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Please note this is a film only review. I saw this at the cinema when it first came out, and when it was on TV recently I recorded it to watch again. The book (Northern Lights by Philip Pullman) that this is based on is one of my favourite books, and I remember being quite disappointed by the film when I saw it at the cinema. I couldn't remember much else about it though, so I thought I'd give it another chance.
The story is set in a parallel universe where humans keep their souls separately to their body, in the form of an animal that never leaves their side, named a daemon. The daemons of children can change shape at will, but once a person reaches puberty, they settle as a fixed animal.
Lyra, and her daemon Pan, live in Jordan college, at Oxford University. They have been brought up by the scholars of the college, and various cooks and housekeepers and nursemaids. She knows nothing of her parents, and her only relative is her uncle, Lord Asriel, who visits only occasionally.
One day when Lyra is making mischief in the college, she stumbles upon a mystery that she doesn't understand. First, she spies someone trying to poison a drink intended for Lord Asriel. Then, she sees Lord Asriel show the scholars a picture of something he refers to as Dust, and hears him speak to them about other worlds that he hopes to travel to. He refuses to take Lyra with him, but she soon finds another way to the North: with the glamorous Mrs Coulter, friend to Jordan college and keen to have Lyra as her assistant.
In the meantime, though, there's another problem: slowly but surely, children are starting to go missing, including two friends of Lyra's. The word on the street is that it's the 'Gobblers' taking the children, and Lyra intends to get her friends back from them.
The story ticks all the right boxes - there is a fantasy element, dashes of politics, groups of people with shady intentions, treks across unknown lands and healthy doses of suspense, intrigue and mystery. Unfortunately, though, I felt the delivery fell a little flat. In theory, this story (regardless of the book on which it was based) could have been a thrilling film from start to finish, packed full of action and humour so it appealed to the whole family. Unfortunately though, it took far too long to get going and I don't think it could really decide what it wanted to be. It didn't go all out with the action, or stick to being more of a political mystery, but instead seemed to hover somewhere in the middle. There were a few half hearted action scenes, cut with tons of sweeping shots of the scenery, interspersed with wordy theoretical discussions, all peppered with scenes where Lyra learns how to use an ancient piece of equipment that no-one else in the world knows how to use in ten minutes flat. It's all a bit odd, and although Lyra is a great character with impressive screen presence, she isn't quite enough to keep the whole thing together.
The makers of the film, New Line, didn't seem to want to leave much to chance. The film was quite big-budget, and in order to make money it would have to capture the American market. Unfortunately, Northern Lights was quite a controversial book when it was first published, because it contained messages that were very anti-organised religion, and more specifically anti-Catholic. This rarely goes down well in the USA where large swathes of the population consider themselves to be religious, and organised religion plays a large part in their lives. The film hugely pared back these themes, but still kind of left them in; this resulted in a diluted story that lacked much punch.
Finally: the ending...well, the ending is awful. Completely pointless. The 'climax' comes from nowhere and features characters we've only seen in passing during the film. It's not too clear why anyone's there. Then, after a little chatting from Lyra, the film just stops. It's slightly embarrassing how obvious it is that a sequel was planned, plus the climax all the book fans will have been waiting for, just...isn't there. It was filmed, then scrapped. Viewers are left dangling, expecting more, because so little has actually been resolved.
I have to say that I think the casting of Dakota Blue Richards as Lyra was perfect. In the very opening scenes you see her at her best: fighting with the gyptian kids, sticking up for someone from her own college and lying for all she's worth. She's fiery and sharp: the perfect tomboy. Whilst she is striking to look at, she's not pretty in a traditional way; there's something about her eyes that is a bit hard and wild. Pullman's Lyra is equally feral and unprincipled.
Due to the worry about religious controversy, big film stars were thrown at this to give it that extra box office appeal.
The icy, cold, hard Mrs Coulter is played by Nicole Kidman, and to great effect, I thought. She is charming and kind when she needs to be, managing to soften up Lyra and get her way among the many male leaders, but she is also brutal when things aren't going the right way. Lord Asriel, Lyra's uncle, is played by Daniel Craig in rather an odd, sarcastic, knowing kind of way. It didn't quite match up with the more political, suave Asriel I had read in the book, but his performance fit well in the film. He was convincing as the rugged explorer, especially as he was then fresh from his first performance as James Bond. For most of the film both Coulter and Asriel's motivations are unclear, and you're never sure whether they're goodies or baddies. But that's one of the things I like about this story - there's no clear right or wrong, and you don't have two distinct camps of good and bad. There are subtleties and mysteries within many of the characters.
Ian McKellen doesn't quite make an appearance in this film, but his voice does. He voices the armoured bear Iorek Byrnison, who helps Lyra on her quest to rescue her friends. This was an odd choice, I thought, because the bears live in the very dark, distant North, and Iorek Byrnison in particular is extremely strong, fit and agile. To hear the voice of an old, English man come from the mouth of a Nordic bear at the prime of his life was a bit disconcerting, to be honest.
Other stars who either appear or voice characters include Kristin Scott Thomas, Kathy Bates, Christopher Lee, Freddie Highmore and Derek Jacobi. A special mention goes to Sam Elliott, who plays aeronaut Lee Scoresby with aplomb.
The soundtrack is very predictable, and just a bit dull, really. There's a lot of adventure discovery type music, and some inspirational chords when Lyra is being brave, and quick action music when people are fighting or getting shot. There's nothing memorable about it at all and I can't even pick out any favourite parts. It's a soundtrack by numbers. This is a shame, because the world Lyra inhabits is like ours but different in so many ways. I would have liked to see some really unique music that put a twist on the traditional adventure movie genre.
The most impressive element to the film was the visuals. As I've said, Lyra's world is like ours in a lot of ways, but their technology and research and so on are different. The main visual challenge would obviously be the daemons, as some of them can change shape, and they can speak. A mixture of CGI and real animals were used to represent the daemons, and I felt that this was done really well. Pan changes shape in several impressive ways, such as when he leaps into the air as a cat and then suddenly turns into a bird. I didn't find myself thinking it looked unrealistic or stilted at all, so it didn't distract from the story. There's also some gorgeous representations of the Northern Lights, showing mysterious cities hidden in the lights. There is a gorgeous scene showing Lyra and some of her friends flying in a balloon towards the lights which is understated but impressive.
There are a couple of parts that are a letdown, visually, though. Lyra is given a mysterious contraption called an alethiometer by the master of her college, which tells the truth - but no-one knows how to read it. Lyra teaches herself how to read it, which is represented on screen by swirling golden pictures. It looks a bit cheesy to be honest, and there was no need to laden this tiny part of the film with special effects. It takes away from how sombre and almost reverent the alethiometer is.
Overall, I'd say this film would probably be of interest to fans of the book, but they're unlikely to be too keen on it. Also, those who haven't read the books would be unable to fill in the gaps left by the hacking away the studio have done to the story. I can only give it three stars: I've watched it twice, but I won't be bothering again.
** Introduction **
Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy is one of the finest works of fantasy fiction (not just children's fiction) of the last 20 years. Had JK Rowling not been around, it might well have retained a higher profile than it actually has. In 2007 the first volume of the trilogy, Northern Lights, was produced by New Line Cinema with Chris Weitz as director, under the book's American title of The Golden Compass. That title change was mildly annoying, but in itself only a very minor irritation compared with what was to come when I sat down in the cinema one grey and murky day in the hope of being gripped and enchanted to the extent that I had been by the book.
The film, however, turned out to be one of fantasy cinema's great lost opportunities. The director's original vision was largely lost as the movie was butchered by nervous executives, who seemed unable to contemplate the idea of American audiences in particular seeing a family film that simultaneously explored difficult and occasionally controversial (for a nation where religion is so strong a force) territory. In the end they were punished for their cowardice: although The Golden Compass did well in most of the world, including here in Britain, it fared relatively poorly in the US - and as that was where New Line's money was coming from, the planned adaptations of the second and third books in the trilogy were dropped, probably for good.
** Plot and pacing **
In barest essence the plot of The Golden Compass is that of a rather traditional fantasy adventure: a young girl - Lyra Belacqua - is brought up in an Oxford college in a world very like, but not the same as, our own. In a setting like that she might be lonely... except that, like every other human in her world, she is accompanied wherever she goes by Pantalaimon, her dæmon - a representation of her spirit/soul in animal form. As the film begins, a seemingly harmless piece of mischief on her part results in her witnessing an attempt to murder a visitor to the college - her mysterious uncle, Lord Asriel. Events crowd in from all sides, and before too long Lyra will be well away from Oxford and in very serious danger - not least from the Magisterium, a shadowy Church-like organisation with an interest in stopping too much free inquiry.
Ooh, this is a frustrating film for existing Pullman fans. Those who admire the way in which he places events and revelations through the book in such a careful way that one always seems to flow on from another are going to be very annoyed. As an example, in this movie the (admittedly very cinematic, if toned-down) confrontation between the armoured bears is placed before Lyra even so much as sets foot in the "Experimental Station" at Bolvangar, where in the book it did not happen until several chapters later. In fact, this was one of many examples of studio meddling: Chris Weitz originally placed the two in the correct order, and was overruled. Some power is lost as a result. And as for the vague way in which Dust is treated - the identity of "Dust" being the central mystery of the book - I almost despair.
It gets worse from there. One of the biggest revelations of the entire story - the identity of Lyra's parents - is delayed until much later than in the book, and in a completely ridiculous change is actually imparted to her by one of them, at a point when she is in very great danger. In the book Lyra knows who her parents are before she even sets out for the frozen North, and this adds spice to what we learn of their activities. As another example, in the Arctic Lyra hears of a village troubled by a "ghost". The book's reveal here is a masterpiece of storytelling, and one of the most emotional parts of the novel, not least because of its implications. Here it's robbed of much of its power and almost forgotten about thereafter.
I wouldn't normally discuss the ending to a film in a review, for the usual spoiler purposes. However, in the case of The Golden Compass there really isn't any choice, because it is changed so utterly from the book. Those who have read the novel will recall its shattering climax - which is completely lost here. It's not shown at all: we get a typical "Hollywood family film" ending which is entirely unsatisfying both to those new to the story and to those who know what should have come next. The worst of it is that the true ending was filmed... but was removed after test screenings in the US because audiences reportedly didn't find it believable. It was going to be included as a prelude to the sequel, The Subtle Knife ... but that, of course, never appeared.
** Presentation **
I do have to give The Golden Compass plenty of credit for the design of the film. The steampunk of Lyra's England is shown very nicely, with steam trains mixing with skyscrapers and Mrs Coulter's zeppelin a wonderful piece of CGI. Oxford's dreaming spires are perhaps just a little overdone, and the first few minutes of the film seem to be aimed squarely at Americans who like seeing "jolly olde England" shots of children playing in green fields and around ancient architecture, but that's something I can live with. The point is that the viewer is quickly drawn into Lyra's world, and you very rarely have to stop and think to yourself: "That would only happen in a film." I'd like to explore Lyra's Oxford, and that is certainly intended as a compliment.
One thing I was certainly concerned about before seeing the film was how people's dæmons would be represented. They're not figures of fun, but very serious parts of people's being, and so showing them as some sort of goofy cartoon character would have been disastrous. Thankfully, that didn't happen, and despite a few ropey moments - a close-up of Pan speaking in cat form being one that comes to mind - for the most part the animals do convince, and you generally can't see the join between the real animals and their CGI versions.
Of course a fantasy film these days is more or less obliged to be heavy on the CGI, but I was pleased to see some real exotic sets being used as well. For example, the boat on which the gyptians [sic] take Lyra to the North is a real historic schooner, and looks it. More importantly, the Arctic scenes were filmed amid real ice and snow. Probably those who look for them will see plenty of giveaways that the location was actually Switzerland rather than Svalbard, but it does the trick as far as coming across as bleak yet somehow magnificent goes. As for the music: it's uninspired but effective, though don't bother with the incredibly annoying song Kate Bush sings over the interminable end credits.
** Casting and characterisation **
This is an area in which The Golden Compass does manage to shine, which makes it all the more frustrating that the film as a whole was so underwhelming. Dakota Blue Richards as Lyra is very good, for the most part managing to pull off the "educated urchin" feel of the book. It's a slight surprise to me that her film career hasn't really taken off, although she did land a place in_Skins_ as Franky Fitzgerald. She interacts believably with the CGI Pantalaimon, something a lot of much more experienced actors find difficult; Pan himself is fairly well voice-acted by Freddie Highmore, and I enjoyed their little argument at the start of the film especially. That said, I thought an (admittedly important) point about human-dæmon interaction was rather sledgehammered into the story early on.
However, the absolute highlight of the casting must surely be Nicole Kidman's sensational turn as Mrs Coulter. It's not terribly important that she is blonde (the book's Mrs Coulter is dark-haired) as Kidman produces a terrifying, believable and utterly magnetic character who has exactly the sort of glamour and mystery about her that she does in the novel. Out of all the many reasons to regret that the other two books of His Dark Materials were not filmed, the lost chance to see Mrs Coulter in the more complex environment of those later parts is right at the top of the list. In particular, it's very disappointing that she and Lord Asriel barely interact at all. I'm also a little irritated by Mrs Coulter's voiceover right at the start of the film, which to my mind gives away too much of what is to come.
Some people found Daniel Craig's Lord Asriel too sardonic, but again I thought this casting worked very well indeed; it's hardly Craig's fault that perhaps his most important scene in the entire book would be hacked off the end of the film. Ian McKellen is good as Iorek Byrnison as long as you can stop yourself from hearing Gandalf all the time! However this bit of casting is slightly spoiled by the knowledge that the original Iorek was a young actor, Nonso Alonzie, who was replaced at the last minute by New Line - against Weitz's wishes - because McKellen was a bigger name, and whose career has never really taken off in the way it might have done had the studio not meddled.
The other parts are also well cast on the whole: Christopher Lee is another big name brought in by New Line, but I don't have any particular complaints about that; and Derek Jacobi is virtually guaranteed to make a success of any role he touches. Of the secondary characters, the one I (and indeed Pullman!) think is the best is that of Sam Elliott as Lee Scoresby. He is perfect in the role, absolutely spot-on to how he comes across in the book, and he's another I'd love to have seen continue his role. His hare-dæmon Hester gets only a couple of lines, but is great nevertheless in the hands of Kathy Bates, no less. (You see what I mean about what a stellar cast this film attracted?)
** Extras, buying and verdict **
There's no need to dwell on the extras on this DVD... since there aren't any! My disc is one of those cheap early-release versions, the sort rushed into supermarkets just before Christmas, and includes only the film itself (with mis-spelt chapter titles: "Bolvanger"?) and a trailer or two for movies that nobody now remembers, probably including their stars. There is a two-disc extended edition, but beware! While this adds a lot of interviews, making-of features and so on, the one thing you do not get is the one thing most fans of the story really want to see: the restored ending. Bits and pieces of that are floating around here and there on the net, but we still wait for a proper "Director's Cut" version, and you have to wonder whether New Line will ever have the nerve to allow its release.
As is doubtless perfectly clear by now, I was immensely frustrated by The Golden Compass It was so close to being a really good adaptation: it had a wonderful cast, matched perfectly to their characters; the sets and special effects were mostly excellent; the relationship between Lyra and her dæmon was reasonably satisfyingly shown... but the plot. Oh, the plot! Of course some things have to be changed in any book adaptation for the big screen - but what's happened here is that the very heart of the story has been removed because of a lack of courage on the part of the moneymen. Those new to Pullman might wonder what all the fuss is about, while fans probably should watch it at least once, if only for Kidman's fabulous performance, but should also be prepared to do a lot of yelling at the screen. The Golden Compass is not a terrible film in and of itself, but it's terribly sad to consider what it might have been.
It's here. Philip Pullman's first part of 'His dark materials' is finally made into a film. The book is called 'Northern lights' but due to Americans watching this film and vocab in American is totally different to British vocab they changed the title to 'the Golden Compass.' I read the book, but personally read the book to get a better understanding of the story and to be honest the book is better than the film. I only watched this cause I was doing a production of this show (playing one of the major characters) and my director suggested to me to watch the film to get a better understanding of my character.
