Thursday, December 06, 2007

Due north

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.


Neel Mehta said...

Forgot to mention: one of the interesting ideas presented in the movie is that each person has a daemon, an accompanying animal that is sort of an extension of that person's consciousness. Could be their id, or maybe their conscience.

It's quite educational to see how the person interacts with this outer manifestation. Mrs. Coulter, for example, can hide behind pleasantries all she likes, but can't quite conceal the feral simian that is her daemon. At one point she gets so upset with it that she smacks it off a table.

I guess this is a roundabout way of saying that we get to see Nicole Kidman spank her monkey.

Crystal said...

The first novel is pretty tame and is mostly anti-church. The movie actually played it up more than the book did.

The second and third book become a bit "anti-God". Though I still don't see why religious types need to be so angry about it but that's a different story.

Great trilogy though. I suggest giving it a read...especially if you liked the movie. The movie doesn't begin to touch the book and much was rushed through, switched and changed but...over all, the movie was good. (And I saw it thanks to your site.) :)

Neel Mehta said...

Glad to help you find your screening. As I say, people, if you have the time and the inclination, these opportunities are available for the taking. (As a bonus, I got a Golden Compass ornament set that they were giving away. As in Christmas ornaments. Have to love the irony.)

My patience with the fantasy genre is extremely limited as it is -- Star Wars, Harry Potter, and that's about it -- but I'll consider your recommendation, Crystal. The books seem to present interesting ideas on universal debates, so that's something.

Finally, this article from the MTV Movies Blog (link courtesy of The Film Experience) explains that Nicole Kidman's character is only slapping her monkey, as if there's a difference.

Crystal said...

I also got one of those ornament sets. I thought it was hilarious.

Anyhow, I'm glad you will take my suggestion as far as the books go. Most of the people that I know who have read (and enjoyed) the trilogy are also fans of Harry Potter and Star Wars. The books are much more detailed, more violent and a lot more mature that the movie.

PS. Please don't equate Mrs. Coulter to the horrible Ann. *shiver*

Mainline Mom said...

Speaking as a "religious type" here...the movie is obviously very watered down from the book to make a warm, fuzzy, family movie. Nothing too controversial in the movie, although it is very anti-church/establishment. The book trilogy, on the other hand, gets progressively darker, and more anti-Christian. Pullman makes no secret of his desire to encourage children to rebel against the very idea of God or church, through his stories. Thankfully his imagery and symbolism is SO complex and vague that many of his "spiritual" messages are not obvious, however the senile God and the ex-nun and many other plots and characters make his bent pretty clear. Many call His Dark Materials the "anti-Narnia" books, because he has said he hates the Narnia books, but the imagery and symbolism in the Narnia books are crystal clear to Christians. I suppose I ought to blog about this myself...