From the studio that brought you the Lord of the Rings (as a couple of the trailers really want you to know) comes what should have been the next great fantasy adventure…but wasn’t.
Honestly, at this point, few people even remember this movie exists. There were no sequels, which, considering it’s a movie and it was based on a book that DID have sequels, is pretty damning if you think about it.
The plot is…well, unless you’ve read the books, you probably won’t truly figure it out form the movie. Suffice it to say that it involves a group of baddies that are definitely NOT a metaphor for the Catholic church kidnapping kids and severing them from their souls.
Honestly, I can’t even say this one is bad. There’s nothing (or at least, not that much) that jumps out at you as being horrible enough to ruin the entire movie. The problem is that there’s nothing that jumps at at you as being good. The movie simply plods along from one scene to the next. Even the climactic fight scene somehow fails to be exciting, which is just plain embarrassing.
The Golden Compass is a shining example of mediocrity. It’s got the potential for a riveting story (being based on an awesome book), but it’s just too flat to make anyone care about it. The dialogue is heavy on exposition, which means there isn’t all that much character development. And without character development, the only things with the potential to garner audience interest are a. the mystery of what’s going on and b. the action scenes. Since the movie is only the first part of what needed to be a trilogy, the mystery never gets resolved satisfactorily, and as for the action scenes…they suck. Poorly shot, poorly choreographed (one shot of someone firing a gun, separate shot of dude falling down dead, repeat over and over), and completely killed by the over-use of CGI effects. See, in this movie, all the people are accompanied by magical companions called daemons (which are like physical manifestations of their souls or something), and whenever they die, their daemons explode into gold dust. Which means that in a big battle scene with hundreds of dudes having at each other in the snow, you can’t see the actual combat because of all the gold dust everywhere. It looks ridiculous, and is made worse by the fact that in the books, when daemons die, they are described as going out “like a cnadle.” Apparently the makers of this movie have never seen a candle get blown out before.
Honestly, the Golden Compass might have benefitted from being longer. Of course, I am hesitant to say this because an added half hour or so might just have resulted in a half hour more of blandness, but perhaps, with the extra time to work with, the screenwriters could have thrown in enough character development to make us care, and streamlined the exposition so that those who had never read the books could have made sense of it all.
It’s funny that the best scene in the movie is not even in the books. It’s when the villainess, played by Nicole Kidman, slaps her daemon (which, remember, is like her soul) after it tries to prevent her from looking at a picure of her illegitimate daughter. It’s a brilliant scene because it revealse the character’s delf-hate and inner conflict without a word being spoken. But one great moment does not a great movie make.
Also, whose idea was it to have IanMcKellen voice a giant polar bear? I can guess that the thought process behind this decision went something like his:
“Ian McKellen was in Lord of the RIngs. If we put him in this movie, people will think it’s the next Lord of the Rings!”
“Great! But who could he play? It would have to be someone important, with a lot of screen time…maybe a wise mentor figure, you know, like in Lord of the Rings…”
“We don’t really have any roles for older British–wait, I’ve got it! The giant talking polar bear!”
Sadly, though Ian McKellen is one of my favorite actors in Lord of the Rings and X-Men, he just is not a giant polar bear. Especially not a giant angry drunk polar bear. His voice is simply too distinctive, too regal, too majestic. Every time that bear opens its mouth, I’m reminded that I’m looking at a big lump of CGI voiced by a dude standing in a box with a microphone. The CGI wouldn’t really be convincing either way, though. Whoever gave this an Oscar for best visual effects was either bribed, or on drugs.
Well, this clip in no way sounds awkward…