If there has ever been a reason to read the book instead of seeing the movie, The Golden Compass is that reason. Whomever thought Chris Weitz (the producer of The American Pie trilogy) could handle an epic-type fantasy should be shot in the foot.
I am so mad for many reasons. Mostly because this was my second most-anticipated movie of the year. Damn you, Chris Weitz. Damn you.
All the interesting parts of Philip Pullman's story have been pulled out and all that's left is a hollow story that has no appeal to me, let alone any child who's asked their parents to take them. Granted, of the His Dark Materials trilogy, this is my least favorite, but it's still a far, FAR more interesting story than this film will ever be.
Honestly, the only thing this movie has going for it is pretty pictures and good casting.
I say it has good casting solely based on my reading Philip Pullman’s books. The movie versions of these people are but a fraction of the in-depth people on the page. Nicole Kidman has the most standout performance as Ms. Coulter. She’s flawlessly beautiful yet crazy and ruthless. Watching her interact with Lyra (Dakota Blue Richards) made me feel a bit icky all over, and that’s exactly how it should be.
Daniel Craig only gets about ten minutes of screen time, which is a shame, but he did have a rather decent ten minutes. I'm kind of mad that Lord Asriel didn't play a bigger part. Maybe they'll write in some more for him to do in the second movie.
Dakota Blue Richards is a bit too spunky and too expressive. This is probably due to overzealous directing, but who knows. My favorite moment with her is right before the ice bear fight. She's standing next to Iorek Byrnison (Ian Mackellen, doing the best Sean Connery impression I've ever heard), and tells him there ain't no one better than him. Yep, she said "ain't." I had to look around and make sure I wasn't watching Huck Finn or something.
Sam Elliot, what can I say? He’s playing a cowboy type who flies hot air balloons. It was either him or Tommy Lee Jones.
The most disappointing role came from Eva Green’s Serafina Pekkala. When I read the book, Serafina always seemed like a very strong, fascinating witch. The film has reduced her to a flying woman with a cool voice effect.
Besides the pretty people, there are very pretty images. Granted, most of them are computer-generated, but I was still visually entertained even if I was bored out of my mind in the process. The cityscapes as well as the ice-covered mountains and vast plains are beautiful and just surreal enough to titillate without looking like a backdrop in a George Lucas film. The interior shots (which I assume are physical sets) are equally eye-catching. Nothing is lavish, but everything is beautiful.
And let me spend a minute talking about the ending. For anyone who is a fan of Philip Pullman’s books, you will be personally offended by the upbeat, Disney-esque ending. Guess what? People die in this book. Even though there's a pretty high body count in the movie, the significant death is left out. Hell, an entire very significant scene is left out.
For those who have never read the book, you’ll simply be disappointed and possibly confused as you hear half the theatre yell “bullshit” at the screen.
Maybe Chris Weitz should’ve been less concerned about keeping out the religious allegory and worried more about keeping an interesting story intact.