Airing in less than a month on November 4, Philip Pullman's fantastical world in His Dark Materials will come to life on HBO. With star power from James McAvoy, Andrew Scott, Dafne Keen and Lin-Manuel Miranda, the network is banking on pulling in a sizable audience for its foray into the beloved book series. But fans are wary, as the first big-screen adaptation of the series failed spectacularly.
Still, as the trailer shows, there's hope that even an audience unfamiliar with the books will find something to entice them. Here are 10 things we know from the His Dark Materials trailer.
10 The Golden Compass Plays a Part
The titular Golden Compass from the first book in the series (as it was released in the U.S.) plays a critical role. Known as an alethiometer, this device holds a mysterious and magical origin. As the trailer indicates, not everyone knows how to read its directions. When Lyra Belacqua (Dafne Keen) holds it, she doesn't seem to read it so much as she receives visions from it. Its mystical symbols and runes indicate the compass is not of this world.
9 Lyra Is The One
Every epic fantasy needs a hero who is The One. The one who can defeat evil. The one who can save the world. In His Dark Materials, Lyra is the one who can read the alethiometer. One character even states because of this she's more valuable than any soldier in the oncoming war. Throughout the trailer, Lyra is seen gathering forces to fight and being pursued by The Magisterium. Marisa Coulter (Ruth Wilson), an agent of The Magisterium, even tries to recruit Lyra and sway her to its side for her power.
8 There Is a Multiverse
Right at the open of the trailer, Lord Asriel (James McAvoy) is heard to say, "...a myriad of worlds, of which The Magisterium controls only one." He shows a photo he took at the Northern Lights in which a castle seems to appear out of thin air. Like a plot twist out of a Marvel or DC movie, the His Dark Materials trailer reveals multiple dimensions with the possibility of multiple realities. Moreover, Asriel establishes there is an all-powerful governing body in his world.
7 Witches Are Real and Know About the Worlds
It's the briefest clip in the trailer, but His Dark Materials reveals that witches are a part of what the audience perceives as the real world, where Lyra and Lord Asriel live. This revelation indicates that magic is accepted as reality, and is nothing new to the characters.
The moment the witch reveals that her clan has always known about the other worlds hints that her kind are the protectors of the multiverse. It's hard to tell though which side of the battle the witches stand on if any.
6 The Magisterium's Rule
Lord Asriel appears determined that The Magisterium does not expand its dominion over any other world. Simultaneously, The Magisterium wants to keep Lord Asriel under its control. The show's trailer indicates that The Magisterium isn't perceived as a benevolent governing body by the people in this world. Brief glimpses at settings that look like a church indicate The Magisterium is a religion-based government, making it a radical rule. With the discovery of new worlds, Asriel and his companions fear what The Magisterium can and will do with the added power.
5 Lord Asriel Challenges The Magisterium
Marisa was supposed to keep Lord Asriel under her control, but as she fails to do so, The Magisterium sends her to get rid of him. As the His Dark Materials trailer hints, Asriel's defiance is the first time The Magisterium has been challenged. The animosity between Lord Asriel and The Magisterium in the trailer indicates there is a personal score to settle. His challenge is beyond civilian rebellion, but something deeper. What's not clear yet to newcomers to the story, are Lord Asriel's intentions with Lyra and her powers.
4 Children Are Being Kidnapped
The His Dark Materials trailer shows Lyra running after one of the zeppelins as it carries away someone she loves. A group of parents are shown banded together as they have lost kids to whatever war The Magisterium is using them for. One scene in the trailer even shows a group of kids in an eerie prison cafeteria, wearing matching uniforms. Whatever the underlying reasons may be, the catalyst that sets the hero on her journey is the desire to bring back the children stolen from their parents, and save her friends.
3 There Are Animal Companions
Like any good fantasy series with magic and witches, the characters have a cast of animal companions to help them along the way. From monkeys to owls to polar bears, these familiars fight alongside their humans on both sides of the battle.
In a brutal moment in the trailer, one dæmon kills another as a show of strength and power. This indicates that these animals have a human-like intelligence that is just as deadly as any of the people who control them. The audience can be sure they will cry over their deaths at some point.
2 War Between the Worlds
Just as the witch is revealed in the trailer, along with her knowledge of the worlds, she says, "Asriel is bringing a great war." This indicates that the war raging in his and Lyra's world will spill into the others, now that Lord Asriel has discovered them. He hints that fighting this war will bring an end to oppression, abuse and darkness; in short, all things evil. Whether or not the other worlds will stand with Lord Asriel or The Magisterium remains to be seen.
1 Lyra Must Choose
Throughout the trailer for His Dark Materials, Lyra is seen listening to things whispered in her ear by both Lord Asriel and Marisa. It's a classic angel and devil on the shoulders scenario. But it indicates that her decisions are not so black and white, as she struggles to choose between sides. This tells the audience that she must be wary of Lord Asriel's intentions and decide for herself what is right. Not only that but as the trailer ends, it reveals that her choice will affect the fate of more than her world.