Lyra is a ten year old orphan who lives at Jordan College with her uncle, Lord Asriel. She loves playing with her friends especially Billy and her best friend Roger, however Roger and Billy disappear, and one woman knows where they have gone and that is Mrs Coulter. So Lyra and her deamon Patalamion go on a quest to find her friends, but this is a very dangerous task especially for a young girl like Lyra, but can she cope? or turn around back to being a normal Jordan college girl and loose her friends?
Lyra - Dakota Blue Richards
Mrs Coulter - Nicole Kidman
Lord Asriel - Daniel Craig
Roger - Ben Walker
Pantalamion - Freddie Highmore
Serfina Pekkela - Eva Green
also apperences from : Ian McKellen, Sam Eliott, Ian McShane, Christopher Lee, Derek Jacobi, Kristin Scott Thomas and Kathy Bates
certificate : PG
director : Chris Weitz
runtime : 113 minutes
This is a good film for the family, however I do believe that this is going to be a huge disappointment for people who love His Dark Materials, so be prepared! This is an OK film, but it's not the best film and with an all star cast I assumed it was going to be good sadly it was a huge disappointment for me! As it was too confusing and they crammed the book into a film less than two hours, really should have been two hours and a half - the film would have been better.
The Golden Compass is the film adaptation of Phillip Pullman's novel Northern Lights, the first in the His Dark Materials trilogy. Having recently read the novel I was keen to see the film, despite having heard it wasn't a terribly good adaptation.
The story follows Lyra Belacqua, a 12 year old girl who acquires an alethiometer, the golden compass of the title, which allows her to find out things which are going on, what others are up to, such as the evil Mrs Coulter or her uncle Lord Asriel. She is caught up in major events, and lives in a world like ours but different. Humans have "daemons", animal companions which are like their soul. Other people should never touch your daemon, and separation kills both. There are also witches and armoured ice bears in the world, and a race of humans called gyptians, who are like gypsies who live on barges.
I absolutely adored Northern Lights. I thought it was one of the best novels I had read in a long time. One of the things I loved most was the human-daemon relationship, however I found Lyra to be a slightly irritating and rather insympathetic lead character. It was only her relationship with her daemon Pantalaimon which endeared her to me.
The film however is another matter. The story is, on the whole, close to the novel. There are some changes which you would expect from a novel to film adaptation. Sequences are shortened for expediency's sake, characters are cut and events take place in a different order in places. This annoyed me a little while watching it, but then this happens with virtually all adaptations of novels, so it's not really a big deal.
The major difference in terms of story is the ending. The ending of Northern Lights is not reached in The Golden Compass. There are major revelations and events which do not take place. I'm not entirely sure why: the film ends at a point in the story where the viewer can tell events have not come to a conclusion, but then so does the novel.
The daemons in the film aren't as endearing as in the novel. Pantalaimon has a rather squeaky voice, and is often heard but not seen. The other characters daemons tend to be on the sidelines, with the exception of Mrs Coulter's creepy golden monkey. Interestingly, I didn't dislike the monkey as strongly in the film thanks to one scene not in the novel, which in actual fact I thought was unrealistic in terms of Pullman's creations. Mrs Coulter strikes the monkey, and he is hurt and so upset at this. She picks him up and cuddles him, and he looks so heartbroken. However, my understanding from Pullman's novel was that a human is incapable of hurting their daemon, and vice versa, whether emotionally or physically. Strange then that a scene which I don't think should be there could endear me to an unpleasant character.
Lyra on screen was even more unsympathetic than on paper. She is a demanding, rude, arrogant child, and a liar. It is very difficult to like her. I wouldn't necessarily say I disliked her, but I certainly did not like her. This lead character was one reason I was incredibly disappointed in the film. A character like Lyra can work in a novel with as much depth as Northern Lights, but The Golden Compass is not a movie with depth. It is rather flat.
It lacks emotion and depth. The story comes across too flat on screen. The characters are bare replicas of Pullman's characters. We barely see Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig), and when we do he is either smiling in a rather Bond-like manner or in danger. Nicole Kidman as Mrs Coulter has more screen time but rarely did I feel the same menace from her as in the book, only in one scene where she demands Lyra take off her bag. The gyptians are not much better. The lead gyptians, Lord John Faa and Farder Coram, don't get much screen time, and again they are basic versions of the characters. I didn't get as much a sense of knowledge in them as in the novel.
All in all, even though I didn't expect something as wonderful as the novel, The Golden Compass was a massive disappointment. I'm very open to film adaptations of novels, and I always say you have to view film and novel separately as they are separate genres, but even so The Golden Compass is not a great film. Visually it was good - the locations and CGI looked great. But it was bland, flat and full of unsympathetic and pared down characters.
There is something about the fantasy genre that has the upper-hand, a major advantage when it comes to raking in the cash. Having a child hero(ine) going off on an adventure of unimaginable scale is awesome for children, throw in some magic, animals and harmless jokes, it's the perfect set-up to entice the younger demographic. What's in it for the adults who are inevitably dragged to such events? The stunning graphics are always a crowd pleaser, a full-on, epic battle towards the end of the film is also greatly appreciated, as well as some good acting from the cast. "The Golden Compass" unfortunately, even before its release, was met with much controversy from many religious groups. Something to do with how Philip Pullman, the author of the original novel on which this film is based, is promoting a strong sense of anti-Catholicism, going so far as to say his trilogy is anti-religion. So much of this kind of bad press could well have affected the film's underperformance at the box office, subsequently delaying and most definitely cancelling, any plans for its sequels.
