Betsy Speicher

The Golden Compass (2007)

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27 posts in this topic

See background information on atheist Philip Pullman's children's fantasy series (of which The Golden Compass is the first title), under Fiction Books--Ratings and Reviews,

as well as this fan site, with much news, video clips and music clips: http://www.bridgetothestars.net/ .

Looks exciting!

Reportedly, the movie follows the book closely, with 2 exceptions:

(1) the Church Magisterium that rules much of the world in the novel, is referred to in the movie only as "the Magisterium."

(2) second-handed movie executives also :D decided to OMIT the last 3 chapters of the novel, so it would have a Hollywood ending. In the novel, these are the chapters with Lyra's desperate ride across the polar wastes to save her friend's life, the battle with the zeppelin (flame thrower versus machine gun!), and the great betrayal/murder by an adult Lyra thought she could trust, that opens the path to the city beyond the Aurora.

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Reportedly, the movie follows the book closely, with 2 exceptions:

(1) the Church Magisterium that rules much of the world in the novel, is referred to in the movie only as "the Magisterium."

Also what I don’t think they are going to mention; is that the Magisterium is the Catholic Church, after they destroy the title of Pope. I heard they are watering down some of the religious themes in the book to reach a wider audience.

(2) second-handed movie executives also :D decided to OMIT the last 3 chapters of the novel, so it would have a Hollywood ending. In the novel, these are the chapters with Lyra's desperate ride across the polar wastes to save her friend's life, the battle with the zeppelin (flame thrower versus machine gun!), and the great betrayal/murder by an adult Lyra thought she could trust, that opens the path to the city beyond the Aurora.

That’s a shame, because those scenes were so powerful in the book.

Of course, New Line does plan sequels if this movie is successful, and that could make for a very entertaining opining scene.

(Spoilers, please don’t read)

One thing that I am worried about; is that this film will be too ‘watered down’ by its makers, taking away any real sense of urgency and danger. Through the book, you get a sense that Lyra is in real danger, as well as those she is trying to save.

It’s a book about child killers and mad scientists, will they include the heartbreaking scene with the boy ‘cut’ from his deamon? Will we get a sense in battle that people are actually being hurt? Will Lyra’s betrayal be done justice?

Like the religious themes, I’m, afraid that, in order to reach a wider audience, they will hollow this movie out, leaving only its impressive visuals.

-Ryan

P.S.--- The religious themes could be fairly easily avoided in this book, but the next two books it will be difficult, especially the third.

I don’t know how they could avoid this except to gut the whole story.

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Judging from the trailer:

http://www.goldencompassmovie.com/

I think there'll still be plenty of urgency and danger.

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WARNING -- PARTIAL SPOILERS

Please see my review of the novel, at http://forums.4aynrandfans.com/index.php?showtopic=7387

The movie is a reasonably faithful adaptation. It lacks much of the richness of the Philip Pullman novel, so I do recommend you read the novel first. For one thing, the book illustrates in far greater depth how important the bond is, in this fantasy world, between a person and his or her “daemon”—the externalization of their soul (though the film’s depiction of Lyra almost being severed from hers is truly frightening).

The movie should have been longer. Its pace is too hurried; several scenes should have been more fleshed out. As it is, the actors do a splendid job, bringing the characters to life quite memorably—especially Eva Green as the witch Serafina, Daniel Craig as Lord Asriel, and Nicole Kidman as Mrs. Coulter. The “gyptians” (gypsies) are suitably fierce, though kind toward those who deserve it. Twelve year old Dakota Blue Richards does as fine a job as the screenplay allows—but the novel’s Lyra is even wilder, spunkier, sassier, more independent and untamed! She brings down the Experimental Station, not by smashing some science-fiction gadgets, but by a more mundane yet far more resourceful method.

Though the controversy-fearing movie executives hide the fact that the Magisterium is a church, there are several references to heretics and freethinkers as its enemies, who must be killed.

