Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Golden Compass

I finally saw the cinematic adaptation of The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman.  I needed to take a study break, and I was able to borrow the dvd from someone I know, so I did.  My observations:
  1. It wasn't as anti-Christian (or anti-religious in general) as I expected.  Of course, Pullman's pro-atheist agenda isn't nearly as obvious in the first book of His Dark Materials as it is in the second and third, where he gets really preachy.  
  2. Not knowing beforehand who was the secondary roles, I had a lot of moments of surprised recognition of prominent British thespians.  For example, there was "Oh my goodness.  Is that Derek Jacobi?  What is he doing here?"  That thought was followed three seconds later with "Christopher Lee!  Christopher Lee and Derek Jacobi in the same scene!"  
  3. Having read the book, I felt seriously cheated by the ending and suspect that many readers of Pullman feel the same way.  Lyra and Roger are NOT supposed to sail off into the arctic night in a hot air balloon at the close of the story, feeling optimistic about the future.  I heard the music start to swell and thought: "the music, the tone of Lyra's voice, and the content of her speech to Roger is telling me that the screen is going to fade to black at any second and roll credits, and that is just not right.  Come on, filmmakers, where's the heart-wrenching death of an innocent?  Where's the moment of betrayal more shocking than Luke finding out that Vader is his father and all the literal and metaphorical fallout that the betrayal entails?"  I was very displeased to find my prediction correct.  The savage twist at the end of the book is absolutely essential to the story.  This is not a case similar to the Shelob's Lair scene in the Lord of the Rings movies.  In LotR, it worked to move it.  Here, it doesn't.  The betrayal and the bridge in the air belong at the end of the movie of The Golden Compass, not at the beginning of The Subtle Knife, should that film ever be made.  
  4. Dakota Blue Richards was a good choice to play Lyra.  I'm very glad that an unknown was cast for this part.  
  5. The movie was way too short.
  6. The soundtrack was underwhelming.
  7. The CGI used to create the armored bears was impressive.
  8. I enjoyed the movie, but it's not a dvd that I'd buy or a movie that I am likely to watch a second time, something that is strange because I usually feel differently about adaptations of fantasy books.