It's such a shame to see a fine, entertaining work of fiction (yes, that's what this is - fiction: aimed at children for its fun and adults for its surprising depth) buried in piles of misguided claims that ultimately prevented this from becoming a franchise. The plot is in fact, a remarkable, complex one, in which Lyra (Dakota Blue Richards), our young heroine, is on a quest to rescue her best friend, along with other children who have been mysteriously disappearing. One day, Mrs. Coulter (Nicole Kidman), a beautiful and powerful woman who seems to be hiding a lot behind her uncomfortably bright smile, insists on taking Lyra north as her assistant. Before they depart on their adventure, Lyra is given an alethiometer (the film's titular Golden Compass) by the master of her college, which is supposed to reveal the truth. The Magisterium, a scary religious organisation that threatens to dominate the world has destroyed all others and what Lyra possesses is truly one of a kind. She is told to keep this a secret, and to show this to no one. It's also worth noting that the events in the film take place in a world where a person's soul is separated from his/her body to take an animal-like form, called a daemon.
But this is just the beginning. Soon the clever Lyra realises there is a lot more going on than meets the eye and eventually she ends up having to soldier on alone. But on her way she is accompanied by armoured polar bears, flying witches, aeronauts and Gyptians who support her quest. Throwing the audience into a completely new world, there are unfamiliar terminologies, concepts and names that you will have to come to grips with before truly engaging into the film. It takes a little time, but director Chris Weitz does his best to explain them, and although some previous reading is helpful, first-timers will have no trouble enjoying the film as a whole. The endlessly imaginative universe of "The Golden Compass" is stunning to look at, thanks to some remarkable special effects that design the daemons and numerous other slightly bigger animals (the polar bears in particular) to perfection, and the beautiful landscapes to much grandeur.
Perhaps because the writers had so much of the book and its crucial events to squeeze into a reasonably cut running time, some of the characterisation is rushed past, with some of the characters appearing and disappearing in the matter of a few minutes. Good actors have been hired to play them, but a lot of them aren't given enough screen time to properly shine. Daniel Craig's Lord Asriel, Lyra's uncle for example, makes his entrance as someone quite important in our protagonist's life, but disappears for a long time, has a shave and is never to be heard from again. The same can be said for Eva Green's Serafina Pekkala, a witch queen and Sam Elliott's Lee Scoresby, a Texan aeronaut. The characters of Kidman and Richards however, are looked at in great depth, with both actresses of great talent having absolutely no problem handling them. Kidman is both devilishly seductive and chilling even from her entrance. Her gold, perfectly set hair and costume feels more uncomfortable and restricted than anything else, a quality she also accentuates with her softly-spoken, well-paced but also manipulative spoken tone. Richards, a talented young actress making her screen debut gives an impressive performance and even during some of the more intense moments, shows much maturity and a sense of control.
As Lyra travels from one place to another accomplishing various tasks, although exciting at first, the repetitive, episodic format does take its toll, losing the epic feel that we started with. "The Golden Compass" never quite succeeds in capturing the audience for its entire duration, since some of the events are quite simply less fun than the others. However, even with this questionable build-up, the finale promises to be an absolute spectacle, a fantasy battle that will put "The Lord of the Rings" franchise and the "Harry Potter" franchise to shame. But that is not the case. The clash turns out to be nothing more than a mediocre exercise of two sides running into each other, waving their weapons about, with some flying creatures and furry animals doing some serious damage. With hardly any element of struggle or scale, the battle is a disappointment, a brief, rushed and somewhat lazy piece of work that doesn't have anything positive to add to the film.
Despite the massive letdown during the last act and some thin character developments, "The Golden Compass" has its moments of brilliance, supported by a fantastic cast. It lays down a solid groundwork for a franchise to build upon, but sadly it seems the chances for sequels are very small, thanks to some incredibly damaging bad-mouthing surrounding the film's release.
I thought this film was alot better than had heard! It had a great cast with Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman being the lead roles. To summarise, its a story about a young girl who is educated in Oxford at Jordon College, put there by Lord Asriel, whom is her supposed guardian, she lives amongst the scholars. The film is fantasy, family and adventure all rolled into one! Lyra, the young girl wants to travel to the north where she has heard, when over hearing or ear wigging the shcolairs, that here is were a certain dust is present a dust that will one day bring all universes together. She starts on a quest/adventure to the north to save her friends who have been kidnapped and are being experimented on by an evil lady. There are armered polar bears, witches and clans of gyptians who help her in her quest. I cant wait to see the next film, it was fantastic!
The Golden Compass (DVD)
Description: Genre: Action & Adventure / Director: Chris Weitz / Actors: Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig
If you have never heard of the Golden Compass, it is adapted from the book. The book is part of a trilogy written by the fantastic Phillip Pullman (there are also a couple of mini book spin-offs too), all 3 of which are excellent reading. I must admit that compared to the book, the film isn't as good, but that always seems to be the way. To be fair, the book has so much detail that it would be impossible to recreate on film, at least in the timescale that films usually cover. Having said that, it is still a good film and well worth watching.
The film centre's around Lyra, a young girl who was orphaned. In Lyra's world every human person has an animal counterpart who they are attached to and which guides them. These are called daemon's. As she is still a child, Lyra's daemon can change his shape to appear as any animal he wishes to be though when she becomes an adult, he will settle into one animal shape and no longer change.
Lyra is given a golden compass which reveals information to those few who can read it, Lyra is one of the few. When children start to go missing, Lyra uses the compass to find out where they are and why they have been taken.
I am not going to tell you any more, just in case you haven't seen or read it and I spoil it for you. What I will say is that there are some fab special effects in this film and the parts are very well played. it is a great fantasy film for both children and adults alike and well worth watching.
If you are a reader though, I highly recommend that you get the books and read them, someone gave me the whole trilogy and I couldn't put them down, I was absolutely gutted when I finished them!
Watch out for the daemons, they are amazing!
note: also appears in part on Flixster and The Student Room
I haven't read any of the "His Dark Materials" novels, although I was aware of them, and in particular the powerful religious allegory therein that had caused so much controversy when the film (and novel) were first released, but I was very much a newcomer going into this film. Thus, I'm not a foaming fanboy, but at the same time the trailer hadn't filled me with much confidence that this would be much more than a standard Hollywood fantasy adaptation with pretty faces and impressive effects. Sadly, my suspicions appear to be correct.
What I have understood from friends is that the novel is mercilessly ripped to shreds here, with a treatment that doesn't repsect the spirit of the original novel, and in perhaps most criminal fashion, removes a large part of the religious allegory, which likens the bad guys to Christianity. Although I can understand the producers wanting their film to be commercially viable and not annoying a large portion of your audience, to remove such a powerful subtext does seem something of an overkill, especially considering such unconscious thematics will fly over the heads of a lot of people watching the film.
So, what is it actually about? Well, it involves a young girl named Lyra, who lives in a fantastical world where a religious dystopia has been established by the Magisterium. After her friend is kidknapped, she goes on an adventure to help get them back, sending her flying down a rabbithole of mystery and wonder unlike anything she has ever seen. In this regard, it's fluffy and fantastical enough that kids will probably like it, but for those who've read the novel or anyone who wants something that's substantive, it's really not going to do. Given how beloved the book is, one expects a better cinematic adaptation than this.
The much-hyped adaptation of Phillip Pullman's acclaimed novel, with its sub-par acting and tiresome dialogue (and plot), is an ostensible disappointment. A cure for insomnia this film may be, but an intriguing, often exciting tale it is not. The film's saving grace is its consistently effective special effects.
Plot: Based on the first book in the 'Dark Materials' Trilogy by Phillip Pullman, 'Northern Lights', this is a story about a young gril named Lyra, living in a parallel universe to our own, and thrust unexpectedly into the middle of a scientific-religious war. When her young friend Roger is captured by a mysterious gang of child-snatchers called the Gobblers, Lyra vows she will go to North and rescue him. The mysterious Mrs. Coulter offers to take her, but Mrs. Coulter is not what she seems to be, and Lyra is forced to flee from her, with the aid of the Gyptians and a ferocious armoured bear. Deep in the north, Lyra joins the fight against Mrs. Coulter and the terrfying Gobblers, and uncovers more than is safe about the properties of 'dust'...
There are some very good points about this adaptation of a brilliant book, but unfortunately there are an awful lot of bad points as well. To start with the good, Lyra has been very well cast and portrayed. The actress chosen to play her is extremely accurate and believable: the right combination of arrogance and innocence, cunning and moral soundness. This is esentially a story about humainism versus religion, and the characteristation of Lyra as a liar who can reveal the truth, and a child whose innocence is not the same as ignorance, is crucial to the overall story. I was therefor very relieved that the film did not tamper with her character to make her fit the image of the stereotypical goody-two-shoes female child heroine.
In fact, throughout the film, the characteristations were all extremely accurate and believable. Nicole Kidman in particular as Mrs. Coulter was absolutely perfect, as was Daniel Craig as Lord Asriel. Ian McKellen as the voice of Iorek Byrnsson was also perfect, with just the right balance of ferocity and tenderness. I was less impressed with the protrayal of Serafina Pekkala, who has been un-gothed and is a pale shadow of the fabulous character protrayed in the book - this has more to do with the direction, however, as the acting was nevertheless impeccable.
The atmosphere - special effects, scenery, music, and so forth - was also excellent. A lot of attention to detail makes this film a feast for the eyes, and many of the best scenes from the book come to live magically on the screen. I was espeically impressed with the way detail was used to emphasise the similarities and differences between Lyra's universe and our own - heavy brass instruments, flying baloons and zepplins, clothes with a 1920s twist, a technology which is almost familiar but not quite - the portrayal was believable and just exotic enough to be exciting.
On the other hand, the direction left much to be desired. In the first place, too many changes were made in order to simplify the plot - starting with the most annoying and universally-detested decision to name the film 'The Golden Compass'. This title seems to have been pulled out of thin air. The film is not about the 'compass'; nor is the story. The instrument which is nevertheless not the focus of the story is in fact an alethiometer - a truth reader - (made, what is more, of brass, not gold) and I am forced to assume that the decision to rename it was a poor judgement about the ability of audiences to cope with such a long word, or indeed to understand what the 'northern lights' are. To cement this patronising mistake, constant clumsy references are made throughout the film to the alethiometer as a 'golden compass', which only serve to further annoy, without justifying or convincing.
Decisions were likewise made to simplify the plot. I will not say too much about this here, in case I spoil the stroy for anyone; but the whole ending of the book has been virtually removed, making it diffult to see how the next film can be started tidily. The new ending removes much of the heart-wrenching nastiness and pain which makes the first book so brilliant, and it also alters the focus of the story from Lyra as a fallen eve who makes a fatal mistake, to Lyra as an insipid and still innocent heroine. A number of elements which also made the book interesting, such as the complex power struggles influencing the witches' involvement, and the relationship between Lyra and Iorek, are skimmed over very quickly, making the end of the film seem rushed in comparision to the beginning and middle.
Overall, I was disappointed in the film, but not enough to not want to watch it again, or indeed to stop me going to see the second one (when it is made). Read the books, enjoy them, and then see the film. So long as you are not expecting too much, the pretty pictures will be entertaining.
Since this product already has 35 reviews on it, I don't see the need to go into detail about the plot, the actors etc. I'm just going to give you my opinion.
Ok, well maybe I'll tell you the basics. It's based on the book "Northern Lights" By Philip Pullman and the main character is a little girl called Lyra, who lives in Jordan College, Oxford. Except, it's not our Oxford, it's Oxford in another parallel world. A world where a person's soul also takes the form of an animal, which continues to change form while the person is a child and takes on a sole form to reflect the person's personality once they reach adulthood. The plot is supposed to go along the lines of lyra's friend goes missing ---> Lyra and a group of gyptians (gypsies to us) travel to the kingdoms of the North to save Roger & Friends from the Gobblers---> Lyra discovers about Dust during their quest and Lyra has a rare device , an althiometer, which will tell her only the truth.
I was actually rather impressed with the opening scenes of the film. Luckily, they had decided to use an English girl to play the role of Lyra and the setting seemed just right, as described in the book. Nicole Kidman also made a very convincing Mrs Coulter. Now before I go any further, as you can see I'm judging it on the basis of how well it conveys Philip Pullman's novel, rather than how good it is as a film. (I'll get to the latter, in a bit.)Anyway, then things go down hill. Rather fast. If you don't want me to spoil it, then stop reading. The animal daemons in my opinion were not given justice, the graphics were rather cheap and most annoyingly, the voice for Iorek Byrinson was completely wrong...he is a polar bear, he's not supposed to express emotion in his voice...and he doesn't growl every two seconds! I know this is a kids movie, but even with the poor graphics, they can probably guess that he is supposed to be a polar bear. Also the last scene where Lyra leaves Iorek to cross to the other world is randomly half way through the film. As well as just completely changing the fact that someone in the film is supposed to die. Oh and Lee Scoresby is not an old man!! And even if he is, his presence should be for more than ten seconds!
For a few seconds I will ignore the book completely. For someone who has never read it, I'm sure it'd be great. A nice little story and a very exciting concept for a child. It definitely wasn't boring, that's another good point.
But, I've read the book. Therefore I really can't say that this DVD was worth the £6 it was bought for. 2 and a half stars max.
Having watched this film this weekend I have decided to review it how it came across to me. Sometimes when I watch a film I look into the background afterwards to see what I missed etc. To be honest I'm not going to waste my time with this one!
Not to be too unfair there are some ok points to this film but straight away I think it would be so much easier to understand if you have read the book it's based on . I actually think the film is made in such away that it almost expects that you have ,as it doesn't go into much detail at all. You get a little bit of commentary at the beginning explaining what daemons are in this alternate universe - but that's about it. I think the other reason for this is so they can market it to children.
A brief summary is that Lyra the main character lives in an alternate universe to ours where the people souls are called daemons and these walk beside them in the form of animals. Children's daemons can shape shift till they find their true form adults cannot. The gobblers are an unknown entity (the film's bad guys) that are kidnapping children, for what reason we don't know why until later in the film. Lyra's friend Roger gets taken by these which lead Lyra on a quest to find him she is given the golden compass to help her . The other thing I found weird about this film is that the girl Lyra is supposed to be the chosen one but not much is really said about this so it seems to make no impact on you as an audience.
One of the villains - Nicole Kidman Mrs Coulter is an evil woman whom we find out is Lyra's mother , usually I am a fan of Kidman ,however I personally found her performance weak and character shallow in this film. Fans of Daniel Craig (Lord Asriel) will also be disappointed as he is in the film for about 10 minutes in total. The only highlight of the film comes in the form of king of the armoured bears Lorek Byrnison he is a fun character that although armoured and a talking bear is puts in a more believable performance than the rest of the cast !
On to the finale, well I would write about this if there actually was one, when the film finished my husband and I just looked at each other and laughed 'is that it?' I am presuming there is going to be a sequel put it that way, I think I'll pass when that comes out!
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The Golden Compass is about a world where people have demons that go with them everywhere, a child's demon changes depending on the mood of the child. This is the first one in a couple of movies and this is the start of adventure where Lyra who is played by Dakota Blue Richards comes across the golden compass, her friend gets taken, this movie is about her getting him back. The Golden Compass also has Nicole Kidman in who plays Mrs Coulter who offers to take Lyra under her care however is the evil one in the movie, Daniel Craig who plays Lord Asriel who is Lyra's uncle. A good movie to start off with but I found it a bit hard to understand at first and the movie itself seemed to be a bit pointless and didn't seem to start of so well and ended when I thought should have been half way through the movie however when the other movie's are out I am sure they will all go well together.
A fantastically thrilling film, "The Golden Compass" with the prowling and flapping and slithering and fluttering. The animals, most of which are called daemons and are manifestations of the human soul, hover at the side of their people and near the story's edge, where their coos and barks mix with the surrounding clatter and clangs. Sometimes an animal leaps forward in alarm, its fur raised in alarm, its feathers fluttering in flight.
"The Golden Compass", a novel that was first published in Britain as "northern Lights" written by Philip Pullman. It became a massive success with some obvious reasons: spooky villains, great storyline, and interesting characters.
The main character is Lyra Belacque who embarks on the hero's journey with her shape-shifting daemon, named Pantalaimon. Pantalaimon is a friendly daemon, yet he is a courageous and determined daemon at the same time.
This film is based around Lyra and her sophisticated daemon finding Lyra's best friend Roger as he has been kidnapped, as well as children all over the globe. Lyra gets given a special type of compass as a gift which contains magical Dust.
The compass is like Lyra's guide in this film, it helps her tell the future and she finds it extremely helpful during her exotic journey ahead. On her journey she meets a drunken polar bear named Iorex who is an exile from the other bears. Together they go on the search for Roger.
One of the most spectacular scenes is defiantly the bear fight, Ragnar the king polar bear versus Iorex the exile bear. A fearsome fight with a gruesome ending. The fight is just compelling and makes you wonder who will come out better off. A range of Close ups and some over views shows you the detail the hard workers do to make this high standard film.
One other exciting scene would defiantly have to be the last one, the gyptians versus the bad guys in a frightening fight. Men and woman, Kids and adults all fighting for there story of the greater good. Which side are you cheering for?
On Lyra's journey she meets a character called Miss Courtier, her daemon taking the form of a monkey and yet has a mind like a thieve. Together they try and search for the missing Lyra aiming for the Golden Compass. Near the end you find a terrible truth about Miss Courtier which makes you want to gasp.
With a film like this, directed for kids, it is hard to completely rate this film but from an older point of view it is actually a great film for a verity of ages. I would defiantly rate it a smashing 4 out of 5 stars.
There are some down sides though. I am sorry to say that the 114 - minute film does not match the 400 - novel. The director of the film is called Chris Weitz and lives in America. This movie will be a big hit with every age person (maybe not infants). Defiantly a worth while watch over Christmas, with your family.
As you know "Northern Lights" was just one book out of the trilogy. So you will have to wait till later to see if there will be a second one. But with a great cliff hanger at the end of the first one I would be awfully surprised if they didn't make another one. High-5 to you Chris for making a great job at this.
The Golden Compass was released in 2007 and the theme like so many films over the last few years was mystical/magical/fantasy.
Nicole Kidman - Mrs Coulter
Daniel Craig - Lord Asriel
Dakota Blue Richards - Lyra Belacqua
With others such as: Christopher Lee, Ben Walker, Sam Elliott and more.
And voices from: Ian McKellan, Ian McShane, Kathy Bates, Kristen Scott Thomas and many more.
Lyra an orphan who is left in her uncle Lord Asriel's care, lives at Jordan college in an alternative universe. In this universe every person has a soul but in the form of a demon who lives side by side with the person. If the demon is hurt or dies so does the person and vice versa.
Demons change when people are children until they settle by becoming adults, then the demon stays in one form, Lyra's demon Pan, is changing still. Her friends Billy Costa and Roger both have demons but they have settled and no longer change.
Lyra sneaks in to a room at Jordan to 'borrow' a coat to trick Billy Costa, but ends up hiding in a cupboard overhearing a conversation between the college master and a member of the Magisterium, who are a religious outfit in charge of the world. The magisterium ends up putting poison in to Lord Asriel's drink then leaves, when Lord Asriel enters and pours himself a drink Lyra decides to stop her uncle from drinking, bursts out of the cupboard and knocks the glass on to the floor. Asriel is shocked to see Lyra and she tells him what she saw.
Asriel tells Lyra to go back in the cupboard as the college master, his colleagues and the magisterium enter the room, Asriel presents pictures of dust travelling from another world in to a person through his demon in the North.
Asriel proposes he travels to find the dust source in the North and travel himself to another universe, he requires funding which the college present to him against a Magisterium's wishes.
Meanwhile Lyra and Asriel part ways and Lyra is left at the college, her friends Roger and Billy Costa disappear by the Gobblers.
Lyra sets about helping Mrs Coulter by being her assistant, with promises from her they would visit the North, with Lyra's curious nature she agrees, and before she sets off the college master gives Lyra a Golden Compass or an alethiometer which she is told not to show anyone, but what is strange is Lyra can read it.
but ends up running away and setting out on her own mission to find her friends with the Gyptian king and his followers.
Will Asriel make it to the North and will Lyra find her friends?
This is supposed to be a child's film, I can't imagine a lot of kids completely understanding it fully, it is very quick moving and things aren't always explained clearly and although the setting is clearly fantasy and not realistic. There was one point in the film that Lyra is told not to show anyone the Golden Compass, she then proceeds to show the Gyptians who she has never met before, and completely puts her trust in them, why?
It was an alright film, I liked the idea, just the reality was a bit weird, dust is obviously what it is, but in the film they use and talk about it in a different way but it is not entirely explained. At one point Lyra asks Asriel and he then says it's none of her business, and Mrs Coulter says it's something they don't talk about. Ok but for those of us at home, what the hell is it?!
The main reason I put off watching this film for so long was because it is a trilogy and I haven't patience, which I remembered at the end of the film where not all that mush had been answered.
The acting was good, although it was confusing as to who was from where, I mean all the characters seem to live in the same place and although there are obvious differences in wealth and upbringing some have an east London accent while others speak far more proper and sound educated, if Lyra was at a college, you would expect her to speak well.
I like the idea of the characters and the demons, I am an animal lover and like the demons and the polar bears.
I can to the Golden Compass unaware it was from a series of books.
With no back ground knowledge i watch the film - with its overly complicated plot. As i was watching it all i could think was it was a poor relation to the Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter films.
Sure it looked good and the CGI was first rate, but to be honest, you should expect that from any blockbuster these days.
Nicole Kidman as ever looked great but she seemed to be used as a clothes horse changing from one over the top outfit to the next all the way through the film.
The young girls mockney accent came and went through out the film and, frankly, was irritating.
Overall, the film seemed too full of it's own importance, and perhaps if i had read the books i may have been kinder to it, but it really did seem like they were jumping on the Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter bandwaggon