“The Golden Compass” bores more than it blasphemes
For those worried that the adaptation of atheist activist author Phillip Pullman’s novel will espouse anti-Christian sentiments, “The Golden Compass” should seem harmless, even by Hollywood’s secular standards. For those hoping for an entertaining film, they should look elsewhere.
Despite some impressive visual set pieces and fascinating CGI created animals, the story’s exposition heavy structure and convoluted concepts will confuse children and bore their parents. It aims for “Lord of the Rings” visionary treasures but can’t even carry Harry Potter’s sneakoscope. Lacking whimsy or charismatic characters, the film relies on the high concepts contained in the book but in the filmmakers apparent efforts to establish the foundation for future films, the story ends up seeming compressed and confounding (except perhaps to those very familiar with the source material) and provoking a ho-hum feeling about the explicitly implied sequel.
Casting wasn’t the problem. Dakota Blue Richards plays the young girl Lyra Belacqua with spunk and unusually good adult-level acting skills. Lyra’s been raised as an orphan in a university under the tutelage of her Uncle, the adventurous scientist Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig in an unfortunately truncated role-essentially a glorified cameo). Enter Mrs. Coulter (the uniquely stunning and cunning Nicole Kidman) a representative of the shadowy Magisterium, a totalitarianism promoting clergy-like body more stereotypically clich?d than overtly odious. Lyra senses Mrs. Coulter’s nefarious designs on their trip together to the north lands and discovers how to use an “alethiometer” (the golden compass) a truth telling device-helpful in Lyra’s desire to rescue her friend Roger whose been kidnapped by a mysterious cult known as “The Gobblers.”
The best scene in the film is a climatic battle between two armored polar bears (the heroic one voiced by Ian McKellen) but the sequence rather than evoking true thrill, offers primarily a feeling of relief that something exciting is finally occurring. Indeed, the idea that animals or “daemons” serve as manifestations of their human counterpart’s soul is “The Golden Compass” lone truly inspired element. Whether to see “The Golden Compass” because of Pullman’s atheistic philosophies is a personal choice. Similar leanings haven’t prevented people from appreciating the talents of Frank Lloyd Wright, Michael Crichton or Billy Joel. Pullman’s converted readers will want to see his novel come to life on the big screen-but it is doubtful many fans or neophytes will enjoy the results.
Rated PG-13 for action violence