I saw the dreaded film last night, and I enjoyed it. And my beliefs about God are unchanged. I would say, personally, that it is nowhere near as good as The Lord of the Rings (to me little in this world is), but is an interesting parallel to The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. (Ironically, in both the book and the movie, the main character finds herself in a wardrobe early on in the story). I’d say that Warderobe was a little bit better, because they both end with a big, confusing battle, but the one at the end of Warderobe was a little more interesting (to me at least). Also, Wardrobe is longer, which makes a difference when you locate your story in an unfamiliar world.
I’m a fan of longer films, especially when they’re in an imaginative genre like sci-fi or fantasy (and this is a sort of mix of both). I really think that they needed another hour to really tell this story. It breathlessly moved from one situation to another. Most major characters barely had enough time to tell us their names before we’d already moved on to the next scene and the next interesting character.
I expected the best scene to be the fight between two huge armored polar bears, and I was pretty much right. The scene before it is pretty good too, come to think of it. The movie was definitely a lot of fun – some very funny moments and a few surprises, and the main character, Lyra, has the infectious likability that any disobedient and inventive movie-child has – great fun to watch, but you’d hate to be legally responsible for her. At least I would.
They did tone down the Church-as-villain, not only calling it the Magisterium but also not really mentioning God – heresy and doctrine is mentioned, but not God directly. The Church had an odd combination of an over-wrough byzantine quality, combined with opulence you might associate with the secret lairs of a pulp villain.
I’m currently reading the series, and I’ll be curious to see how much was changed, left out and so on. There were sections when I was a little lost, but I was willing to just not worry about it and enjoy the film at face value. When condensing hundreds of pages of novel into an hour and a half, you have to be willing to cut the story some slack and connect expositional dots yourself, as it were.
It also very, very clearly set itself up for a sequel, so for those of you out there who are worried about the other two books being made into films, get ready for next Christmas.
Overall, I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars – could have easily been 4 stars if it had another half hour or so to tell its story. Worth seeing, especially if you have a child around Lyra’s age (about 12 I believe) or, like me, have the same taste in books you had at 12 🙂