Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Movie Review: The Golden Compass

golden-compassWell... I have finally seen The Golden Compass - the movie adaptation of the first in Philip Pullman’s fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials. In my view, it is an excellent adaptation of the book despite the occasional reordering of some events to make the movie move along at a better pace. Lyra Belarcqua (Dakota Blue Richards) is a 12 year old girl who has to travel through parallel universes in order to rescue her best friend and contend with evil. Because I have already reviewed the book on which this film is based, I won’t repeat all that is there. (You can read my review here.) As many have said, The Golden Compass movie has diluted the specifically anti-Christian themes in the first book instead focusing more on the issue of authoritarianism and the way that institutional authority often oppresses thought and truth. In fact, in one of the dialogues in the film, one of the characters says that a war is coming and that the war is over the issue of free will. For Pullman, Christianity, in particular, has oppressed freedom of choice and the pursuit of truth. The explicit references to the biblical story of the Fall and other Christian ideas are missing from the film. I am currently reading the second book of the trilogy and the anti-Christian sentiments become increasingly explicit. (I’ll leave discussion of these for my review of that book in the near future.) In this sense, those who have criticised the movie for cutting out the "soul" of Pullman’s first book are correct, although the film still remains a highly relevant critique of authoritarianism. What will be interesting to see, however, is how this dilution can be maintained in future episodes of the movie sequence given that these themes become increasingly more strident and stronger and Pullman’s agenda is explicitly anti-Christian. The Golden Compass is enjoyable viewing. Dakota Blue Richards is a delight in her role as Lyra and Nicole Kidman is excellent as Mrs Coulter - the agent of the Magisterium - the church-like organisation suppressing the "truth" about Dust (see my book review for explanations of these terms). The special effects are great and those who take their children to see the movie will have a lot to talk about when it is over. We now look forward to the second movie which, according to the director, he wants to be more iconoclastic (Christianity Today Movies). If this is true, then we can look forward to a much more ruthless criticism of Christianity and Pullman’s negative view of its influence in history. My Rating: **** (out of 5) Positive Review ’A darker, deeper fantasy epic than the "Rings" trilogy, "The Chronicles of Narnia" or the "Potter" films. It springs from the same British world of quasi-philosophical magic, but creates more complex villains and poses more intriguing questions. As a visual experience, it is superb. As an escapist fantasy, it is challenging.’ - Roger Ebert/Chicago Sun-Times Negative Review ’The final sad joke is this: Weitz took a wonderful story about the danger of severing a soul from its otherwise empty body and did that very thing to his source.’ - Lawrence Toppman/Charlotte Observer AUS: PG (mild fantasy violence - some scenes may frighten young viewers) USA: PG-13 (sequences of fantasy violence) Related Links

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