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Thoughts on "The Golden Compass" . . .

Posted by 2 Dollar Productions Monday, December 10, 2007

Worth A Matinee or Full-Price Ticket: Matinee. Unless you're a total fantasy nut (i.e. escaping from your parent's basement and dressing up in costume to attend screenings), then I would not pay full price for this one.

Will I Own It On DVD: No. Maybe if I had small children, I would pay for it. I, however, do not.

1) I read this trilogy of books last summer, and liked them just fine. They weren't good enough to make my all-time list, although there were interesting ideas put forth that you don't necessarily find in these types of stories. The movie version largely waters down most of the questions/observations about the Church.

2) Since the trailers for "The Golden Compass" invite comparisons to the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, I feel it's fair to judge them against one another. In this regard, the 'Compass' brings up a very distant second in a race that never really began. Taken on its own terms, however, "The Golden Compass" is exceedingly competent yet never inspired, a fact that falls mainly on the director.

3) The cast is uniformly solid with Nicole Kidman leading the way in terms of screen time. Kidman looks great in a variety of costumes, although it is disconcerting to notice that her face displays fewer lines than her 12-year-old co-star. Disturbing.

4) This movies does boast some fairly impressive special effects. In general, CGI work distracts me, however, the artic war polar bears in this film - especially the main one Iorek Bernson (voiced by Ian McKellan) - looked real in their movements.

5) Judging by the sparse audience in the theater, I am not confident that the other two books in this trilogy will ever be made. This series was very popular in the U.K., but I don't believe it will play strongly in the United States.

"The Golden Compass" wasn't a horrible misfire, but it rarely reached any spectacular flights of fantasy. That being said, it did make me wish I had an artic war bear to ride to work on occassion, so I suppose things could always be worse



  1. SymplyAmused Says:
  2. I've been debating about taking the kidlet to see this movie. The more I hear about it, the more I think I will just wait and rent it. Thanks for your take on it. Don't get sick with this goofy weather we are having now.

  3. No problem. The main argument I can make for seeing it on the big screen (if you're going to rent it anyway) is that the sets are large and impressive and would lose something in the translation to a small screen. Just something to consider.

  4. JLee Says:
  5. I just knew you'd have a review of this today! I was supposed to see it this weekend, but decided to wait and take the youngins. I'll go in not expecting too much...

  6. BostonPobble Says:
  7. This is my biggest pet peeve with books to movies ~ they water down the interesting, character-driven, subtext stuff for...the action. Yeah, yeah, I know. Movies gotta make money and that's what people pay to see but still...some of us still like character and subtext.

    That being said, I, too, want an arctic war bear.

  8. Jlee - Ha. Glad to know you're attuned to the happenings in Austin. And yes, I would wait & take the young people to a matinee showing. It's not bad.

    Bostonpobble - Yep. This happens nearly every time out of the gate (the most recent example of this NOT happening, however, was "No Country For Old Men"), and it seems like you can have it both ways. And the bears would be awesome when it was cold, icy or if you'd been drinking.

  9. Who wouldn't want their own polar bear to ride to work?

    I've heard the fight scene in this movie is excellent. I'll probably wait and see it when it plays for "free" on HBO.

  10. Grace Says:
  11. I recently saw the trailer for this movie... can't really say that I was interested. I'll just wait till it plays on regular tv, I've got no problem waiting a couple of years.

  12. My nephews were hot to see this as their friends. I don't have children nor am I fan of these kinds of movies.... but I always appreciate your reviews. I'm telling you, we need to start a "tip jar" for you ... you have saved me some $$ over the months.

    Happy Monday.

  13. Native Minnow - Good point. No friend of mine would refuse a polar bear to ride to work, but everybody is different I guess. The fight scene is good in this movie, and you're probably just fine to wait for this one to hit HBO.

    Grace - Yeah. If I hadn't decided to read the books then I'd probably feel the same way. I just wanted to see how closely they matched up, and save your money for other things.

    Anonymous Boxer - If I was better at HTML then I could at least create a virtual tip jar on the site. Happy Monday & keep busy to avoid any party hangovers.

  14. Miss Ash Says:
  15. Boring!

  16. Maddy Says:
  17. I have yet to see a movie of a book where the 'pictures' were better.

    This is my calling card or link"Whittereronautism"until blogger comments get themselves sorted out.

