The golden compass: movie review.

Author:Elliott, Marissa
Position:Movie review

Converting a complex story from a novel to the big screen is a daunting task. Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass has an intricate plot line; but more than that, its characters are multifaceted and not easily explored within a two-hour time period. But even taking into account how difficult it would be to bring this caliber of literature to the movie-going public, sadly, The Golden Compass is destined to remain great only as a piece of writing. The movie version falls flat in almost every sense. The one major exception is the casting and acting of the central character, which is genuinely excellent. Lyra Belacqua is played by Dakota Blue Richards, who possesses both the bright-eyed spunk and the sweetness to masterfully portray the young protagonist. As is not shocking in 2007, the special effects do succeed in creating a visually stunning movie. Fantastical characters like the daemons, the witches and the Ice Bears are brought to life, at least as far as the eye can see. But the mind and the heart are a different matter altogether.

Pullman's novel is not supposed to be easy or clear-cut, but the movie version is, disappointingly, both of these things. Lord Asriel is written as a paradoxical man and father. But the film portrays him as a solid person pursuing his goal in good faith. Lyra is determined to help him, believing he is battling a great evil. Asriel keeps this billing through the end of the film because nothing happens to alter it in Lyra's eyes. He should be stripped of her admiration and support after his shocking choice to sacrifice Lyra's friend Roger to his cause. But it turns out that a father who protects his own daughter yet is willing to kill her friend is too challenging a concept and this is thus completely removed from the film. This is by far the most drastic example, but the movie is full of similarly bizarre choices. The complexity is gone, replaced by a one-dimensional, cookie-cutter adventure story that will cause little or no controversy and will be seen and soon forgotten.

Perhaps this is a result of realistic marketing and a desire to steer clear of all the negative noise surrounding the book. The movie, unlike the novel, is safe. It pushes no boundaries, offends no one, stimulates few questions--all of which is in direct opposition to Pullman's work and purpose. Ironically, the safe version seems to be causing a greater number of conservative and parental concerns. According to some of the more vocal circles...

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