The Golden Compass
Review #578 of 365
Movie Review of The Golden Compass (2007) [PG-13] 113 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $13.00
Where Viewed: Harkins Ciné Capri at Northfield 18, Denver, CO
When 1st Seen: 1 December 2007
Time: 7:30 pm
DVD Release Date: 29 April 2008 (click date to purchase or pre-order)
Film's Official Website • Film's Trailer
Soundtrack: order the CD below
Directed by: Chris Weitz (About a Boy)
Screenplay by: Chris Weitz (About a Boy) based on The Northern Lights aka The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
Featured Cast (Where You Might Remember Him/Her From):
Nicole Kidman (The Invasion) • Daniel Craig (The Invasion) • Dakota Blue Richards (debut) • Ben Walker (The Notorious Bettie Page) • Freddie Highmore (August Rush) • Ian McKellen (Stardust) • Eva Green (Casino Royale) • Jim Carter (The Thief Lord) • Tom Courtenay (Nicholas Nickleby) • Ian McShane (The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising) • Sam Elliott (Ghost Rider) • Simon McBurney (The Last King of Scotland) • Kristin Scott Thomas (Keeping Mum) • Kathy Bates (Fred Claus)
Click for 'Review Lite' [a 150-word or less review of this film]
Click to see photos from the Premiere of The Golden Compass
Click to read the spoiler points for The Golden Compass
Amidst a storm of controversy stirred up by those who view award-winning author Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, the first book of which was called The Northern Lights and changed to The Golden Compass to be decidedly anti-Christian, the film should open to typical epic numbers in December fueled inadvertently by the controversy and by the traditional success of such during the family Holiday film season. Despite the controversy, and there have been many defensive statements released suggesting the religious overtones from the book have been toned down in the film, the story resembles, not surprisingly, so many other timeless epic stories with children as the heroes, only this time with a young girl in charge. Her name is Lyra Belacqua, and she's portrayed forcibly and convincingly by young Dakota Blue Richards. One can see shades of a dynamic and potent actress in the young girl as her character carries the fate of her world on her shoulders, so does the actress carry the weight of the picture. Both take some warming up to. She's a tad prickly at first, but as the story progresses, the character matures and the girl settles into the role.
After a quick overview by the narrator introducing us to this world in a parallel universe where the souls of people manifest themselves outside the body in the form of archetypal, talking animals called dœmons; the world is ruled by the Magisterium; and there's a secret connecting element between all living things known as dust, the story begins dramatically with an attempted poisoning of Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig) the uncle of the heroine, Lyra Belacqua (Dakota Blue Richards). She and her dœmon, Pantalaimon (voiced by Freddie Highmore) or Pan for short, witness an agent from the Magisterium named Fra Pavel (Simon McBurney) add an envelope of powder to a bottle of distillate the Lord will be drinking shortly. Bursting forth from the wardrobe they've entered to hide, Lyra and Pan warn and shatter Lord Asriel's glass just in the nick of time effectively save his life. The greeting is followed by an important meeting with the Jordan College administration committee whereby Lord Asriel illustrates an accounting of a man near the northern pole receiving a swirl of dust from the stars into his body. He seeks funding to find the location and see if, in fact, there might be some way to transport things between the universes. The mention of dust, for one thing, is mentioned as heresy. To find ways to jump between universes to see the source of the dust, as is Lord Asriel's real goal, quite another.
"…excellent effects and non-stop, fantasy-driven, epic adventure..."
While deviating substantially from the plot of the first book, probably to the disgruntlement of those who have read it, the story is nonetheless action packed with several exciting battles, harrowing escapes, and shocking discoveries. Fans of Daniel Craig will be doubly disappointed as his total screen time barely exceeds five minutes. Truly, the film is about Lyra and her adventure.
"…leaves you wanting more…The Golden Compass scores."
Finally, does the film stir up anti-Christian or anti-Catholic sentiments as promised by the groups encouraging boycotts of a film they hadn't even seen, absolutely not. Nothing, in fact, about the Chris Weitz written and directed film caused any negative associations toward anything other than organizations that threaten to prevent free thought or free speech. There are references to the idea that the Magisterium is working to control not only this universe but all universes and prevent investigations into the implications of dust. So, unless, these too are recent edicts of the Pope, probably the Catholic Church, as actor Daniel Craig said, "…will survive this film." The important thing the film should do, as did the book which was noted in 2007 by judges of the Carnegie Medal as one of the ten most important novels for children in the past 70 years, is induce conversation and discussion. Is attempting to suppress or boycott a work just making it all the more tempting to those who might otherwise ignore it? And why ignore this work? Even if it could be seen in the most extreme sense of analogy as being anti-religious, why not use the ideas in it to explore rather than squelching it altogether? The film as part one of a trilogy will probably work better than it does as a stand-alone as it leaves too much up in the air. A good outcome of a good part one, though, is to leave you wanting more; and, at this, The Golden Compass scores.
Note: the PG-13 film may be too scare in parts for young children.
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(all images used with permission for press reproduction)
Daniel Craig... Lord Asriel
Dakota Blue Richards... Lyra Belacqua
Nicole Kidman... Marisa Coulter
Marisa Coulter and Lyra Belacqua
Lyra Belacqua Learns the Compass
Lyra Belacqua walks on the campus of Jordan College with her Uncle
Click for 'Review Lite' [a 150-word review of this film]
Other Projects Featuring The Golden Compass (2007)
Nicole Kidman • Daniel Craig • Dakota Blue Richards
Ben Walker • Freddie Highmore • Ian McKellen
Eva Green • Jim Carter • Tom Courtenay
Ian McShane • Kathy Bates • Simon McBurney
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