"The Golden Compass"
Directed by Chris Weitz.
Written by Chris Weitz. Based on the book by Philip
Starring Dakota Blue Richards, Nicole Kidman, Eva Green and
Release Year: 2007
Review Date: 12/10/07
Meg and I went to the movies over the
weekend; I left the choice to her, and she selected "The Golden
Compass", the latest "Lord of the Rings" copycat novels-to-movies
that attempts to suck your cash away.
In a world that seems either very distant,
very now, or very futuristic depending on what you are talking
about, a little girl named Lyra (Dakota Blue Richards) gets involved
in a quest involving a crystal ball-like object called an
Alethiometer, a cowboy named Sam Elliott (played by none other
than...Sam Elliott), an evil baroness (Nicole Kidman), a talking
bear (voiced by Ian McKellan), an adventurer (Daniel Craig), evil
government or religious types called The Magistrate, and sidekicks
called demons who seem to possess the soul of their human owners.
All of this makes for a bit of a mess at
times, but by using this film as a setup for at least two more
films, "The Golden Compass" does a decent job of setting up the
Naturally, I have not read the book that
this film is based on (written by Philip Pullman), but it does
appear that Hollywood has suppressed any religious overtones from
the novel by keeping things pretty vanilla...evil is represented by
The Man, not necessarily Christians or Jews or Muslims or even Big
Government. The Man has a nice ivory tower in the middle of
one of the major cities in the film, and all of The Man's people
seem to be white, but otherwise, this could be The Empire for all I
know, and I think that this is a good idea for the kids' sake,
because all they care about is magic, and goblins, and flying hot
witches, and talking bears.
The movie itself feels very familiar for an
adult like myself, and while I thought the film was very
consistently engaging, I never felt like it was aspiring to be
"great." This starts with the choice of Richards as our lead
Lyra; at times, she is very good...and, at other times, some mix of
her presence and the lines she is asked to speak made me not like
the Lyra character at all. She was a little too child badass
for my taste; at times, she scared for her life, and then at other
times, she is right there, smack-talkin' with bad guys. Ahh,
no. The rest of the cast is great, right down to the voice
work done by McKellan and Ian McShane (Swearengen from the
"Deadwood" series on HBO) as the two big bad bears who need to
square off late in the film. I thought the special effects
were nice, but not spectacular; I laughed every time that Elliott
(who only seems to be able to play mustachioed cowboys who carry
Winchesters) was onscreen.
Meg liked this more than I did, but I think
both of us--having seen things like the "LOTR" movies and
Chronicles of Narnia" and other such fare--thoughts that "The Golden
Compass" didn't exactly blaze a new trail with its filmmaking.
Writer/director Chris Weitz (the "American Pie" films and
"About a Boy")
does serviceable work here but now that this film is on the path of
money-making trilogy, he'll have to step it up a bit to improve on
the critical nature of these films.
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard