Customer Review

29 of 38 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Well, it's pretty to look at, August 31, 2008
This review is from: The Golden Compass (Widescreen Single-Disc Edition) (DVD)
True, it's been a about three or so years since I've read Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy, the books upon which this film is based, if you didn't know. But as that time three years ago was my second time going through the trilogy, I still like to think I had a decent memory of them along with a decent opinion. At the risk of offending fans, I always felt Pullman's characters--Lyra, Mrs. Coulter, Will, the whole gang--to be on the weak side of characterization, a few hops from being completely two-dimensional. STILL, I thought the story and theme to be on another plane entirely, certainly enough to make the books as famous as they are and even flesh out an entertaining movie.

I promise, I tried my best to like this movie, for the sake of those books. For the sake of Sam Elliot and the goddess Nicole Kidman. Heck, even for that cute little new girl. They all did their best, but frankly this movie was fluff, and it's hard to work with fluff. How could they take such thought- and controversy- provoking books and turn them into fluff? I'm hardly an atheist, but I had appreciated the story's urge for free thought, free will, and a keener look at authority. The smidgen they put in here was all too welcomed, but not enough to give this movie proper heart and soul.

What we are left with is a rushed train of lovely cinematography, scenery, and special effects that accompany an equally rushed plot. Yes, there is a lot of story to get into this movie, but making that the priority left me cold toward these characters who were weak in the book and utterly two-dimensional on screen. I felt like I was an infant teenager being instructed in the ways of generic fantasy. Talking bears? Soul-daemons? Other worlds? Texas as a country? Wonderful, fantastic ideas that appeared on the big screen like toys in hurried images.

I'm sorry, but while the director was having fun with the camera, the audience was confused by the random jumping from scene to scene, plot to plot.

So maybe it was a tragic result of putting a plot-based rather than character-based story in a movie that led to all story and show and no emotional depth. Maybe it was a tragic result of playing it safe by removing all blatant references to religion. Maybe I'm just a whiney book purist.

All I know is that the result was flashy, heartless, and boring.
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Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 13 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 14, 2008 12:59:10 PM PDT
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Jan 15, 2009 9:28:19 AM PST
I'm surprised that you and others have said that the religious references have been eliminated. The name of the church has been changed, it's true, but it should be quite clear to anyone (adults, at least) that it's about the church's suppression of free thought. I don't think it could be any more explicit than when Mrs. Coulter explains to Lyra about "our ancestors" making a "mistake."

Posted on Apr 2, 2009 1:46:57 AM PDT
Mad Max says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on May 6, 2009 10:04:25 AM PDT
No, I just have taste. Hundreds of critics agreed with me.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 2, 2009 3:35:58 AM PDT
Kristie says:
Hmm, funny. I guess you can only back up your "taste" with the other hundreds of so called critics agreeing with you.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 8, 2009 6:41:45 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 8, 2009 6:43:29 PM PDT
And how exactly do you back up your taste that there is anything quality about this movie?

How is bad characterization a good thing?

How is a rushed plot void of story line a good thing?

The movie cared more about image than telling a story. That may work for some films, but if it is going to be based on a plot-driven book...

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 28, 2009 1:26:15 PM PDT
e. verrillo says:
Very good review. I just finished watching the movie, and although it had great special effects, I could barely follow it. (And this after reading the trilogy!) There was so much jammed into it, and so little was explained, that I couldn't make heads or tails of the plot.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 18, 2009 8:15:37 PM PDT
This was pure Hollywood formula, by the way.

In reply to an earlier post on May 6, 2010 12:19:31 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 6, 2010 12:32:06 AM PDT
Sk Williams says:
That was why I didn't like the books. The books aren't really great themselves, but overrated trife. The writing is mediocre and the whole thing is one sided. I mean, it's not like they even try to tell the truth about Christianity, its depicted as an evil Militant Atheist stereotype. Meanwhile, the Characters we're suppose to care about come of as arrogant and shallow. At the end the proverbial A-Bomb could wipe them all out and no one would care.

I also get tired of the modern Atheist mantras of being all about Free thought. Its fairly Obvious that Militant Atheists, like Philip Pullman, aren't really interested in getting people to be Free Thinkers in the true sense of the word. They just want everyone to agree with them and their personal beliefs and act as if disagreement means you aren't a Freethinker. In what sense are my thoughts Free if I am compelled to agree with someone else or else be excluded and labeled a slave to another belief?

The movie is no different. Somehow "Tolerance and Free Inquiry" invariably means looking at things in a way that contradicts the Magestariums claims, as if the Magestarium could never be right or ever have had an inclination to discover the truth.

Lord Azrael isn't Tolerant of their views, and they are depicted as simply cruel bullies. Lyra is a lying arrogant self assured brat, and even the Bear in Armour just didn't have a personality you gravitate toward.

I mean, really, scummy Lawyers Alan Shore and Denny Crane, who are intentionally designed as Parody figures and who are suppose to be unethical and conniving have more human warmth and dignity. Surprisingly, they also have more fantasy elements and yet seem more real than anything in HDM books.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 25, 2010 9:05:59 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 25, 2010 9:07:49 AM PDT
netman says:
I noticed that many reviewers such as yourself have the same opinion and I agree. I was going to write a review but this movie just isn't worth the effort. I have not read the books so I think that my opinion is unbiased in that respect. Basically, this movie should have been 3 hours long and the characters and plot fleshed out. I didn't care about any of the characters and the plot suffered from overenthusiastic editing, trying to limit the film to under 2 hours. For example, Lyra's daemon was supposed to be cute and loveable but he was never given enough dialog to build that case. Perhaps they will release a Director's Cut that fills in the many holes because I liked the concept of the movie and the special effects, it's the execution that is lacking.
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