Archive for December 15th, 2007

“The Golden Compass”: Dust to Dust

December 15, 2007

The GoldenĀ Compass

The Golden Compass, based on the popular fantasy book by Philip Pullman, races forward with the utmost urgency. It wants to get to the end of the film and quickly. Full throttle it sends us to the climactic battle, or perhaps the several climactic battles. It’s the conclusion it’s betting on and in doing so forgets somewhere in between each action sequence that there’s a journey to focus on as well. Not to say that there aren’t some rousing moments or that it doesn’t get off on the right foot.

After the shaky prologue when we’re pretty much told the physical questions to every mystery the characters have to seek out the answers for during the course of the film or that along with the voice over they show you every supporting character we meet until we’re no longer taking the journey with our hero Lyra Belacqua, but we immediately become one of the adults that holds the secrets from Lyra – knowing things she won’t for sometimes half the film. And who wants to be that character in a movie? This was probably the biggest bump in the telling of Lyra’s story, it took away our chance to discover the world with her. It’s like giving you the end of The Sixth Sense at the beginning of the film in voice over.

But then the film settles in after a bit when Lyra, while hiding in a closet with her daemon, a small shape shifting animal that contains it’s human counterpart’s soul, stops a plot by The Magisterium that would have killed her Uncle Asriel, Daniel Craig playing a heretical Christopher Columbus type. But who is The Magisterium? A sneering bunch of black robed priest like people who wish to control your every action and thought. And oh, even though they cut down the supposed Catholic overtones from the book, it’s pretty obvious that Pullman has quite the beef with the Catholic Church and perhaps organized religion as a whole, but like most writers and film makers when it comes to vilifying the Church they fall on the easiest moment in history to make them look evil. The Catholic Church during the medieval era and the Inquisition. Instead of humanizing and allowing their human triats to come out, the first Magisterium we meet has the cringe inducing task of pausing dramatically before putting an evil emphasis on certain words. It’s like he’s Doctor Evil, only this isn’t a joke. Finally a villain worth our effort to hate comes into the picture, and this is the short time when the movie really thrives.

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