Review of 'The Golden Compass'

the_golden_compass.jpg Perhaps it is not a good idea for me to review this film. You see, I actually like the original source material in the book (known in the UK by the name “Northern Lights”) by Philip Pullman. This movie has all of the things that happen in the book but none of the philosophy and depth that the book offers. I am not even sure whether that is simply because the movie has to compress so much into a much smaller time on the screen. I think that the director, perhaps, went for the simplest approach: Action, action, action. I guess it does sell tickets…

Lyra is a young, rebellious, and bold girl left to be brought up in an Oxford college. When Lord Asriel visits the college and tells of a great mystery in the far north Lyra's desire to go is heightened. The mysterious Mrs. Coulter takes Lyra from the college but things are not what they seem and Lyra quickly escapes from her apartment in London falling in with the Gyptians (travelers) who eventually take her to the far north in search of children that have been going missing as well as Lord Asriel himself. Along the way she encounters witches and the impressive armoured bears.

In this movie adaptation the director has chosen to avoid the questions of theology that the book raises but instead goes for the big-screen action adventure. An example of this is the traditional “narrow ice bridge across a chasm” scene (not in the book). A bit of on-screen drama that is not required for the plot but used whereas other more deeper philosophical elements are left out. I will also suggest that the actor that plays Lyra does not appear to know how to act and the effects are not exactly the most impressive in the world. They are not the worst – I particularly like some of the scenes with the armoured bear Iorek Byrnison, such as when he rampages through the town to retrieve his armour.

A disappointing adaptation that could have been so much better. I can only hope that the next chapter (if it makes it to the screen) does not make the same mistakes as this.


Review Date: 2007-12-08

Directed by: Chris Weitz

Studio: New Line Cinema

Year: 2007

Length: 113 minutes

Genre: Fantasy

Other reviewed films by Chris Weitz: