The Golden Compass (2007)

Directed by Chris Weitz

Although there were engaging moments in The Golden Compass, overall I found it disappointing. In fact, it sort of struck me as a 1970’s television show with a huge budget – formulaic, and largely a set up for shows (movies) to follow.

For me, it had three parts: 1) a somewhat tedious opening, 2) a lengthy and enjoyable middle, 3) a predictable and annoying end.

I can’t say there was anything terribly wrong with the opening other than that it suffers from having to present so much exposition in order to get the movie’s story going. It’s executed fairly well but, despite this, I was a bit bored.

When the movie finally does get going, about when Lyra realizes Mrs. Coulter (Nicole Kidman) is not a nice lady and the young girl flees, the movie really becomes a lot of fun. I think this is due to the actors and the characters they play.

Dakota Blue Richards is great as Lyra, daughter of Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig). And the variety of characters she meets, all pretty much archetypes, recognizable character templates, all contribute to what can only be described as engaging fun.

Unfortunately, it all has to lead to the usual battle scene. This is where the comparison to a 1970’s TV show comes in. The obligatory battle is like the obligatory car chase. It signals that we’re near the end and we’re about to wrap things up. And it happens every week at the same time. Or, the case of movies like this, it happens with every one of these adventure movies, always at the same time.

But what’s annoying about the ending is that it’s really no end at all. In fact, I found the appearance of rolling credits came as a bit of a surprise. The movie ends rather abruptly because the adventure Lyra is on is in midstream and there is no sense of a resolution. Yes, it’s a trilogy but still, even the separate parts of a trilogy need resolutions, even though only one is the big, final resolution.

Here, it’s like a conversation where one of the conversationalists suddenly looks at his or her watch and says, “Oh! Look at the time. Gotta go!”

Ultimately, I found this a frustrating film because, although there were excellent elements and it seemed to have all the bits for a great, fun film, it winds up just feeling very unsatisfying.

As for the controversy about the movie being anti-religious and so on, that seems to have been inherited because of the books it is based on. I haven’t read the books; I know nothing about them and therefore can’t say whether they are anti-religion or anti-Christian.

But I can say that religion doesn’t even peak its head out for a look in the movie. How anyone can say there is an anti-religious element here is beyond me.

2½ stars out of 4.

2 Responses

  1. Pingback: Piddleville » Blog Archive » The Golden Compass - I finally review something
  2. Poze says:

    Dear lord, what a mess the makers and writers made out of this film.

    It started off interesting with hope then very quickly it descended into a mess of re-written scripts TOTALLY different to the book. The scenes themselves looked beautiful but everything else after that was a complete mess. Plots were left unexplained, the reasons for many, many characters existents and actions were not even explained or touched on

    as well as their very actions being completely changed or invented

    totally from thin air! You were left wondering many a time “why is this happening” – “who did that happen?” – “what has this got to do with the story” – what the heck is going on?” and “would someone please explain why ALL of the characters are doing what they are doing? And that’s just the tip of the iceberg…

    The makers of this film TOTALLY took a meat cleaver to the story. Cut huge and I mean HUGE chunks out, totally twisted scenes around to an unbelievable extent, let characters live that actually die, NEVER explained backgrounds of anything! Leaving out the fact that they rewrote the whole book and made a complete shambles of it, just as a non-reader, many have commented to me in the cinema, on the way out and afterward to this present day (June 2008) the equivalent of “you could tell they pulled the good guts out of it”.

    Dear god, if your going to make a film from a book, stick with the book or make up one of your own completely. Don’t waste our time and your own by buying the rights to a book and then ripping it to shreds and sticking it back together again in an unintelligible mess. What is the point of buying the rights to a book in the first place if your going to totally re-write it (and screw it up in the process too to boot)?

    I understand that the makers were spineless and cowered to the religious nuts by removing anything that made any intelligence to those with brains. The effect of this cowardice left behind a film that was a total waste of time, an insult to the original writer of the book and a waste of talent that should have been used better in a greater film than this mixed, unexplained unmitigated disaster.

    If there is going to be sequels and going by this film, I hope to all heavens there is NOT – can we the audience have a change of makers, scriptwriters and a producer, a director with a brain and at least someone with guts to stand up against the zealous religious right.

    To sum up: what a complete mess and waste of talent.

    This film could have been so, so so much better.

    Rating: one out of ten.

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