Review: The Golden Compass

I started typing this to contribute to the forum discussion, but it got really long so it’s now a blog.

Last night I got the opportunity to take in a preview screening of The Golden Compass. Since I’m a nerdy enough guy I don’t mind a good fantasy movie here and there. Initially I was lukewarm on the movie (may have had something to do with having to sit in the front row).

After a day to think about it I’ve come around quite a bit on this movie. My major gripe with it is the pacing was way too fast, and a lot of major plot points and settings were packed in together, but it’s very difficult to introduce and frame an entire fantasy world in less than 2 hours. I think it would have been better off with an additional 30 minutes to let things breathe a bit.

Part of the problem is that Peter Jackson set the bar too high with the Lord of the Rings movies, but The Golden Compass seems to stand on its own pretty well. The special effects and art direction are unique enough from typical fantasy, leaving the theater we had a discussion about how the aesthetic is reminiscent of the game Final Fantasy III on Super Nintendo if you remember that sort of thing. The Industrial Revolution type fantastical technology meets magic and monsters sort of vibe is a nice change of pace.

Overall I did enjoy this movie and taking a step back from the ending and realizing that there definitely are going to be a couple more movies it works pretty well. They really were heavy handed about wrapping it up there, and there is a pretty neat battle towards the end, despite the couple of GIANT AWESOME BEAR OUT OF EFFING NOWHERE moments. Can’t help but smile at those though.

Casting was great, the girl who plays Lyra was good for the role, Nicole Kidman is great as the creepy Mrs. Coulter, Ian McKellen was a good choice for the voice of Ioric the bear, and we’ll see how Daniel Craig does more in the next couple of movies I’m guessing. Even though she’s not as ridiculously attractive as she was opposite the aforementioned Craig in the last Bond movie, I liked Eva Green as the prominent witch character. Last but certainly not least, I think Sam Elliot plays pretty much the same role in every movie, but I love it every time he’s on screen, and his ‘daemon’ was perfect.

Overall, I’ll give the movie 3.75 out of 5 fountain cokes, to Fellowship of the Ring’s 5 out of 5. Definitely worth seeing if you’re able to enjoy fantasy kinds of movies. I still haven’t seen Chronicles of Narnia, I probably should get on that.

SCANDAL RELATED Postscript: After seeing the movie and then reading about the ‘Controversy’ surrounding it, it all seemed pretty silly to me. I haven’t read the series of books that this movie started the adaptations to. Evidently they’re known for their themes against ‘organized religion,’ but in the movie they’re really toned down. If anything it’s more anti-authority than anti-religion, on a level similar to the Star Wars trilogy (IV-VI anyway). The “Magisterium” in the books is supposed to evoke a church similar to the old church of rome that has strayed from its roots and now seeks to control everyone rather than enlighten them. Kinda Paradise Lost-lite themes of free will in there, but really I don’t see what the fuss is about other than they use the word heresy a few times.

Last I checked Christianity did go similarly astray from its roots there in the middle ages, even I received the smoothed over version of those events in Catholic school. There were reasons for the clash between the Franciscan and Benedictine schools of thought, and reasons that Martin Luther went redecorating, and reasons there was a counter-reformation that got things started back on the right track. Obviously things never got even close to as bad as they do with “The Magisterium.” But if you’re really getting that upset over the comparison then I’m not sure what to tell you, read a history book. But this sort of stuff is really harmless and in no way attacks anybody’s faith. Most dystopias are pretty outrageous but still plausible intentionally so as to remind people not to let things even get half as out of hand.