‘His Dark Materials’ Trailer Breakdown: First Looks at Iorek Byrnison and Daemon Machine, But No Golden Compass

The first full trailer for His Dark Materials depicts multiple characters and plot points from the first novel in the Philip Pullman series, The Golden Compass, including a gruesome take on a terrifying machine and our first look at Iorek Byrnison, a talking, armored polar bear. If this trailer is any indication, this adaptation, co-produced by HBO and the BBC, sticks closely to the events of The Golden Compass, though the namesake device, also known as an alethiometer, is nowhere to be seen.

In the world of His Dark Materials, humans are born with part of their being externalized as a “daemon,” or animal familiar. The daemons of children can transform into any animal, but settle on a single shape in adolescence. Look to the second shot of the new trailer for Lord Asriel's daemon, a snow leopard. Our hero Lyra's daemon, Pantalaimon, can still transform, but is primarily seen in the trailer taking the shape of a white ermine. (Pan also appears in the trailer as a brown moth, another of his favorites.) Also seen in the trailer is Ms. Coulter's daemon, a golden monkey who viewers will love to hate.

But the most sinister reveal in the first trailer for His Dark Materials also happens to be a spoiler from The Golden Compass. In the world of His Dark Materials, powerful people are obsessed with an elementary particle known as “Dust,” which seems to aggregate around adults. Many attach religious significance to this Dust, and a sinister group known as the Gobblers conduct experiments on children to understand the connection between Dust, daemons, sin and even parallel universes. Their experiments go to some very dark places, especially in an Arctic research station, where Gobblers separate children from their daemons. This is the machine that rips the two apart:

via Gfycat

With its guillotine blades, this daemon cutting machine is a far cry from the sterile cube depicted in the 2007 Golden Compass movie, making it our clearest indication of the tonal differences between that adaptation and the new HBO/BBC version.

This trailer also includes our first look at Iorek Byrnison, ally to Lyra and rightful king of the armored bears, or panserbjørne. There's even a shot from the very end of The Golden Compass novel, where we learn Lord Asriel's real plans.

But there is one major His Dark Materials component missing from this first trailer: the alethiometer that guides Lyra with strange, intuitive outputs. A brief look at the alethiometer in the His Dark Materials adaptation can instead be seen in the first BBC teaser for the series:

The cast for His Dark Materials includes Dafne Keen (Logan) as Lyra, James McAvoy (X-Men: First Class) as Lord Asriel, Ruth Wilson (Luther) as Marisa Coulter and Lin-Manuel Miranda (Mary Poppins Returns) as cowboy balloonist Lee Scoresby. His Dark Materials was written by Jack Thorne, best known for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The first two episodes of the new series are directed by Tom Hooper ( Cats, The King's Speech).