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The Golden Compass – Movie review

January 8, 2008

200px-the_golden_compass.jpgThe Golden Compass, released a few days ago in India, was fun to watch. This film, like one reviewer said, is reminiscent of a Harry Potter film. However, if I had to compare it to a Harry Potter film, I would say the Golden Compass is far less tension-ridden, certainly less dark, and the plot is more difficult to understand. But this could be because I have not read the book. I certainly felt a lack of coherence in the story-telling (of the movie).

The movie is based on a novel (trilogy) by Philip Pullman and is directed by Chris Weitz. Nicole Kidman and Daniel certainly act in it, but the leading lady is smart intelligent looking Dakota Blue Richards who plays 12 year old Lyra, an orphan. Good acting by the girl and she has been nominated for several awards on account of it.

I enjoy fantasy movies and therefore liked this one, even if the target audience of the film are teens. The animation was absolutely brilliant and if you are an animation fan this movie is worth seeing. It’s basically an adventure story and revolves around the young Lyra, who the witches have predicted will decide on the course her world will take in the future. Lyra lives in a parallel universe and this world co-exists with several others on the planet. What is so special about Lyra’s world? Well their souls (called demons) don’t exist within their bodies, but outside, and are in the form of animals and/birds/creatures. The animation was an absolute treat to watch and I guess that is why I found the movie so enjoyable. The expressions on the faces of the creatures are amazingly human and quite natural.

The villain in The Golden Compass is the government (called the Magisterium). They know that other worlds exist out there, but are reluctant to discover those other worlds. In fact their main aim is to hide the truth from the people as they feel that this will decrease their power. Lyra’s uncle Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig), thinks differently and sets out to discover these new worlds, where he has heard people do not have demons, and this upsets the Magisterium. They want to kill him…stop him at any cost.

It is interesting to note that the term ‘demon’ here is not used in a negative sense. Apparently this movie was almost banned by the church in some countries because it is considered some sort of ‘atheist’ movie. I guess there are layers of some sort in the movie, of rebellion against a government which apparently stands for organised religion (christianity?) but it’s possible to enjoy the movie without going too deeply into it. I preferred it that way as I could not really get the religious symbolism.

The Golden Compass is so named because of a mysterious instrument which tells the truth. But only a few can read it, and Lyra is one of them. It is with the help of the compass that she and her demon set out on their adventure. Lyra has two things on her agenda. One, to find the disappearing children in the village (the kidnappers are called the Gobblers and it’s a mystery as to why the children are disappearing) and the second is to find her uncle who has set out north to try and discover a way to reach the other worlds. Lyra’s compass has told her that he is in danger.

Before she sets out on her travels, Lyra meets the beautiful and charming Mrs. Coulter (Nicole Kidman) and is mesmerized by her charm and show of affection. The viewer is kept guessing as to which side Mrs. Coulter is on…as her good and evil side is revealed alternatively. Until the end of the movie we aren’t really sure…and I think that’s left for the next movie in the triology.

During her journey Lyra meets many interesting characters – human, animal and supernatural. Some have demons, some don’t. However I didn’t like the way the plot was strung together. It was like watching a series of interesting incidents patched together into a movie. Odd feeling to get in a movie which is based on a novel. If you compare it to really superb fantasy movies like Lord of the Rings or even a fantasy adventure like Harry Potter, this movie pales in comparison. But this week there wasn’t any other new release that we thought worth seeing. And movie buffs that both me and my husband are (he particularly enjoys fantasy movies) we decided to to watch this one. And no, we didn’t regret our decision. It really wasn’t a bad sort of movie.

If I had to sum it up I would say it’s a time-pass film, with brilliant animation. It’s also a safe film to take one’s kids too. I think those in the age bracket of 10-18 will enjoy this film better than adults. Maybe I liked it because I am er…18 ;) At heart I mean.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 9, 2008 11:10 am

    I’ve read the Catholic Church is offended by the movie because the Magisterium bears too close a resemblance to the Church.

  2. January 10, 2008 7:19 pm

    Paul, I just noticed your comment! :) thanks a lot for responding to this post. I think the post after this got such a flurry of comments that I didn’t see this one at all. It was when I was checking my ‘manage’ page that i noticed!
    About the magisterium bearing a resemblance to the church, now that I think of it, it does. the way those people were dressed for example. In this case ofcourse the magisterium stands for all authority and I am glad better sense prevailed and the movie was not banned.

  3. January 11, 2008 12:26 pm

    U haven’t read the books :D
    Part 2 and 3 will cause the church to ban it.
    It is most definitely anti Church, as the second and third books directly refer to the Church, Adam and Eve and the Serpent.

    I haven’t seen the movie yet, but read all the books.
    the trilogy isn’t called ‘His Dark Materials’ for nothing.

  4. January 11, 2008 1:29 pm

    Hey deadmanwalking, thanks for that perspective! I guess one shouldn’t see the movie without reading the book. I know I enjoyed Harry Potter far better because I had read the book.

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