Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Golden Compass

I'm really torn between the evisceration of this movie that it has been getting by some critics and the general approval of the same by CK. I see the valid points of both. The movie does take a lot of liberties with the source material, most notably the order of things and omission of the last few chapters.

And I don't know if my approval is just a product of me being happy to see the transfer to screen of a story that I like. I'm not like a lot of sci-fi fans who bitch about how movies mangle the stories they are based on. I actually liked David Lynch's Dune, though I have to admit it's an ambitious mess. I was just thrilled to see the visualization of one of my favorite novels of all time.

I cannot criticize the look of the movie. I think they did a good job with the daemons, with the bears, with the witches, etc. I cannot criticize the casting - cherry-picking from Casino Royale (Daniel Craig, Eva Green) and LOTR (Ian McKellan, Christoper Lee) and Sam Elliot playing ... well, Sam Elliot. But he's very likable and it's fitting for the role.

Another criticism of the movie by others is that it waters down the message of the books by not calling out the church by name. I don't agree with this criticism. Watching the movie, you'd have to be a moron not to understand what they are really talking about. Generously sprinkling terms such as "free inquiry" and "free will", the point is still made.

Illustrating complicated plot points from the book in a two hour movie is also a problem. So you have characters awkwardly explaining those plot points. This makes the movie a bit talky but I don't know how you can get around that short of having some kind of narration.

I'm not saying that the movie couldn't have been better. It would have been interesting to see what a director like Alfonso Cuaron or Guillermo del Toro could have done with this material. But I still liked it. Grade: B-


Good news on the fantasy/sci-fi front - the rumored Hobbit movie IS going to happen. Peter Jackson will be involved in one way or another. And even better, there will actually be 2 movies. One covering the Hobbit and another, I imagine, spanning the time difference between the Hobbit and the start of Lord of the Rings. For a lot more info on all this, check out Reel Fanatic's write-up

I'm going to try and post my year-end top 10 movies and top 10 acting performances of the year tomorrow.


wunelle said...

I've still yet to see it, but I'm quite tempted. I know nothing of the source material, which might help me (same with the Harry Potters--I don't know what they might be screwing up, since it's not my kind of reading material; in this case it's all to the good!).

Maybe this upcoming weekend.

CyberKitten said...

I too liked the film version of Dune very much (despite it being deeply flawed). In fact its one of my favourite movies. I read the book, oh.... over 25 years ago and enjoying seeing it on screen. Have you seen the twi mini-series productions? They're quite good.

I actually thought that TGC was a creditable version of the book Northen Lights. I agree that there was a little too much voice over - but I'm pretty sure that the audience would've been a bit confused without it. I also agree that some to the story was truncated or left out altogether - again understanably given the length and complication of the book and the constraints of a 2hr film (which IMO should've been about 15 minutes longer). All in all it was a good adaptation though.

I do think it should have been upraged from a PG to a 12. The whole film should have had a more brooding menace about it. Mrs Coulter in particular should have been played as a more evil character. Kiddman did play her role very well even so.

As to the Church references - as you say they were pretty blatent and you'd have to be blind to miss them. From the modes of dress to the impossing buildings and the references to power, control and the Authority (and a passing mention to the Adam & Eve myth) it was obvious who they represented and which side of the Good/Evil divide they stood on. One scene in particular stuck with me - that of 3 old men sitting in a darkened room discussing Lyra's fate as a snake curls around the hand of one of them. You really can't get more obvious symbolism than that!

Whilst not a 'blow your socks off' film it was a good one I thought. I'd give it a B. Good effort but needing another director with a harder edge for parts 2 & 3 I think.

dbackdad said...

CK - Yeah, I own both of the Dune mini-series (Dune and Children of Dune) and liked them as well.

I agree with your appraisal of Compass in that it doesn't seem to be so much a problem with look, or acting but rather maybe one of tone. As you say, it should be more "menacing".

Laura said...

"and Sam Elliot playing ... well, Sam Elliot."

I almost spit my coffee on my desk when I read that. That is SO true in every movie he's in!

This one is a renter for me I think. It sounds interesting, but at the same time, a little too preachy for me. Same reason why I avoided Narnia.

dbackdad said...

He-he. I do like Sam Elliot but he really seems to be always playing the same part.

Laura said, "... a little too preachy for me. Same reason why I avoided Narnia" -- funny you should say that. Having seen both, Compass is easily the more preachy. Narnia, especially the movie, can stand independently as a fantasy story without any religious symbolism. With Compass, it's a lot harder to separate.