The movie shuffles some scenes toward the end, putting the duel of the polar bears before the fight at Bolvangar, for some reason. And it truncates the novel, deleting the last three chapters. One scene included in the trailer is missing, in which Lyra defies Mrs. Coulter: “I’m not yours! I’ll never be yours!” (Perhaps the battle with the zeppelin is already in the can, for the sequel?)

Two bad slip-ups by the screenwriter--the kind that contradict the rest of a characterization—were fortunately very brief: he has Lord Asriel make some weak quip as he’s captured on a glacier by Tartars (he! a man who’s going to commit the crime he commits, and to dare what he dares!); and he has Iorek Byrnison say he was exiled for losing a fight (in the book, he was exiled for killing another bear).

So I recommend: read the book and see the movie.

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So I recommend: read the book and see the movie.

I second Mr. Bucko's recommendation, and intend to read the book soon. The universe portrayed in the movie is very rich, but the film shares a weakness of the latter Harry Potter movies: if you didn't read the book, you'll lose much of the story.

I especially like Ian McKellen's performance as a character I'll leave you to discover. His performance is, in my opinion, very close to how the Aslan character should have been delivered in the first Narnia movie (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe). I read the Narnia books as a child and was very, very disappointed with that movie.

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Here's a link to Objectivist Scott Holleran's review:

http://www.boxofficemojo.com/reviews/?id=2427&p=.htm

though I think many of his criticisms are overblown or misguided. He certainly has not read the book ("witches with no apparent interest in men"?); I also don't know where he got the bit about bears that "hold lifelong grudges," or Lyra "flirting." It "recalls" other fantasy movies to him, only because he's never read the book. It's definitely quite a bit better and more original than he makes out.

I hope an extended version is issued on DVD.

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SPOILER alert

Wow, I read that review, and I thought it to be completely wrong.

broom-based witches with no apparent interest in men

The main witch had a relationship with a man, end of story.

The worst of these involves polar bears—known as ice bears in this world—that rule entire kingdoms and hold lifelong grudges. When Lyra inexplicably begins flirting with one of them, the picture loses its way.

I'm sorry, but if a man killed my father, I would hold a grudge as well. I do not see anything wrong with what the bear did. And flirting? Does this person not believe in friendship at all? Is his life that depressing? Please...

That climactic scene, peaking too soon and having no real impact on, or relevance to, the central story progression, is one of many that's startlingly violent—children and animals are gored and electrocuted—in a movie that's also remarkably loud.

Every scene I saw, the violence was relevant, and no children were killed as far as I know. I don't know what movie this reviewer was watching.

But let's talk about the good of this movie, instead of bashing some reviewer who had no clue what he was talking about. To me, this movie was about people standing up against tyranny. Where a girl, who would did not believe in being subjected to tyranny, stood up for what's right. I heard the book was much better, but I never expect a movie to be better, so I did not even consider that. The movie alone, since I have not read the book, was amazing.

My favorite character by far, was the ice bear, whose name escapes me at the moment. He was a drunkard, who, before meeting the girl, lost everything, could not stand up for himself, and wallowed in his own depression. When he met the girl, he gained a new flow of confidence, and eventually stood up to an evil king and beat him. I see him as the most moral, and most virtuous character in the movie!

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SPOILER alert

[...]

My favorite character by far, was the ice bear, whose name escapes me at the moment. He was a drunkard, who, before meeting the girl, lost everything, could not stand up for himself, and wallowed in his own depression. When he met the girl, he gained a new flow of confidence, and eventually stood up to an evil king and beat him. I see him as the most moral, and most virtuous character in the movie!

His name is Iorek Byrnison, played by Ian McKellen, as I had hinted in my previous post.

I too did not like Scott Holleran's review. When he gets it wrong, he can be w-a-a-a-y off mark. But, he's recommended some rather good stuff. He's usually good at judging old-fashioned movies; movies with a leaning toward "family values"; and movies with heavy characterization.

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There's more than one highly passionate affair between a witch and a human, in the series ... made more poignant by the fact that witches live for centuries, and know they will long outlive the man they love. In the second novel, a witch commits murder/suicide through thwarted love.

It's possible Mr Holleran, as a reviewer, saw an earlier version of the movie, which was probably tinkered with right up to its release. An early account I read did mention blood and gore in the polar bear fight, with Iorek ripping his enemy's ribs open and eating his heart (as in the novel).

Children "electrocuted"?!? Sparks certainly did fly, in the experimental chamber at Bolvangar; but if Mr Holleran mistook what the Church was doing to the children as electrocution, then he must have missed a half hour or so of the movie.

I definitely look forward to an EXPANDED DVD version of this remarkable film!

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I too did not like Scott Holleran's review. When he gets it wrong, he can be w-a-a-a-y off mark. But, he's recommended some rather good stuff. He's usually good at judging old-fashioned movies; movies with a leaning toward "family values"; and movies with heavy characterization.

I have noticed this about Holleran's reviews for awhile. Any type of fantasy elements in a movie totally through him off. I don't actually think that he even knows what he is looking at after a certain point. It is not the negative reviews that stand out, but the multiple incorrect accounting of what happens during a movie. I remember his review of the last Star Wars movie. He got so many facts wrong that one could legitimately question whether he had even seen the movie, or had never seen any Star Wars movie and just read a synopsis before scooping up a ticket to see that one.

And god forbid don't let things move fast or make a lot of noise!

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I too did not like Scott Holleran's review. When he gets it wrong, he can be w-a-a-a-y off mark. But, he's recommended some rather good stuff. He's usually good at judging old-fashioned movies; movies with a leaning toward "family values"; and movies with heavy characterization.

I have noticed this about Holleran's reviews for awhile. Any type of fantasy elements in a movie totally through him off. I don't actually think that he even knows what he is looking at after a certain point. It is not the negative reviews that stand out, but the multiple incorrect accounting of what happens during a movie. I remember his review of the last Star Wars movie. He got so many facts wrong that one could legitimately question whether he had even seen the movie, or had never seen any Star Wars movie and just read a synopsis before scooping up a ticket to see that one.

And god forbid don't let things move fast or make a lot of noise!

I agree with everything you've said. Those are my thoughts exactly.

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And god forbid don't let things move fast or make a lot of noise!

Haha, well said. The man might as well stick to documentaries and silent films.

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I was very impressed by the film and can't wait to read the books.

The story was compelling -- a real "page turner" of a movie. :)

Lyra, the heroine, is clearly, consistently, and strongly heroic -- with no apologies.

The acting is uniformly solid, the special effects contextually blended (i.e., they fit the story and scenes seamlessly).

Overall the film was very well made.

But for me the real winner was the sweeping story and especially the spirit, the theme, and the explicit philosophical stands taken. And from what I hear, those are even more pronounced in the books!

Highly recommended.

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Thank you for the brief and insightful review. I saw the movie yesterday and I agree on all counts. The books are, of course, much better. Definitely, read the books. I discovered them while waiting for Goblet of Fire (the book); when JK Rowling was asked in an interview what she would recommend reading while fans were waiting for GOF, she recommended His Dark Materials. It's not as well written as HP, of course, but it deals with major religious and ethical themes in a very creative way. In my entire life, I have seen two movies that were better than the book - the Lord of the Rings and the Ten Commandments.

With the light turn-out so far, it appears they may not make the sequels, which would be a big shame.

And thank you for not trashing Scott Holleran. I have never read a reviewer I always - or even usually -- agree with, but Scott is an intelligent and thoughtful reviewer. He sometimes misses the point, as he apparently did on this movie (I haven't read his review), but he does not deserve to be so thoughtlessly dismissed.

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I thought the film was quite good and gave it a 9 for a Sense of Life. The message of free will is definitely a positive.

I'd been aware that some Christians were offended by the film or book, but I didn't see the film as necessarily anti-religious. I thought it could also be taken as anti-fascist (if one had to pick an "anti" word).

Without having read The Golden Compass, the film almost reminded me of the story in The Giver by Lois Lowry.

