Caught the Golden Compass this past Friday. This is the movie I was most looking forward to this Christmas season amid all the holiday releases. Based on a great trilogy of books by Phillip Pullman, The Golden Compass had what I thought to be the best chance at creating another series like Harry Potter. There are similarities but I thought that the books did a good job of separating themselves and creating a new experience in a fantasy based world that wouldn't be the same as the Potterverse.
My feelings towards the movie tend to run to indifferent. It wasn't bad per say, but I don't feel like the really captured the feeling of the novel. I should probably mention that they totally cut out the anti-religion angle the books run, creating a sort of faceless evil organization as the bad guys. The movie moves at such a breakneck pace they don't slow down enough to get into a lot of character development. Which I think is important when your protagonist is a girl who constantly lies about things who discovers the ability in herself to unlock answers of truth. Her metamorphosis is kind of squashed in this film as they are trying to get so many other elements of the story in.
They do get the main gist of the book adapted to the screen, all the major plot points which I approved of. I wish it would have been a little longer to help flesh out the characters a bit more. The film clocks in at under 2 hours, and I think with a 2 hour 20 min running time it would have done a lot more for my tastes.
That being said the casting is superb. Nicole Kidman is perfect as the the head of the evil organization, cold and ruthless with just the right amount of feeling for the heroine, Lyra. Daniel Craig as Lyra's guardian uncle, plays the rough and independent free thinker. These two roles I though were done great, as in the book you get little information on Craig's character, and Kidman nailed her role perfectly. Dakota Blue Richards, a newcomer, plays the heroine and hers is the one they needed to slow down on. She moves so quickly from one plot point to the next, you don't get to know her. The supporting cast is pretty solid, Sam Elliot as the American airship cowboy, Ian McKellen voicing the guardian ice bear, with additional voicing by Ian McShane and work by the great Christopher Lee. Eva Green plays a witch in the film that helps Lyra, and fleshing her role and the role of the witch's in general was another area I though they cut into to much.
The basic outline of the film is that Lyra, a young girl, attends classes at a college. After helping to foil an assassination attempt on her uncle, she learns of his quest to break the barrier between this world and other parallel worlds. Her uncle bids her to stay behind where she is apprenticed (more or less) to Nicole Kidman's character. After their relationship goes sour she discovers who has been kidnapping local children and vows to save her friend, journeying to the frozen north to confront the organization. One of the cooler ideas in the film is that each person has a daemon familiar, and animal companion that is the embodiment of your soul and conscious. As you grow older your daemon stops changing animal forms chooses one form to stay in.
All in all the Golden Compass is a movie. It's not great but not terrible. I do hope it does well enough to get the sequel going. My recommendation is to wait for DVD. Maybe I am being to hard on the film, but I just wanted it to be better.
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