His Dark Materials is back on our screens for series two, finally bringing The Subtle Knife – the second book of Philip Pullman"s trilogy – to the screen.

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But in an alternate world, we"d have seen Lyra & Will"s adventures in Cittàgazze almost a decade ago in the second movie of a planned trilogy from New Line, following the release of The Golden Compass in 2007.

The Golden Compass might not have been a hit with the critics (42% on Rotten Tomatoes) or the fans of the series due to its changes from the first book, including cutting the dramatic climax involving Lyra, Roger & Lord Asriel.

The Golden Compass <2007>


New Line Cinema

You might think that just because the first movie was a bit rubbish, it didn"t make enough money and that"s why The Subtle Knife never happened, but that"s not quite the story here.

While The Golden Compass did underperform in the US with only $70.1 million, it performed strongly overseas with $302.1 million. The movie"s overall gross of $372.2 million made it the 13th biggest movie of 2007 & could well have led to a sequel, despite its costly budget of $180 million.

Back in January 2007, Hossein Amini had been hired to lớn write the script for The Subtle Knife và later that year, after The Golden Compass"s release, the sequel was still a possibility for New Line.

"The jury is still very much out on the movie, và while it"s performed very strong overseas we"ll look at it early next year & see where we"re going with ," New Line co-head Michael Lynne told The Wall Street Journal.

With an Oscar for Best Visual Effects under its belt, The Golden Compass still looked set khổng lồ warrant a sequel as producer Deborah Forte defended its performance in March 2008.

Warner Bros. Pictures

"If the movie really wasn"t up lớn snuff, it wouldn"t have done $300 million... This was a success as a family movie in most countries, it"s a very strong family franchise, it won an Academy Award. We have khổng lồ make the second and the third movie," Forte told Variety.

"I will make The Subtle KnifeThe Amber Spyglass. I believe there are enough people who see what a viable & successful franchise we have."

Despite Forte"s best attempts, those movies never transpired. In some ways, it"s a miracle that the first movie got made due to lớn behind-the-scenes challenges, including numerous changes of directors và controversy over its anti-religion message.

The Golden Compass toned down the religious aspects of the book, angering fans, but it wasn"t enough khổng lồ stop the movie being called "atheism for kids" by the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

Sam Elliott – who played Lee Scoresby in the movie – even went as far khổng lồ blame the Catholic Church for the lack of a sequel, alleging that the criticism "scared New Line off" from continuing the series.


That seems unlikely though given that plenty of long-running series have run into criticism on religious grounds, such as the Twilight and Harry Potter series, & that never stopped them from releasing multiple reasons.

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Instead, the reason behind The Subtle Knife"s cancellation could well have come down to bad timing, more than anything.

The planned sequels to lớn The Golden Compass were put on indefinite hold in October 2008, following the global financial crisis of 2007-08, AKA the "credit crunch", that affected Hollywood & its upcoming productions.

By that time, New Line had been merged with Warner Bros & having spent $180 million on The Golden Compass, but only grossing $72 million domestically, it"s likely that a sequel would have been seen as a financial risk.

It probably didn"t help The Subtle Knife that New Line were in early development on The Hobbit trilogy, likely seen as more of a guaranteed box-office winner – which proved to be the case, despite mixed reviews.


But maybe we"re overthinking it và it"s a simple case that His Dark Materials just doesn"t work as a movie as it"s too weighty lớn be condensed into three films.

"I think that what the film lacked that the television series has is time," said His Dark Materials showrunner Jane Tranter.

"I think that actually having that space khổng lồ adapt the books is part of the thing that made it less daunting, và gave us the courage to bởi vì it. You just had to follow the path. And the film could not vì that."

His Dark Materials continues next Sunday (November 15) at 8.10pm on đài truyền hình bbc One in the UK. Season 2 starts in the US this Monday (November 16), streaming on HBO Max.

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His Dark Materials is not a sequel khổng lồ The Golden Compass despite following the same characters, so how does the HBO show connect with the 2007 movie?


HBO’s His Dark Materials may feel familiar lớn those who have seen 2007’s The Golden Compass, even if it isn't a sequel. As His Dark Materials reaches its end with season 3, whether or not the HBO series did a good job adapting the original books can finally be settled. Though HBO’s His Dark Materials has had book changes since season 1, the show continues lớn try to lớn follow Lyra’s book story with an almost one-on-one adaptation. However, this may have confused those who thought The Golden Compass already told that story, & who thought His Dark Materials was a follow-up.

The Golden Compass movie, released in 2007, covers the story of Lyra & her daemon in this fantastical world where magical animal creatures could talk và bond with their respective humans. Lyra was played by Dakota blue Richards in The Golden Compass, with characters like Lorde Asriel, Mrs. Coulter, & her daemon also in the film. For that reason, many may confuse HBO’s His Dark Materials with The Golden Compass movie.

Related: Why Mrs. Coulter's Golden Monkey Daemon Doesn't Talk In His Dark Materials

His Dark Materials Adapts The Same Books As The Golden Compass Movie


HBO’s His Dark Materials adapts Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials fantasy novel trilogy. His Dark Materials is the overarching name for the trilogy that consists of Northern Lights (1995), The Subtle Knife (1997), và The Amber Spyglass (2000). In North America, the first His Dark Materials book was published as The Golden Compass. In 2007, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials work was adapted to lớn the big screen with The Golden Compass, a movie directed by Chris Weitz starring names like Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig. As suggested by the title, Weitz’s The Golden Compass movie focused on the events of the first book only.

HBO’s His Dark Materials series, on the other hand, is a completely different project that intended khổng lồ cover the entirety of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. As a show, it was easier for HBO’s His Dark Materials to lớn cover the entire trilogy. In fact, HBO’s His Dark Materials was designed in a way that each season would cover one of the three His Dark Materials books. Therefore, His Dark Materials season 1 covered Northern Lights/The Golden Compass; His Dark Materials season 2 adapted The Subtle Knife; và His Dark Materials season 3, the show’s final season, is currently covering The Amber Spyglass.


The Golden Compass movie had a $180 million budget - a significant number for a 2007 production. However, The Golden Compass only made $372 million at the box office - less than 2.5 times the initial budget - which was not enough lớn greenlight a sequel. That is why The Golden Compass movie never got any sequels detailing the rest of Philip Pullman’s book trilogy. Considering that HBO’s His Dark Materials season 1 premiered in 2019, 2007’s The Golden Compass remained the only His Dark Materials adaptation for 12 years, explaining the confusion audiences have had regarding the two versions.

Compared khổng lồ 2007’s The Golden Compass movie, HBO’s His Dark Materials captures the essence of the books in a much better way. The Golden Compass was designed as a blockbuster, something that would have lớn justify its $180 million budget with big action pieces and a streamlined story. For that reason, elements like His Dark Materials’ religion debate were cut from The Golden Compass, for example. Though His Dark Materials season 1 is the only one that can be directly compared lớn The Golden Compass, the HBO show starring Dafne Keen overall did a better job of adapting Lyra’s story.