Dec 10, 2007

[Movies] The Golden Compass

The Golden CompassI just got home from watching The Golden Compass with my partner and some friends and being someone who has never read the books, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Given I always try to take adaptations independently from their originals / source material, this fact probably helps me keep my sense of focus.

The Golden Compass is based on a trilogy of novels written by Philip Pullman collectively named, His Dark Materials. The series deals with parallel universes, magic, killer polar bears and magical artifacts. In this post-Harry Potter era, it seems to be one of many young adult books that Hollywood continues to pick up the rights for in the hopes that they'll come up with another hit.

This wasn't so bad a choice given some of the other things floating around the writing world. Seriously. Or perhaps I feel this way just because the producers behind the movie managed to bring the first book to life in a very dynamic manner. I found the movie highly entertaining and hardly as controversial as some organizations were positioning it to be. It just goes to show that the Religious Right tends to react to shadows of their own making more often than not.

The Golden Compass is based on the first book in the series and was originally entitled, Northern Lights but was renamed for its release in US markets. The story centers around Lyra Belacqua (Dakota Blue Richards)and her daemon Pantalaimon (Freddie Highmore), which is essentially a sort of representative of the human soul / conscience that appears in the form of an animal companion.

I liked the pacing of the movie a lot. Many book-to-film translations tend to get lost here and there in the course of the movie and a lot of much-needed exposition gets turned into dead / slow areas in the film. The people behind Compass clearly made an effort to keep things moving swiftly, which makes me all the more curious as to how the original books flow. (Note to self: Buy the His Dark Materials books). The action / adventure sequences were pretty much well-executed and didn't feel like overly elaborate set-pieces placed simply for our entertainment or something.

This is not to say the acting was perfectly top notch. In some ways many characters felt a bit too one-dimensional but given this is the first of a trilogy, character development can be excused to a certain point given the main pressure of this movie was to set up the universe and put all the pieces on the board, as it were. It makes you slightly obligated to fully measure this piece of work alongside the other two stories should the trilogy be completed, but then this is a single review that needs to stand on its own, hence it still gets the warky/manky character development note.

Overall I felt it was a pretty great movie. Good action, cool plot and great special effects. What can I say? I'm a sucker for animated cats sleeping in beds, lol. I certainly look forward to the next film in the hopes they manage to really up the ante. This part did what it was supposed to do - set up the playing field for the rest of the action and firmly establish the main cast. Now the fun stuff really begins.

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