Alicia & I went out with some friends of ours last night and saw The Golden Compass (TGC) during its week early preview showing. Regarding the movie itself, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
Sure, I had an inkling of what the story was like — Alicia has studied the book when she was in school, and it has been hard to view any Christian news sources lately without hearing something about the movie.
I felt that the movie itself had a lot to live up to. As a fantasy film, it is up against quite a few heavyweight contenders — notably The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Harry Potter series, and even the lighter weight entries of, say, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Stardust, and The Bridge to Terabithia or The Last Mimzi. Frankly, the last decade has been a bonanza of fantasy films and I’m glad to see the genre getting so much attention.
But I also expected a lot out of TGC simply based on what I have heard of the story. The way Alicia has described the book to me, I expected something epic, something that would give Star Wars: A New Hope a run for its money in the “story” category and The Matrix a run in the “Things that make you go ‘Wow, never thought about it like that!'” category.
After at long last seeing TGC, ((Alicia has been raving about it for quite some time.)) I confess that I have mixed feelings.
On the one hand there was what could have been a very interesting storyline. Unfortunately, it did not translate onto the big screen quite so epically. Indeed, where time should have been spent developing the story & the characters which populate author Phillip Pullman’s imaginative world, there are instead elaborate visual effects — whether the beautiful locations or the CGI of the various daemons, snow bears, or the golden compass ((In the movie, it is instead referred to as an alethiometer, a device for finding out the truth.)) itself.
Seemingly pivotal moments in the movie, such as the revealing of who Marisa Coulter ((Played by Nicole Kidman.)) really is, come and go so quickly that a sneeze may have caused you to not only miss the scene but even the significance thereof. I’m also told that the climax of the book, the part which cliffhangers in preparation of the second book in the trilogy, is completely left out of the movie.
However, having not read the book, I felt the movie ended suitably enough, and it did so within two hours.
My final estimation of the movie is that it is a 6 on a scale of 10. The visuals & music were fantastic, and Dakota Blue Richards does an exceptional job as the film’s protagonist, Lyra Belacqua. ((This was Richards’ first film, and I fully expect to see a great career spring up from it.))
However, everything good about the movie doesn’t fully redeem that which was simply mediocre. Nicole Kidman, who played film’s primary antagonist, was little more than a bore; I actually found myself losing interest and zoning out during scenes where Kidman was the focus. The characters which I really did enjoy — Daniel Craig as Lord Asriel and Sam Elliot as Lee Scoresby come to mind — turned out to play surprisingly little part in the film. ((Though Craig’s Lord Asriel should have played a huge part in the climax of the film, if it hadn’t had been left out of the movie.))
And as I said above, the story was somewhat of a letdown. I’m not talking about the “Anti God” nature of the film here; rather, it seemed that the plot served only to lead us into the film’s action scenes. I heard the same criticism regarding The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, but it was worse with TGC. I am hoping for an extended edition home release to help fill in the gaps.
Should you go see this movie when it is fully released this coming weekend? If you love fantasy movies, absolutely; as with most special effects-driven movies, it’s simply going to look & seem better on the big screen. If you are a fan of the book, I expect that you will watch it — if you didn’t make it to the preview showing yesterday — but I caution that you may be disappointed. To everyone else, this movie may be a rental.
For those who are interested: The movie contained no adult language, little scary imagery, no sex, and is certainly made to be enjoyed by the whole family. There was quite a bit of violence, but little gore — the goriest scene is seen in a very wide angle and if you aren’t paying close enough attention, you’ll not even know what just happened. And that scene involves bears, not people.
Rating: 10out of