Yesterday, the university Humanist Society and friends went to see ‘The Golden Compass‘ on the big screen. ‘The Golden Compass’ is the film adaptation of ‘The Northern Lights’, the first book of Phillip Pullman‘s ‘His Dark Materials’ series. The books really are excellent, so we were quite excited and nervous about how the film would compare.
So the question that everyone really wants to know: is it any good? Well, it’s okay. It’s not bad but it’s not amazing either. The visuals are lush and rich. Costumes and scenery are very nice and I loved how they realised the daemons. The animation was excellent without looking too obviously like CGI and any scene involving people was bristling with daemon activity. We all felt that the actress playing Lyra was just right. She was bold and bright and her acting felt genuine. Lee Scoresby and Iorek Byrnison struck the right chord as well. Oh, and armoured bears are every bit as awesome as you imagined them to be.
So what wasn’t I happy with? I already knew the overall story to be excellent so the important part for me was the delivery. There were rumours that the controversial portrayal of religion would be removed from the film so I won’t comment on that, especially as that aspect develops more fully later on in the story arc. What disappointed me was the heavy handedness with which the story was told and characters were introduced. When a character appeared, they or someone else would immediately explain who they were and whichever piece of information that was necessary for the next plot development involving them. While you would expect a good screenplay to provide the audience with that information, it seemed to be at the expense of character development, suspense and the character of the original story. One of the strengths of Pullman’s books is that he doesn’t dumb down ideas for children. That said, everyone left the cinema wondering what the next two films would be like…
This wasn’t a fantastic film but there’s still a fantastic story at its heart. Yes, Hollywood has taken Pullman’s story and adapted it to their own tastes but it’s still hard to resist the lure of daemons, gyptians, witches, scholars, armoured bears and mysteries.
Please do tell me your thoughts about it!