return the other half of the universe’s population? Who is going to die, because not everyone makes it to the end? Fans of either or both are anticipating finales that will destroy them emotionally. The actors and the actresses did admit to crying at the end of shooting their parts. Will it be the same for us? 

            Game of ThronesSeason 8 promises us epic battle sequences, lots of CGI, and several deaths. George R.R. Martin has told his readers to expect a “bittersweet” ending in the books, which should be reflected in the show. And, because the show has diverted from the books so much, it will be difficult to determine which of the minor characters are going to die. In terms of the major characters, Jamie and Cersei are definitely going to die; at least one more Stark will die; and, Winterfell will provide a winning strategy for surviving—and hopefully winning—the war. As for the minor characters, anyone is fair game. Although we didn’t see any footage in the trailer, the Battle for King’s Landing is going to be as epic as the Battle for the Dawn. 

            Less than two weeks after the premiere of the final season of Game of ThronesAvengers: Endgamewill be released in theaters. This latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe takes place a few months after Thanos snapped his fingers. The surviving teammates are scattered and are brainstorming on how to defeat Thanos. There isn’t much to go on except that there will be a final showdown of some sort; Captain Marvel will make her appearance to both the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy; and, at least one of the remaining Avengers—Captain America—will die. Thus, paving the way for Civil War II—read the graphic novel. However, it has already been confirmed that the characters who died before the “Snap” will remain dead (?). This plot device is there to implicate lasting repercussions to Thanos’ actions.

            April 2019 will give us the conclusions to the media storylines we want so badly, or do we? All we know about the anticipated features is that there will be a bittersweet ending to both of them. And yes, there have been clues in the previous seasons and movies, it is not clear what will happen. Unfortunately, the books don’t give us any additional hints. With human history to accompany us, viewers and fans should have an idea of how gut-wrenching these viewing experiences will be.

            I know I’ll be watching both media adaptions of these franchises; and yes, I’ll continue to read and to watch anything else related to them. But, am I prepared for the emotional train wreck that is part of these endgames? If the actors and the actresses were emotional, then what does that mean for us? All the same, I need to quench my curiosity because the buildup has been too much. I Need to Know How It All Ends!

My Theory on George R.R. Martin’s Writing “Plan” for A Song of Ice and Fire

What do you believe is going on with George R.R. Martin’s writing process?

Like many other fans and readers of A Song of Ice and Fire series, we have been waiting for a very long time for Winds of Winter. A Dance with Dragons was published in 2011, a few weeks after the first season of Game of Thrones ended. Now, the eighth and final season is being filmed, and there is still no word on the progress of Winds of Winter. The last rumor that many fans believed was that several preview chapters were pulled from the Internet for editing. Now, with the television adaptation diverging beyond the books, the only thing many of us are hoping for is that the books will continue its own narrative, and not reiterate what was changed for television too much.

Now, while I’m sure Reddit and Tower of the Hand have several theories and ideas about when Winds of Winter is going to be announced/published, and whether or not there will be three more books instead of two, this is my theory based on what other authors have said and done in similar scenarios, and G.R.R.M.’s writing style. However, I’m not familiar with all of those theories. I hear some of them when I participate in live chats on YouTube. And, for the record, I have made a similar theory/prediction in the past. I was one of a few who brought up and defended the theory surrounding the potential release date for the novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, on 07/07/2007. As some of us may or may not remember, J.K. Rowling herself had to reject that theory.

While it has been over seven years since the fifth book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series was published, fans continue to enjoy the TV show, novellas, graphic novel adaptations, and fan chats surrounding the series. However, we remain curious as to when Winds of Winter will be released. I don’t believe there will be an additional book in the series. I believe we will get two very long novels to end it. I don’t believe George R.R. Martin will “pull a Robert Jordan (R.I.P.).” There is a children’s fantasy author and folklorist by the name of Alan Garner who released the final book in the Weirdstone trilogy, Boneland, 49 years after the release of the second novel! I doubt we’ll have to wait that long!

My theory might not be original, and many of you might want to disprove this idea immediately, but hear me out. I believe George R.R. Martin is writing both Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring, consecutively. In other words, G.R.R.M. is writing both books as one long narrative. Remember the “split” that was A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons? Maybe, G.R.R.M. is writing nonstop and without considering an “end” of one novel and a “start” of the other novel. This method of writing could prevent a longer wait period between the two novels. Also, George would not be the first author to write a long epic as “one piece.” For example, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings as a single text. The novel was split because of the paper shortage at the end of World War II.

Why would I come up with a theory such as this? It is because of what George said about the end of his series, the “final showdown” will start in Winds of Winter and carry over into A Dream of Spring. Too much will be occurring for it to be saved for the last book. Not that I’m trying to guess the potential ending in Winds of Winter, but I believe it’s safe to say that the climax happened in A Dance with Dragons, and the falling action will be taking place starting from Winds of Winter until the “resolution” at the end of A Dream of Spring. We, as readers, might get so caught up with the action within Winds of Winter that we won’t even realize that we’ve reached the end of the novel until the end of the novel. We can only wait.