  18. Miss Ash - At least you've heard of this one. Ha. Baby steps Miss Ash. Baby Steps.

    Maddy - Agreed (at least none come to mind right now). Unless you hate to read (which I don't), then a book always trumps a film version. Actually, one example of the opposite is the movie "Sideways." I enjoyed the movie more than the book.

  19. JLee Says:
  20. A few months ago, my blogger friend Alan posted the site where you could create your animal daemon. I was an ocelot or something...

  21. Great review and I shall definitely wait until it comes out on dvd. But you've forgotten the most important point - does Daniel Craig look good in it? *lusts lasciviously*

  22. Mr. DNA Says:
  23. So if you don't live in the ice and snow do you have a grizzly bear?

    As far as the books vs movies thing:
    I came to realize a few years ago that books and movies are two completely different art forms.
    Even though a movie may be based on a book it's not really fair to compare the two.
    A book can have different interpretations for almost every line. A reader uses his or her own thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams, and life experiences to bring the words to life in their own mind. A movie is a more passive experience. You are watching someone else's interpretation of the written word. Blah, blah blah. I'm starting to bore myself.


  24. Jlee - Thanks for the link as I am a Loreana, which is some kind of bird. What's an Oceleot? I think I know, but can't quite remember.

    Havingmycake - Thanks, and I like Craig for other reasons. I actually meant to write that one bad thing about the film was that he was only in a handful of scenes - so you can definitely wait to see it. Ha.

    Mr. DNA - I think you make a good point, and no boredom around here. They are entirely different mediums, and some books are not suited at all to be adapted into movies because so much of their greatness is internal and difficult to show onscreen. I do think, however, that you can match a great director's vision with the source material of a fine novel and sometimes achieve great things. But it's difficult.

  25. Didn't have any desire to see it anyway. So I'll catch it one day later on down the line when it comes on HBO, and I'm laying on my couch in a catatonic state and the remote control is within eyesight but not within reach. Then I will be forced to watch it. Other that that there is no other way I will see it.

  26. Linda Says:
  27. I liked this one more than expected. I think it's a bit intense for kids under 10. A sobbing little one (maybe 5 yrs old) was taken out of the screening I went to. (during the bear fight scene) Though riding the war bear looked like fun, I was taken with that final scene where the kids were snuggled into the bear fur for a sleep. Looked pretty comfy to me! Gotta love CGI.

  28. Gypsy Says:
  29. I haven't even seen any trailers for this. As usual we Aussies are behind the times I guess or maybe I've just been living under a rock. Would you recommend it for 13 year olds? We've got school hols coming up and if it screens here I'm sure my two will want to see it.

    With regard to Nicole Kidman - it's incredible to think she is 40 years of age. Could do with some extra weight on her bones in my opinion.

    Btw, would you mind if I added you to my blogroll?

  30. An ocelot is a large cat. Larger than your household cat but slightly smaller than a lynx. I read a few years ago that some people breed them for pets.
    As I do live in the ice and snow, I can tell you that riding a polar bear or a grizzly is highly impractical. You can never find adequate parking and they are a bitch to keep fed. Don't get me started about safety protocols during mating seasons. Just rent one for a party. One grand entrance is all anyone really needs. After that, you're better off with a Ford.

  31. Trina - Ha. That sounds like the perfect situation as given your feelings then I can hardly recommend it - even while catatonic on the couch.

    Linda - I can believe it. That scene in the book was even more vicious and the movie toned it done a bit. Finally, it did look comfortable in the balloon w/ the bear. That would be a pretty decent ride.

    Gypsy - I think 13-year-olds might just like it, although I think it's more about their tastes as opposed to any objectionable material (I don't have a ton of insight into that age and what they like). And thanks for the blogroll as that is definitely fine by me. Finally, Kidman does look pretty good, and it makes me wonder just how she got there. Ha.

    Getoffmylawn - That whole comment made me laugh as I figured if anyone should like a bear due to the weather it would be you. However, you do bring up the practical side of things, and in that case, it's probably easier to deal with a Ford. This is certainly a shame. And thanks for the Ocelot info as I knew I'd heard it before.

  32. vivavavoom Says:
  33. looks about as inviting as a golden shower. (and I am not into water sports!!)

  34. Ha. Ha. Ha. But don't knock it till you tried it - or watched the Kim Kardashian sex video.


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