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December 15, 2007

The Golden Compass - 4

Religious controversy aside (read Jeff Overstreet's good response to it), this film was less than compelling. The fantastical world that Pullman has created is somewhat intriguing but the story develops slowly and much is left unexplained (and with film you really have to work hard to show rather than just narrate facts). The Golden Compass is a gift that young Lyra gets from the head master at her school/orphanage. It allows its user to ask questions and then look into it and the truth is revealed. Lyra is invited to go to the north by Marisa Coulter (Nicole Kidman), and longs to go because her uncle Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig) is headed there to investigate "the dust" (which is not quite the equivalent to Lucas' "Force" but has something to do with the creation of the universe the characters live in, which is a parallel one to ours). It is on this journey that the adventure begins as Lyra discovers that children are being kidnapped and she recruits the fallen bear king Iorek Byrnison to help her save her friends from having their daemon's killed. Oh yeah, everyone in this parallel universe has their soul in the form of an animal that stays with the person. What really kills this story is the final minutes of the film which feel like a trailer for the second film, the characters mine as well have looked at the camera and said, "stay tuned for the sequel in 2009 where we will attempt to save Lord Asriel from the danger he is in." The film ends up being to short with many scenes that end to quickly, which makes the plot jumpy and somewhat hard to follow. On a more positive note, the acting is done well, but the main reason to watch this film is for the CGI which is excellent.
What interests me most about this film is the metaphor that Pullman intends. I think it is more complex than any black and white controversy can speak to, because in fact, this film actually shows that in this fantasy world there is no such thing as good. There is definitely evil, but the heroine's response is not to appeal to the good, but rather a mystical pragmatism to fight off this evil oppression/authority. Truth in this world is human freedom. Any threat to this god is worth the ultimate struggle and fight, but not to the point of death- because then you have lost. In this way The Golden Compass exists in a very different world than the worlds created by Tolkien, Lewis, and Rowling.

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