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Customer Review

17 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Visually Stunning But Lacks a Compelling Story, May 3, 2008
This review is from: The Golden Compass (Full-Screen Single-Disc Edition) (DVD)
"The Golden Compass" has everything that would make a great fantasy film - great cast including Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig and a fresh talent Dakota Blue Richards, plus great visual effects for which the film went on to win the Oscar. But one sad thing is the film itself doesn't have magic. It lacks a compelling story that would make its audiences willing to share the adventures with the heroine.

The film follows the story of the strong-minded young girl Lyra Belacqua (Dakota Blue Richards) living among Oxford scholars. While her uncle Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig) travels to find out the truths of magical particles "Dust," Lyra finds herself in the middle of the fierce struggle involving beautiful and commanding Mrs. Coulter (Nicole Kidman). And young Lyra is yet to know that the results of the battles may determine the fate of her world and ours too.

Set in the parallel universe where everyone has his/her own "daemons," "The Golden Compass" centers on Lyra and her long journey to the North. The film has a variety of supporting characters including cowboy aeronaut Lee Scoresby (Sam Shepherd) and great armoured polar bear Iorek Byrnison (voiced by Ian McKellen). Unfortunately, however, we have little time to know these characters. Gorgeous Eva Green appears as green-eyed witch Serafina Pekkala, but she has little to do in the story. And if you blink your eyes, you may miss Christopher Lee.

Sometimes "The Golden Compass" seems only providing the backgrounds for its subsequent films and has forgotten to tell its own story. Lyra remains attractive, and so is Mrs. Coulter, thanks to the superb performances from Richards and Kidman, but there is no character development. The concept of "daemons" is not fully developed and though the idea of "Alethiometer" or the Golden Compass is intriguing, the process of Lyra's decoding it could have been made more so.

"The Golden Compass" is part of the trilogy written by Philip Pullman. I hear many complaints from the original book's fans who claim the book is much better. Not having read the book, I cannot say anything about it, but maybe director Chris Weitz is trying to please everyone. If so, he shouldn't. Perhaps he should have brought in his own vision and interpretation of Lyra and her journey. "The Golden Compass" is not a bad film at all. It is slick and entertaining with several impressive battle scenes, but its unique world and story deserve something more than just entertainment.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 7, 2008, 1:58:10 PM PDT
Bentley says:
This sounds like an interesting movie nonetheless; I haven't viewed this as yet; but will now. I also have not read the trilogy by Pullman. The great visual effects alone might be worthwhile. Thank you for your review.

Bentley/2008

Posted on Dec 8, 2009, 4:23:20 PM PST
Mei says:
You basically summed up my ideas on this movie. I HAVE read the trilogy, and this movie was such a HUGE disappointment. Although I understand that some changes need to be made for a story to be turned into a screenplay--something happened where it didn't develop the characters enough. Frankly although it was a visually stunning film, the overall story (great in the original book) was formidably boring here. Thanks for the great review!!

Posted on Nov 13, 2010, 5:13:36 PM PST
When you haven't read the books, you really shouldn't even attempt to compare the movie and print versions... I thought the movie was visually appealing as well. However, with most screenplays, you have the limitations of time. You see this now with the final book of Harry Potter - if there's enough market, they will consider spreading out a single book with two movies. I'm glad they did this at all, the story itself is awesome, you should read the books, and see the movie and appreciate that they tried to bring this world to life visually. I don't always agree not doing it if it can't be done exactly like the book is a valid arguement.
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