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12/28/07

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I read Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy about seven years ago; they're incredible books, right up there with the other fantasy classics; Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia. So it was natural that they'd make a film series.

I was excited when they began production; but also a little nervous, I heard that they were cutting away the religious overtones; and director Chris Weitz didn't give me the greatest confidence. He's a good comedy director;
American Pie and About a Boy are personal favorites, but he'd never done anything near this scale. When I saw the trailer, it looked like they had done pretty well with their adaptation.

For the most part, a film will never match the impact of the book. But here with
The Golden Compass, I must say that they did an excellent job and created a rip-roaring adventure. Most of the characters were portrayed well, especially Lyra, her daemon Pantalaimon, and Iorek Byrnison the Ice-Bear. They couldn't quite get across how deep that connection between a human and their daemon is; but it was extremely cool to see everyone walking around with their own animal spirit. That was one of my favorite things in the book, it made me wish I had my own daemon. It'd probably be a platypus.

The special effects were top-notch, they did a beautiful job creating this fantastic world. All the amazing vistas, the cool boats and air-ships, the daemons, and I really loved the Ice-Bears. You could fully believe in the intense battle between Iorek and Ragnar; it was extremely cool to watch, with a very satisfying and bloody ending. I also really dug how they visualized Lyra seeing into the compass.

The characters all looked just right; Lyra was a bright-radiant girl, her uncle Lord Asriel played in a small role by Daniel Craig oozed confidence, and Nicole Kidman got the icy-beauty of Ms. Coulter perfectly.


I'm bummed that the film was kind of a flop at the box office, it's not looking good for the sequels. And the way this film ends, it's begging for more. I was looking forward to meeting Lyra's new best friend Will in
The Subtle Knife and things get really nuts in The Amber Spyglass, where they take a trip into Hell and battle God himself at the end. I'm not sure how they're going to keep the religious overtones out of that? If it's made at all.

On the surface everything was just right with The Golden Compass; they told the majority of the adventure, got the major characters right, and most importantly made a good film. As time goes on, I think that more people will discover the film and that will be loved by many. But to really appreciate the story, you have to read the books, to fully understand the connection between everything and everyone in this world. I think I'll revisit them very soon.


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