The Golden Compass: Again

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 🙂

7 thoughts on “The Golden Compass: Again

  1. Heh. I’m surrounded by all these people who love long movies. It’s funny, I don’t have any problem with a movie being longer IF I think it’s justified, but I think it rarely is. I think the medium works well at about the 2 hour mark and after that you aren’t usually adding to the story, but just cluttering it up. Not always of course. There are some great films that are long, but the LOTR sequence is case in point for me of movies that fell too much in love with themselves and forgot about the audience.


  2. I think the problem you’re encountering, Aric, is that the Lord of the Ring movies were clearly made for me 🙂I do think this movie could have well employed thirty more minutes to let us know more of what is going on. But I want to finish the book so that I know if there was really that much to miss.


  3. This past week, while traveling on vacation, I bought the one volume trilogy, <><>His Dark Materials<><>. I was only a few pages into it when I was called back for a pastoral emergency that has now turned into a funeral. With the additional seasonal services, I don’t expect I’ll have a chance to read it until after Christmas. The first few pages kept my attention. I think I’ll wait until I’ve read the first book before I see the movie, but I haven’t made up my mind.As for <><>The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe<><> movie, I’m not a big fan. Visually, it was stunning. The story line is what fell flat for me. C.S. Lewis’s allegorical style of fiction writing comes across rather much like a sledge hammer, for my tastes. I greatly prefer Tolkien’s mythopoetic/historical style.Speaking of Tolkien, I have only one disagreement with you about the LotR movies: they were also made long for me 😉


  4. Thanks for the review. I take the church kids tomorrow…In our neighborhood, they have heard a great deal from peers how the children are killing God. I saw it a couple weeks ago, and I agree, a bit more character development. It often sounded like a list of one weird name after another…


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