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The Golden Compass

The 2007 film adaptation of Philip Pullman's fantasy novel.

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Nice illustrations to accompany the book -- but not really a stand-alone film

  • May 3, 2008
Rating:
+1
It is easy enough to say that "the book was better than the movie" -- since it is usually true that books offer a wealth of world that can only be hinted at in a couple of hours -- but this is a clear and disappointing case where the cliche fits. Even films like the Lord of the Rings or the Harry Potter series don't really measure up to the original books they were based upon -- but in the case of those films, especially the Lord of the Rings series, the movies work on their own. They establish their own world and it feels like a real world -- the characters seem to live there, and to understand it without constantly explaining it to each other. In the case of the Golden Compass, unfortunately, that just isn't true. Lyra explains things about their connection to her daemon Pan, and several characters give fairly long speeches explaining details to each other that they either would have known or that the filmmakers should have found more cinematic ways to make clear to the audience.

So far this sounds like I'm griping, and maybe I am -- I had high expectations for this film, since the books are brilliant and have a very strong visual component. In the hands of someone like Peter Jackson, this could have been an amazing film. As it stands it is merely competent -- the actors were chosen very well for their parts, but the script makes their dialogue a bit wooden, with every character announcing who they are and explaining their history every time someone new shows up. Nicole Kidman as Mrs. Coulter and the young woman who plays Lyra are the only characters who are really given enough space to come across as real. The daemons who are so central to the book feel more like sidekick pets than external manifestations of the living soul of the characters.

On the other hand -- the film looks very good and for the most part the CGI components of the world mesh well with the realistic elements. As a kind of living illustration to accompany the book after it has been read, the film works -- but not as a stand alone.

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More The Golden Compass reviews
review by . September 17, 2008
When this movie was green-lighted for production, the studios were obviously hoping to hop on the Fantasy Movie bandwagon and take advantage of the momentum created by the Lord of the Rings and Narnia movies.  Despite the very high quality of the visual effects, this movie was poorly executed.  Part of the problem may be a result of the movie being based on the first book of a trilogy.  I won't ruin the movie by giving away any spoilers... essentially because the movie abruptly ends …
review by . December 24, 2008
Early Poster
WARNING: This review may contain spoilers!      I suppose it's not surprising, what with the current trend of adapting fantasy literature into films, that Philip Pullman's novel The Golden Compass should become a major motion picture. What is surprising is who ended up writing the screenplay and directing the film. Chris Weitz, best known as one of the producers of the American Pie films, seems an odd choice to adapt the epic fantasy story for the silver screen and …
review by . April 29, 2009
I was greatly disappointed with this film after hearing how wonderful the books were. It was boringly long and the characters lacked any depth especially the various children and the little girl who has the power to be able to ascertain the truth through the compass.     The one interesting thing about the movie is that everyone has their own personal daemon that looks like an animal. The daemon is able to change at will between different types of animals until its host attains …
review by . November 15, 2008
Short Attention Span Summary (SASS)     1. A governing body called the Magesterium sets the rules and tells people what to think and when to think it.   2. Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig), Mrs. Coulter (Nicole Kidman) and Lyra Belacqua (Dakota Blue Richards) aren't very good at following rules.   3. In this world, a person's soul lives outside of their body in the form of an animal called a daemon.   4. Mrs. Coulter has one heck of an ugly soul, and a …
review by . June 07, 2008
This movie is based on a book, the first book of a trilogy. I have never read any of these books, and have no intention to, so this review is purely of the movie itself, as a standalone piece of entertainment.     First of, contrary to what some other reviews have suggested, there is minimal resemblance between this movie and the LOTR, Narnia, and Harry Potter movies of recent release. Unlike LOTR, this movie is more intellectual and the conflicts more subtle and nuanced. For …
review by . May 21, 2008
I've been looking forward to this film for the past couple of weeks. And while there are a lot of very strong reviews for this film there were one or two which really slated it, so I expected an average forgettable film which might at least entertain me. And I do like fantasy stories.    This movie was an if for me at first, being that it just seemed like one of the many quickly thrown together fantasy novels/movies that have supposed huge followings. However, I found myself …
review by . May 03, 2008
Not being one who seeks out the seemingly endless line of Harry Potter/Narnia/Lord of the Rings tropes (a little computer generated monster realm goes a long way), THE GOLDEN COMPASS came somewhat as a pleasant surprise. Yes, this is still a fantasy film, but the emphasis is more on stylish creation of various animals (in the forms of 'daemons' that accompany children as their souls, morphing into various animal life at will) than tiresome explosions and flying beasties.    Lyra …
review by . December 28, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Special effects, especially with regards to the daemons.      Cons: Inconsistent acting, horrible pacing, and very bad music      The Bottom Line: Difficult to recommend. If special effects make or break a film for you, watch it in the theater, otherwise wait for DVD.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot.      The Golden Compass is a difficult movie for people who …
About the reviewer
Nathan Andersen ()
I teach philosophy at Eckerd College, in Saint Petersburg, Florida.      I run an award-winning International Cinema series in Tampa Bay (www.eckerd.edu/ic), and am co-director of … more
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The Golden Compass is an adaptation of the first book in the beloved but controversial fantasy series by Phillip Pullman. The story opens with Lyra Belacqua (Dakota Blue Richards) an orphan girl who lives in an alternate world that is similar to earth, but where people's souls exist outside of their bodies in animal form. The people are ruled by a shadowy and oppressive council known as the Magisterium, which is doing it's best to keep everyone from getting information about what is called "Dust." Lyra's Uncle Asriel (Daniel Craig) has been researching Dust, and he has seen to it that Lyra is given safe shelter at Jordan College. But when the visiting Mrs. Coulter (Nicole Kidman) arrives, she asks Lyra to accompany her on a trip to the North to meet the Panserbjorne, a race of armored bears. Before Lyra leaves, the Headmaster gives her a golden compass, a device which only she can read, and from which she can intuit the truth. Lyra leaves with Mrs. Coulter, but when she learns that her friends have been ...
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