The Golden Compass is the first movie of a proposed trilogy. The last time I sat down for such an experience, it was the first Lord of the Rings, and my aching rear end never forgave me. (After three-plus hours of that, I finally took a stand, in more ways than one.) Fortunately, this movie clocks in around 1:45, and isn't about a fellowship of men trying to win a makeup contest.
I saw an advanced screening of this movie Tuesday, and have now reserved some room for optimism. Spunky kid Dakota Blue Richards (hippie parents?) is raised in a safe university setting by avuncular Daniel Craig. He has to leave for parts north to prove an audacious scientific theory that puts his life in danger with the powers that be, and she is scooped up by mysterious patron Nicole Kidman, who only seems free-spirited.
Let me stop here. Maybe it's a coincidence, but why is the anorexic crazy blonde with an establishment fetish named Mrs. Coulter? I floated away from the movie for a while as I considered the ways the film was making statements against Republicans. I could have sworn that I saw a Fox News crawl at the bottom of the screen, but maybe my mind was playing tricks.
Adventure ensues, as our young, compass-toting heroine finds allies in a space cowboy (Sam Elliott), ageless witch (Eva Green), and talking bear (Ian McKellen), among others. It's a testament to the film that these characters aren't as silly as you'd think they would be. As befitting a first installment, there is a hopeful but incomplete resolution, as the stage is set for future storytelling.
Finally, someone will have to explain to me why religious types find this material so controversial. Maybe it's all in the Philip Pullman novels, because I saw nothing here that taught kids atheism or even said anything anti-religious. The central conflict appears to be between academia (good) and law (bad), both of which use some eye-glazing science to achieve their goals.