Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Golden Compass

I do generally try my best not to directly compare a movie to the novel it was based on, and just view it for its own merits. However, this becomes a somewhat difficult task when the film in question is so damn rushed that the filmmakers forgot to include the goddamn ending to the novel! Come on here, I can accept only so much.

The main problem, as mentioned before, is the heavily rushed feel of the film. Coming from someone that’s actually read the novels, it comes off as more of a greatest hits of important scenes from the first book rather than an organic outgrowth from scene to scene. It just rushes from major plot point to major plot point, something that only works so well for someone that understands how they all connect (I can only wonder how well they connect for someone that hasn’t read the novels).

That said, there are some minor benefits of the story. For one, there’s a battle in it between two bears that easily eclipses anything I’ve seen so far in Fantasy Film Week as fight scenes go (and as a major bonus, how many children’s movies have you seen that have a fight end with the hero biting out the villain’s throat?). However, I have to feel that the story would have been better had it more closely followed the spirit of the novel, rather than the bare factoids.

The anti-Catholic leanings in the novel, for instance, have almost been entirely expunged from the film, which was presumably an effort to make it more palatable to the masses, an effort which clearly did not work. I can certainly understand the reasoning behind the decision to remove such potential conflict; after all, why would they want to piss off a fanbase that approves of protecting mass numbers of child rapists? And yet, despite catering to such an audience, the film was still a flop. I can’t explain it myself.

While the books were admittedly pretty good, I cannot recommend this movie to anyone, regardless of how visually nice it may be. A story that’s both intellectually and morally vacant as this should not be approved of, no matter how young your kids might be. You should all go rent something much better, like the film I’ll be reviewing tomorrow (Spiderwick Chronicles, for you impatient bastards out there).

Rating: * ½

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