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I thought the film was quite good and gave it a 9 for a Sense of Life. The message of free will is definitely a positive.

I'd been aware that some Christians were offended by the film or book, but I didn't see the film as necessarily anti-religious. I thought it could also be taken as anti-fascist (if one had to pick an "anti" word).

Without having read The Golden Compass, the film almost reminded me of the story in The Giver by Lois Lowry.

That is because they have changed A LOT before the movie was released.

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I likewise enjoyed the movie, but, having just read the 3 books, I found it more enjoyable for its excellent realization of Lyra's world. There were some things that I hadn't fully visualized in my mind that they brought wonderfully to life (the dirigibles, for example). Lyra herself turned out to be excellent in the role. I didn't like her for it, at first, but she was equal to the demands.

I can't strongly enough recommend reading the books. One of the things I enjoyed about the first book was the amount of active effort it required. It was not hard to read, per se, Pullman is an excellent writer. Rather, he chose just to dump us in a different world, with subtle differences and, rather than explaining them up front -- as the movie did in voice over before the first action of any character had taken place -- he let us "go with the flow" and puzzle it out for ourselves. The result was a feeling of light bulbs going off, the pleasure of understanding, when things fell into place, the joy of discovery. That interactive nature of the books (primarily the first) made this a really engaging read.

I see the movie as a worthy adjunct to the books, a kind of illustrated review and enhancement, but the books are the thing.

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Oh, one more thing: Nicole Kidman was not, strictly-speaking, as described in the book. Mrs. Coulter is "dark-haired" as written. But, after seeing her in this role, I can't imagine any other contemporary actress doing it. She was perfect.

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I saw this movie tonight and really loved it. I haven't read the books yet, but it certainly left me wanting to read them.

I almost never agree with movie reviews, but I find it especially odd than an Objectivist would criticize a movie so vehemently for having too many characters.. Ayn Rand's novels have lots of characters, too. But I never found that distracting or hard to follow and I had no problems keeping up with the characters in this movie.

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Between Gyptians—not Egyptians, though real Earthbound places are cited, too, just to confuse—and broom-based witches with no apparent interest in men, The Golden Compass pummels the viewer with countless characters...

...One of the dozens of characters asks: "Is that all?" which sums up the feeling one gets after sitting through this busy, noisy extravaganza.

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I just checked http://www.bridgetothestars.net/ again, and found lots of news.

There's still doubt as to whether any sequels will be filmed. (As you'll see when I post my vitriolic review of the third novel in the series, I will not necessarily be disappointed if there are none.)

There's talk of an April 2008 release date on DVD: "there is potential for a revised 2 hours 30 minutes running time, even without adding on the missing ending."

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There's still doubt as to whether any sequels will be filmed. (As you'll see when I post my vitriolic review of the third novel in the series, I will not necessarily be disappointed if there are none.)

There's talk of an April 2008 release date on DVD: "there is potential for a revised 2 hours 30 minutes running time, even without adding on the missing ending."

I am almost done with the third book and I am pretty sure of what you're going to say. I knew he wasn't going to score a home run in the first place (at least philosophically), but there was a definite point in the book (and I'll leave it for you to write as you are a much clearer writer than I) where I thought: you just caved your entire premise!. There is still some redeeming expressions expressed, but I still have 45 pages to go and he may betray those as well. There is a whole story path in this book that I thought was a wrong turn.

I am still glad to have read the series. I thought the downfall of Metatron at the chasm was superbly written.

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The only fantasy series I know that is philosophically not disappointing is Goodkind's The Sword of Truth series. Unfortunately though, Mr Goodkind has several weaknesses as a writer, and the editors at TOR should be summarily executed (not really, but they are terrible).

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Just went to see the movie - and I cannot recommend it to anyone. It is what The Lord Of The Ring movies could have been if the director had decided to dumb the story down, "quicken the pace", lighten the tone, remove anything that might conceivably offend anyone, and fit the story into 1 hour and 50 minute.

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