Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Golden Compass

I went to see The Golden Compass last night and mostly it was exquisite. An epic story. A feast for the eyes. The characters looked the way I had imagined them to look. I adored seeing the daemons. The visual of the daemons was something that was even better than in the book, in the way that watching Quidditch on the big screen was better than reading about it in the Harry Potter books even though the books were of course better than the movies.

But, I have a few issues. Some piddly minor ones and one BIG one. And I want to talk about it all SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO badly. But I can't. Because there's no way to do so without spoilers. And you all know how I feel about spoilers. So, sigh.

His Dark Materials, which is the collective name of the trilogy, The Golden Compass (or in the UK it's called The Northern Lights) being the first book, is amongst my top hundred favorite reads. Maybe even in my top ten favorite reads. I read the books aloud to William about seven years ago. I reread The Golden Compass this last week so I would remember it well before seeing the movie.

Now I'm not sure if that was a good idea or a bad one. No matter what I did, my expectations were probably impossible to meet. Perhaps if I'd waited to reread the book until after I saw the movie, if I hadn't had all the details so clear in my head, I wouldn't have been so critical of the movie when I saw it. Maybe I would have seen the movie more as the rest of the audience was probably viewing it. But then again, maybe it would have just confused me that things were..... changed.

Okay, I'll ever so cautiously tell you what my one big issue was with the movie. I'll try to do it in a way that won't reveal anything. But if you're nervous, just skip this paragraph. They left off the very end of the book! The end of the movie clearly set the audience up for the next book/movie, which is fine. They didn't change the ending, they just didn't include it! Well, okay, so that changed the ending. But the whole of the first book leads up to what is revealed in the final chapter and the movie stopped just before there! This makes it a much happier ending. But, it's as if they got you all the way up to the scene in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire where they find the Goblet but haven't yet touched it and then..... end the movie. UHM! WHAT!?! Yeah. So, maybe if you've read the book and know this in advance, you'll be a little less disappointed and surprised. Since it was obviously left for their to be a next movie, they'll have to eventually tell the ending the book in the beginning of the next movie or the plot can't move forward. So I guess I'll have to wait to see how they handle it. But waiting through the entire movie to see that final scene and then having them withhold it. I was left.... unsatisfied. I hate a cliffhanger anyway. It feels like cheating. To pay for a movie ticket and then end up getting a beginning, middle, but not an end.

A smaller issue I had with the movie had to do with the "dumbing down" of the religious references. Can't spoil this for you as it's in all the news. Big controversy. I understand why they had to do that to make it a viable commercial success but to me the story didn't attack faith so much as blind loyalty to a rigid patriarchy so I didn't see it as attacking Christianity. Still, I don't care too much. It works the way they changed it. I just thought a couple of places the dialogue was so vague that it probably confused the audience if someone didn't know the original lines.

Another issue - they took out almost all the deaths. Yes, it's a "family movie". But so is Harry Potter, and they didn't clean up the story for those movies. Actually, Philip Pullman has been quoted as saying he did not intend the books to be for children but because two of the main characters were pre-adolescents, they chose to market them as Young Adult. They are really more like The Lord of the Rings - something precocious child readers and young adults readers would enjoy, but sophisticated enough to really be adult literature.

An even smaller issue was that some of the later scenes are shown out of order. It makes sense to me why they did that now, knowing they wanted another scene to be the grand finale. But it was confusing when I was watching it.

Still, I loved the movie. The characters were amazing. Oh, I adored Pan! I was spellbound being in Lyra's world. The special effects were probably the most realistic I've ever seen. The special effects in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe were amazing but they sometimes seemed computer generated to me. The Golden Compass effects were flawless.

Oh, and the witches! They don't play as large a role in the movie as in the book, but the scenes they are in are awesome. I wasn't sure how'd they portray some of their abilities, but they did an even better job than my imagination. There's a scene where it brings tears to my eyes, just like the scene in Practical Magic where the women all clasp hands around the circle. That sort of emotional reaction. Although I think it was because I knew more of the story from the book than from the actual scene.

I had one name pronunciation wrong. I actually had pronounced Lyra's name incorrectly when I read the book. Hubby and I disagreed. I pronounced it "Leer-rah" and he said it was "Lie-rah". He actually wrote to Philip Pullman and got a lovely handwritten response! Hubby was right. So I'd corrected that in my mind already. But I had been pronouncing Iorek as "Eye-or-eck" and it's not, it's "Your-ek" or if you prefer "Ee-or-eck" said really fast. I had everyone else's name right in my head.

If you go to The Golden Compass movie website and click your way along to "Daemons", you can get your own daemon. I tried it three times and wasn't totally convinced I'd found mine yet, but it's a fun activity.


Blogger said...

OH!! I must read it then. What have I been waiting for?? The book sounds worlds better than the movie!! Although you say you liked the movie.. but I will read the book!!! :) Thanks for the review!!

4:27 PM  
Blogger said...

OH!! I must read it then. What have I been waiting for?? The book sounds worlds better than the movie!! Although you say you liked the movie.. but I will read the book!!! :) Thanks for the review!!

4:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My daughter saw this one and said a lot of the same things you did. I figure, its a movie, to be enjoyed not taken as reality, you know? Just like Harry Potter. Thanks for the review, I'm gonna have to go see it.

3:17 PM  

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