movies: the golden compass

the golden compass - there are worlds beyond our own... the compass will show the wayWhen J was at my place before Christmas he mentioned that he wanted to go and see The Golden Compass (we caught part of a "Making of" special on teevee), which both Ma and I also wanted to see since we've read the books, and I still had a $10 ticket card thing that expires at the end of the year, so after I gave J his big scary hamper present (he was suitably impressed, but also a little traumatised I think... which was pretty much the intention) we all trundled off to see it this afternoon.

As with all these types of movies I fully expected that they would excise huge chunks of plot, entire subplots and characters and I had heard that they removed almost all of the references to religion and suchlike that are in the books (although a little less in the first one than the second two from memory), plus there were some reports that were saying that the lead girl, Dakota Blue Richards couldn't act her way out of a paper bag... so obviously I was kind of expecting the whole movie to be a bit of a disaster area.

What it turned out to be was a bit of a mixed bag actually.

Some of it was quite good... the alternate Oxford, most of the treatment of the animal "daemon" characters... but other bits of it kinda fell flat. Dakota wasn't THAT bad... her character of Lyra is a bit of a brat and a pain in the butt in all three books actually, so she didn't miss the mark of her character that much. Nicole Kidman however was a bit flat as the villainous Mrs Coulter... for whatever reason the menace you get from reading her character on the page wasn't really there in Nicole's performance... also, as Brenton said recently, it was fairly obvious that either she's had work done or else she was sporting a forehead full of Botox, because her forehead never moved while she was supposed to be busy emoting... and while a lot of her costumes were striking, I've seen her look far more stunning in other things.

I'm always a big one for watching the background of scenes, or those little small details that other people might not notice... and I was a little disappointed in some spots with the lack of daemons in the big crowd shots... yes, I know it would have been expensive making sure that each human character (especially all the extras) had their appropriate animal daemon following them, and you could argue that some of the daemons were creatures that would fit in a pocket or on a shoulder or inside a hood or whatever (and in scenes where the characters are sitting at a table you could also argue that the daemons were under the table, out of sight), but when you only see a certain character's daemon in the very first scene they're in, and then don't ever see it again after that, it's a little jarring (and if you're anything like me you spend a lot of time looking for it every time that character is on screen). I will however give props to the person who gave one of the scientist characters towards the end of the movie what was pretty much a standard white lab rat... quite amusing.

I was also a little shocked when the movie ended maybe 10-15 minutes earlier than it should... basically they ended it on a "riding off into the sunset to do daring do" spot, and missed out a whole bunch of plot and backstory and important action, that they're pretty much now going to have to cram into the beginning of the second movie if that ever gets made. And it was something of a shock for J, since he decided that since it was a nice quite talking bit he would nip off to the bathroom, only to come back to find that the movie had ended in his absence.

It's certainly not a movie I would put in the same league as any of the Harry Potter movies or the Narnia movie or any of the Lord of the Rings ones... not the worst movie I've ever seen in the genre, but definately not the best one.

yani's rating: 2 shapeshifting daemons out of 5

1 comment:

Alexander said...

I saw the film for the second time yesterday, and I have to agree with most everything you wrote. Especially jarring for me was their choice to end the film two or three chapters before the end of the book. If you watch the trailers, all that footage was filmed, but in order to maintain a more "upbeat" holiday ending, it ended up on the cutting room floor. That (and supposedly much more) is slated to be included in the director's cut DVD.

As far as the acting, I'll give the troupe the benefit of the doubt, because it usually takes an ensemble cast a while to get into each other's groove. I'm sure things will improve with "The Subtle Knife," assuming it's made.

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