The Golden Compass

Books, Movies

There have been very few mainstream film releases this year that I’ve had any interest in. I think that the last movie I actually saw in the theatres was the brilliant Hot Fuzz. There is, however, one film coming out before the end of the year that I’ve been eagerly anticipating for quite some time now.

The Golden CompassIn my last year of high school, I read Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, the first in the His Dark Materials trilogy. I was instantly fascinated by Lyra’s world; its strange combination of steampunk, science, magic and religion was unlike anything I had ever imagined. Her parallel universe had its own language derived in part from archaic words: Oil became Naphtha, Greenlanders became Skraelings and electricity became anbaric power. I have read the series many times since then, and Pullman’s imagination never ceases to astound me.

When I first heard about the film adaption of The Golden Compass, which is arriving in theatres this weekend, I was cautiously optimistic. The thought of Jordan College being filled with Hollywood actors tempered my excitement. If the movie version of my favorite book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, has taught me anything, it’s that sometimes an adaptation ends up being nothing like the vision of the story that you had built up in your head.

That being said, after watching the first five minutes of the film courtesy of the Internet, it seems like they did a great job with the visuals. The little girl playing Lyra seemed appropriately spunky as well. However, the rapid-fire explanation of Dust, Daemons, and Panserbjørne was extremely disappointing. The best part of The Golden Compass was being gradually introduced to the strange things in Lyra’s world, and listing them off right from the start spoils the mystery. It’s also evident from the trailer that the religious tone of the books has been severely diluted. Instead of the bad guys being the alternate universe Catholic Church, they’ve created a quasi-fascist organization to pit against Lyra and her friends. I question how they’re going to deal with intercision and puberty without the religious slant.

I’m sad to say that even if the movie is junk, they’ll be taking my money anyways. Even if they do ruin it, at least I’ll always have the books!

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4 Responses to “The Golden Compass”

  1. Tobias Says:
    December 14th, 2007 at 6:04 pm

    Since Pullman’s chief intent in writing the series was to vilify religions in general (and Christianity in particular), and given tenor of the current debate over teaching Intelligent Design in public school science classes, I’m somewhat surprised the producers decided to change the bad guys from Catholics to fascists. Pullman did a pretty good job of painting Catholics AS fascists to begin with. Tho in the first book, it was rather subtle. Not until the later books did he really let his anti-Christian feelings pour out.

  2. Matthew Gallant Says:
    December 16th, 2007 at 5:34 am

    I’m not surprised that the studios went in this direction, they wanted to alienate religious people as little as possible to maximize profits. I’m more surprised that Pullman himself let them get away with it.

  3. Keira Peney Says:
    December 26th, 2007 at 5:17 pm

    I have to say, unlike many people, I really enjoyed The Golden Compass film. I’m a massive fan of the books, and I wasn’t expecting that much, but it did retain a lot of the charm of the books. If the second and third films get made, it will be interesting to see how they deal with the anti-religious messages.

  4. Matthew Gallant Says:
    December 27th, 2007 at 12:15 am

    My plans to see the film got lost in the holiday rush, I’m hoping to catch up over the next week or two!

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