December 08, 2007

"The Golden Compass"

I lust after dark, adult fairy tales. I've devoured all the original Grimms' fairy tales. I reveled in every second of "Pan's Labyrinth"... And "His Dark Materials" is one of those works that seems to have been written just for me. The first time I read them, I was shocked that this stuff was marketed as children's books. How did these stories of abstraction, violence, and thinly-veiled sexuality get published as children's books? No doubt "His Dark Materials" is a thrilling and challenging story, but calling it a "children's series" seems inappropriate. Not that I mean that children should be kept from reading it- thats nonsense. But these books are no more "kid lit" than "Ender's Game" is "kid lit". They're not "for children"; they for anybody with a love of fantasy and an inquiring mind. Or... they were written just for me. Yeah...thats probably it.

With that said, I went into the movie with the highest of hopes. And I'm very pleased to report that I was not disappointed. The casting is flawless. The girl playing Lyra isn't just some absurdly-pretty little girl like in "Bridge to Tarabithia". The movie Lyra exudes defiance, independence, and curiosity- just the way she should. Mrs. Coulter isn't missing an ounce if deadly glamour. And Daniel Craig adds a touch of much-needed warmth to the character of Lord Asriel. All of the daemons are simply thrilling to watch. Pan's morphs are seamless (his feild mouse is my favorite form) and the golden monkey holds the balance of beauty and hideousness- just how he's described in the books. And the power of Ian MacKellan's voice as Iurik is astounding- is he really in his eighties??

The screenplay is adapted quite well, although some of the most emotionally impactful parts of the books were muffled or left out. I don't think the movie makes clear how painful and deadly it is to be separated from your daemon, and how repulsive and horrifying it is to see someone without a daemon. The book says its like seeing someone without a head. In the movie, Ma Costa should have been appalled when she saw her poor, mutilated son. She certainly should have held him as she did in the film, but only after mastering her shock. But maybe scenes like that would have a PG-13 consequence. As for all the religious themes, its sadly toned down for the movie, but there are a few choice lines that made me grin. Apart from a few jump cuts worthy of "Order of The Phoenix" and a lot of redundant exposition (not one mention of the word "alethiometer" went by without a qualifying "aka: the golden compass")- this movie left such an impact on me I had to ramble on about it a bit. I didn't even hate "Beowulf" enough to write about it, and boy, I HATED Beowulf.

All in all, go see "The Golden Compass"!


Katie said...

Man girl, I've missed a lot of new stuff since my vacay from CFRaw! You really impress me with all the different kinds of work under your belt!

One of the first things I do when I get back to the States is to see The Golden Compass. I had the pleasure to talk to some Rhythm & Hues folks about it a bit at Siggraph, and golly they had me wanting to reread it immedietly. Iorek and pumped!! Thanks for the review girl and hope you have a good holiday season too!

Jo said...

Thanks Katie! Definitely do go see it. I think I might want to see it again!