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THE GOLDEN COMPASS by Chris Weitz

starstarstarpolar bear

Lyra Belacqua (Dakota Blue Richards) is an orphan in a parallel world where the human “soul” – or dæmon – is accompanying people in the form of an animal, the Magisterium which won’t bear any truth except their own truth rules and where dirigibles and witches rule the skies. Lyra is a disobedient, wild girl but loyal to her best friend Roger (Ben Walker), and she saves her uncle Asriel’s (Daniel Craig) life when she watches a representative of the Magisterium poisoning his wine during one of her forbidden tours. And she hears about “Dust”, a mysterious substance influencing people and probably all worlds, a substance whose existence the Magisterium denies and whose exploration is banned by the Magisterium.
Lord Asriel goes to the North to learn about the Dust nonetheless and leaves her an alethiometer, a device thought lost that resembles a golden compass and tells the truth. Roger is kidnapped by the mysterious Gobblers and also brought to the North, and the mysterious Marisa Coulter (Nicole Kidman) invites Lyra to come to the North with her, but Lyra discovers Marisa Coulter is the chief of the General Oblation Board – the “Gobblers” – and escapes.
She needs all the help she can get to rescue Roger and find Lord Asriel, and she does get help – from Serafina Pekkala (Eva Green), queen of the witches, the gyptians (a kind of seafaring gypsies), an aeronaut (Sam Elliott) and Iorek Byrnison, an armored polar bear and exiled prince.

After The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia, here is the next Fantasy film based on a popular book series – Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials Trilogy.
The Golden Compass suffers a bit from the Part-I-Syndrome – a whole new complex universe has to be established and half a dozen main characters must be introduced, and there is an extensive story to be told. Chris Weitz masters all of that and finds enough time for a couple of excellent fight and action sequences.
The special effects are of mixed quality – The Golden Compass is basically one big special effect, and the dæmons are not only the souls of the people in this universe, but also the soul of the movie, and they are adorable, and so is the Panserbjørn Iorek Byrnison – at least most of the time. But occasionally, the effects with Iorek are plainly embarassing (i cringed when Iorek carried Lyra through the icy northern landscapes).
The Golden Compass is suitable for kids (Rated PG-13 for sequences of fantasy violence in the USA) but will also please adults – which is kind of the main problem of the film: it seems nobody ever decided if it should be for kids or for adults and so the movie meanders between kiddie-friendly and made for serious fantasy aficionados quite frequently and uncomfortably, failing to fully score in either category.
And the end comes rather abrupt, almost brutal – but then, the audience is spared a soppy-happy ending – definitly a good thing. Looking forward to Part II!

The Golden Compass - Nicole Kidman and Dakota Blue Richards  Iorek Byrnison - the armored polar bear 
Eva Green as Serafina Pekkala, Queen of the Witches  Nicole Kidman in The Golden Compass 


His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass Movie Trailer

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