So, what does my theory about G.R.R.M.’s writing process have to do with the last two books in the series? I believe that if George is writing both novels consecutively, then there is a chance that the wait period between Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring will be short(er). That being said, George also said that there would be three more novellas in the Dunk and Egg series. Many of us readers know that there are hints and ties between these two series. I’m not saying that we will get all of these stories within consecutive years, but I doubt that we will have to wait five years or more in between the two novels. Maybe we’ll get an announcement after the final season of Game of Thrones premieres or ends? We can only wait.

Beyond the Books and Expectations of What is Not in Them in Media Adaptations

           Since 2001, the public has seen several book to media adaptations. I am not calling it a trend because between all of the movies based on The New York Times bestsellers, comic books, and award winners, such adaptations have always been around. As with any movie (or television show), some of the media translations have been more successful and/or appropriate for the screen. Then, there are cases where an individual, or everyone else, is better off reading the book.

            Do not get me wrong, I enjoy watching these movies and television shows as much as anyone else does, but what should we expect from them? As always, many details from the books get omitted and/or changed as part of the transition. This has caused the separation and the formation of book fans and film fans. We have seen this with Harry Potter, A Song of Ice and Fire, and The Walking Dead. Small, but essential details have been left out from both the movie series and the television shows. Many readers had to clue in the viewers as to what was supposed to happen and/or what crucial facts should have been included. For example, how many non-readers know that one of the Hogwarts teachers was a ghost? Professor Binns was not in any of the movies. Then you have The Hobbit trilogy in which too much was added to the original story so that each film could be more than 2 hours long!

            In recent years, we have come to recognize that some adaptations make better T.V. shows than movies. We are realizing this with the D.C. Comics (i.e. Arrow, Smallville, Flash), and we have seen this with Game of Thrones. Based on the (low) fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, the show’s first two seasons are accurately based on the first two books of the series (A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings). Seasons 3 and 4 are based on the third book, A Storm of Swords. However, given the fact that the series is still incomplete, the writers of the show know how the series will end. It can be said that both readers and viewers will be shocked at what gets revealed as the series continues beyond the books. Is it safe to say that this will be the first time this happens regarding an adapted series?

            Everyone remembers when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s (Philosopher’s) Stone was released in 2001. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was published the year before. The fourth book in the series and the first movie were released a year apart and there were no concerns about the movies catching up to the books. And yet, in 2007 when both Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows were released within 10 days of each other, it was known that more fans wanted to read the ending than relive a previous book through a movie. Thus, the movie was released before the book. And, there was more media coverage on the book than the movie.

            Now, even with the success of both the T.V. series and the books, Game of Thrones might be the first media adaptation which catches up to and surpasses the original books! And, this will not be like The Walking Dead and/or any anime series where ‘fillers’ are included to slow down the pace of the story. No, George R.R. Martin told T.V. writers, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the ‘important’ details regarding how the series will end. And, HBO announced that there will be four more seasons of Game of Thrones, which will reflect the remaining books in the series. Martin, who is still writing Winds of Winter and his other novels beyond A Song of Ice and Fire series, will most likely not complete A Dream of Spring until (way) after the final season of the show.

            What does this mean for the devote readers of this series? Most of them have been reading the books since 1996 when A Game of Thrones was published. I have read on a few websites (YouTube included) that some readers will stop watching the show once it catches up to the books. Others say that they enjoy both the show and the story too much to want to fall behind. Then, some are caught in the middle because they are unsure when (or if) Martin will finish the last book and they might not be able to wait that long to see which fan theories are correct or incorrect.

            My suggestion after watching and reading Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Angels and Demons, and Jurassic Park, is the movies and the T.V. series are always different from the books. You will always hear readers say: “They changed this…,” or “They did not include this…,” etc. Are we really going to stop watching a good T.V. show because it will surpass the books in terms of ‘what happens next’? I was just as surprised as everyone else when the show included “The Night King” in Season 4 of Game of Thrones when we were not supposed to get the rest of those details until Winds of Winter! And yet, it felt like a teaser on what to expect from both later on. Readers who also watch the show will be able to enjoy the twists and the shocks along with those who only watch the show. Then, when Books 6 and 7 are released, we can read everything all at once: what we know and what we don’t know. For example, many of the dream sequences were omitted from the show because: one, it would have taken up too much time; and two, it would have ruined the foreshadowing ‘hidden’ within the content of the story. Characters have been left out and/or names have been changed in order to avoid too many characters and/or an overlap of names (and too avoid higher costs). However, finding out what happened to those characters (with their actual names) will be worth the wait.

            In conclusion, Game of Thrones should continue to be a popular show, but not because the show will surpass the plot of the books. Some will stop watching the show because they are fans of the books and want to keep reading them rather than watching what might occur within the story. However, I believe the shows’ ratings will still be high because all the fans will want to know what happens next, and everyone will be curious as to which episode Martin will be writing. By the time Winds of Winter is released, more fans will be reading in order to have all of their questions answered. I think we can all agree that the next book will be available before or after season 6. Hopefully, by then, we will learn what happened to Benjen Stark.