Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Golden Compass, starring Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig and Dakota Blue Richardson : A Review

A couple of days before I was to see the premier of The Golden Compass, a friend forwarded me an email urging me to boycott the movie because of its anti-God message targeted at children.

The Golden Compass is based on a book called Northern Lights (also called The Golden Compass in the United States) by Phillip Pullman.

It tells the story tells of Lyra Belacqua, a girl who goes on a voyage to rescue her best friend and other children who have disappeared from her community.

The book is part of a series by Phillip Pullman set in a universe where people’s spirits, called daemons, manifest as animals and walk alongside them.

I had already seen the media coverage where many religious groups slammed the movie and its associated books. One report also cited Pullman as saying he wanted to “kill God.”

Despite being a self-confessed Christian, I attended the premier. I went because I like fantasy and The Golden Compass sounded interesting. I also wanted to see if the movie did indeed bash God, or if it was the same hysteria that accompanied Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Harry Potter movies, among others.

The Review

Caveat: I’m not a professional reviewer or expert in the arts, and attended the premier courtesy of pan-African mobile provider MTN

That said, I’m a huge fan of fantasy, and have lately been reading a lot of books populated by demons (they seem to be fashionable in literature lately). So I expected an epic fantasy tale that would be a visual feast for me, and maybe later, my daughter. Sadly the movie was very disappointing.

l could find nothing wrong with the actors’ performance. Daniel Craig is convincing as Lord Asriel and I really wanted to know more on his storyline, but the director kept it very short. Clearly it was an introduction, with more details provided in the next movie.

Nicole Kidman does the stunning but sinister Marisa Coulter very well, but somehow, the character was not rounded enough for me to root against her. Or is that I didn’t love central character Lyra, played by Dakota Blue Richardson and so didn’t much care if she lost against Coulter?

The movie does not fully show Lyra as a proactive character who sets out to do things. It’s more that things happen to her and she gets swept along with the tide of grown-ups concerned about the issue. Pretty shabby, I think, for a heroine…

As to the overall structure of the movie, it felt like an introduction of a major epic, rather than a self-contained movie. Yes, I understand that it’s part of a series, but each movie should stand alone even while driving towards the next installment. Lord of the Rings did that incredibly well.

So no, I would not recommend that Baby watch The Golden Compass. Her R20 would be better spent on another movie.

However, the premier itself was a very classy, well-organised event. I met some very interesting people and watched quite a few local stars as they went about the evening, The food was also great and the drinks were endless. It was a really memorable evening.


Steve Hayes said...

Interesting review -- thanks.

As I've read the books twice, perhaps I'll go and see it, because I won't be left hanging too much.

The books were a good read, though nothing outstanding.

Damaria Senne said...

Hi Steve

Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you enjoy the movie. Maybe having read the books will give you the context I lacked, help you enjoy it more.

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