You may remember The Golden Compass, that 2007 fantasy film that managed to bomb despite an incredible cast, and an even better novel as a basis. It was easy to write off the concept of a live-action His Dark Materials trilogy after the first film, but I would love to see a reboot of the franchise, and a cinematic universe to go along with it.
The Golden Compass is one of the most disappointing films I've ever seen, given the incredible source material. His Dark Materials is a YA trilogy that spans multiple universes, mixing ancient legend and religion with physics and a love story at it's core. The novels leap from universe to universe as a huge cast of different ages and races struggle to solve a mystery that spans every plane of existence, and the world-building alone should be enough to create an incredible series of films.
While the first attempt was a flop, I would love to see this franchise resurrected for a second chance. The 2007 version wreaked havok with spoilers, characters, and motivations, but this wouldn't be the first time that a franchise had a shaky start.
If a reboot could be made successful, with real respect for the characters and the novels, there is no doubt in my mind that this would be a jumping off point for one of the most incredible and sprawling cinematic universes we have ever seen.
During the events of His Dark Materials, there are countless doorways between the worlds, allowing characters to go on all kinds of adventures with new characters outside the established worlds in the novels. Add to that the myriad extensions of the existing characters stories, and this could be a cinematic world that never ends.
While there are hundreds of films that I would love to see coming from the worlds that Phillip Pullman created, here are my top three. (An initial reboot of the trilogy aside, of course.)
For a pivotal character, we really don't get enough Mary in the books. Nun-turned-physicist-turned-fugitive, Mary is a fascinating female character who fully deserves her own movie.
A dramatic thriller, her film would take place around and during the events of the books, but would start with her discoveries of Shadows, and her struggle to continue her research despite the manipulations of other-worldly powers who want to use her work as a weapon. As she meets Lyra and Will and goes on adventures with them, we can see extended flashbacks to her struggles with religion and romance, before she plunges back into a world where she is now a fugitive.
I would love to see Mary returning to our world and fighting through a twisted political system (still being manipulated by others from Lyra's world) to try and clear her name and take care of Will and his mother. It would be tense and action-packed, but retain some of the magic that is the heart of the series, as she and Will continue their studies into all the arts they now know exist.
The Coulter/Asriel Origin
There is no doubt that the adults in the book have fascinating origins that we just don't get to see. Lyra's parents, despite being quite power-hungry and often violent, have a softer side that we hear about but rarely see.
I would love to see Marisa and Asriel meet and fall in love, and watch them develop individually through the consequences of their affair. This would give us a chance to meet the Master of Jordan before he is an old man, to see Ma Costa before she is a mother, and to watch the politics of Lyra's world as they develop. The difficulties with the colleges and the Magesterium are an untapped goldmine of political storylines, and there is such an opportunity for new characters to come into play.
The Gyptians and the Witches
For something more anchored in fantasy, it would be amazing to see some of the history of the Gyptian families, and the witches. These are entire cultures that could be expanded upon and developed, and there is a ready made storyline in the romance between Serafina Pekkala and Farder Coram.
I would love to see the witches lives, which would also allow us a further glimpse into the North. The gyptians, on the other hand, would allow us to see all over Lyra's world, as they travel through the waterways. A classic love story between a creature of the air and one of the waterways would simply be a beautiful addition to the universe.
And The Rest
Of course, these are only a small sample of the stories that could be told within the cinematic universe of His Dark Materials.
There are whole new stories to be told within different worlds, there is the history of the angels (Baruch and Balthamos have a history just begging to be told!), a Malificent-style sympathetic origin story for the Harpies of the land of the dead, the stories of Citagazze, the Mulefa, and all the worlds where Lyra and Will pass through on their adventures. Then, of course, there is a straight up book adaptation of "Lyra's Oxford", the follow up novel by the same author.
While this hypothetical HDMCU (His Dark Materials Cinematic Universe) does rely on a reboot of a dead franchise, it just has too much potential for me to allow it to pass unmentioned.