The Golden Compass

January 11, 2008 at 10:30 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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An Alethiometer – it tells the truth. This review contains spoilers.

Jan 11, 2008 by


Film Hanger

Paper Hanger Blog
Wellington
New Zealand

The film is based on Northern Lights – the first book in Philip Pulman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. I have not read the books, but I might be tempted – just to see how much they changed. Chris Weitz was the director.

The first chunk of the film sets up the story for the first book/film and the sequels. It got a little tedious. It was fascinating to consider a world where people (a) have souls, and (b) these souls have their own physical manifestations, and act more like a close companion.

Inspired decision to cast Nicole Kidman in the role of “Mrs Coulter” – the trouble shooter for Magisterium. The Magisterium is an example of the kind of government you can end up with when there is no separation between religion and civic government; they are not the good guys! Consequently, Mrs Coutler is at best a grey character – all the more fitting that she is played as pale skinned blonde haired woman who wear pale/light colours. Mrs Coulter is bright in a grey world; she is an assertive woman in a man’s world; she is ruthless. For me, she stole the movie !

The heroine is actually Lyra Belacqua – played by newcomer Dakota Blue Richards. She has to rescue some children that the nasty Magisterium is conducting experiments on.

Between them, these two are the movie. Yes, there are lots of other characters – most notable, is somekind of polar bear. But they are just there to move the plot along and give Lyra and Mrs Coulter points to engage with. One of the reasons they engage so well, is that Lyra is not an orphan living with her uncle after all; she is actually living with her father, and Mrs Coulter, is actually Lyra’s mother. Presumably the parents split up when ‘uncle’ Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig) had a falling out over scientific and polictical philosophy with Mrs Coulter. In many subtle ways, mother and daughter are alike – they are both: fearless, manipulative, willing to be frugal with truth, not unwilling to do what needs to be done, and resourceful. Daniel Craig is hopelessly under utilised – maybe he has a bigger role in the sequels.

The alethiometer – golden compass – is the major plot device for moving Lyra around and getting her into and out of trouble. It turns out that not everyone can use it.

The last part of the movie was really disappointing. There is a long segment after the climax that has no entertainment value – it just seems to set you up for the sequel. It had the effect of making the film seem like half a film; you just know that there is more story to come. It really pulls the rug out from under the film.

An interesting question that popped into my head, as I watched Mrs Coulter and Lyrac lie and manipulate: when is it, if ever, alright to do such things?

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