Tuesday, December 11, 2007

My Thumb Down: The Golden Compass

Starring: Dakota Blue Richards, Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Sam Elliott
Voices: Ian McKellen, Kathy Bates

The Golden Compass is the new $180M fantasy film based upon Northern Lights (aka The Golden Compass), the first novel in Philip Pullman's trilogy His Dark Materials.

There wasn't much about The Golden Compass that really interested me except the hoopla being whipped up by the MSM. It's "anti-religious," "it'll corrupt our kids," and "it demonizes the Catholic Church," they said. So I had to see for myself.

In my humble opinion, you gotta dig really deep to find any anti-religious sentiment. It isn't much different from Star Wars or any other of the thousands of movies with a plot of an over-arching evil, secretive organization controlling society that the film's protagonist struggles against. The author of the books is an agnostic so perhaps the religious nuts were just looking to discredit the movie since, heaven forbid, an agnostic actually write a book people would want to read. A classic case of folks bringing their own baggage into the theater and projecting it onto the film.

This was made in the style that I had expected in Beowulf. Instead, it is a combination of live-action characters intermixed on-screen with CGI characters. It just didn't work for me. They need to pick a style...live action or animation, not both.

What I Liked
• Set decoration. I don't know if the interiors were in real locations or on a sound stage, but they were extravagant and exquisite.
• There was a scene, not scary just unexpected, that made me jump. Usually I can spot those things a mile away.
• The imaginative futuristic vehicles.
• The imaginative concept of everyone having a daemon, which is an extension of oneself that manifests in the form of an animal. The daemons are "real" in that everyone has one and everyone can see and hear each others — they are a part of routine existence.

What I Didn't Like
• I found it boring. I was looking at my watch half way through.
• The screen adaptation, or maybe it was the editing, left me looking for more complete explanations. I'm sure the details that I was looking for were in the book. It reminded me of the Harry Potter movie(s). I didn't read the books and only saw the first movie for the same reason. After I saw it, I asked my friends about the things that didn't make sense. The explanations were, "Well, in the book...".
• Combined live action and CGI animation. See above.
• The polar bear roaring full screen. Yes. I get it. You're formidable and ferocious. I got it the first 3 times. The director should have spent that screen time to explain missing points in the plot like more details about the golden compass...like where it came from, why it was so special, how it worked, why the girl was the only one who could read it, etc. These were lightly touched upon but didn't form a complete enough picture for me. I suspect the book describes it in greater detail.

The ending sets up sequels to follow the books. I won't be seeing any of those just like I didn't see any other Harry Potter movies. Perhaps people who read the book would enjoy this more. For me, this movie gets my thumb down.


more cowbell said...

But did it turn you into a godless heathen? Enquiring minds want to know...

evilganome said...

I wasn't wild about it, but I read the trilogy. The books are actually a condemnation of organized religion, though oddly enough several theologians have praised the books. Go fig?

dirk.mancuso said...

But Daniel Craig looked really hawt, right?

cb said...

i agree with your assessment of the film. It was ok, but yeah-- not enough plot exposition.

tater said...

My thumbs down too. Boring. Nicole Kidman was costumed fabulously though. She was a knock out in a bitchy way. I kept wanting to take that poor little urchin boy to a dentist. Good Christ. He's gonna hurt someone with those when he's a little older.

Y | O | Y said...

"Hey, everybody, I can eat an ear of corn through a picket fence!"

Tater said...


That was priceless Gavin!