Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Golden Compass

[SPOILER ALERT: Don’t even think about reading beyond this point if you don’t want to know anything about the books or film.]

I went and watched The Golden Compass last night. If you don’t know anything about this movie, it is based on the first book in a series by Philip Pullman called His Dark Materials (which I mentioned in my last post). I really don’t feel like rehearsing the whole tension surrounding Pullman’s atheism and how he is going to bring Christianity to its demise . . . blah, blah, blah. You can Google all that, or check out a conversation over at Faith and Theology (scroll down, the conversation took place on December 4, 2007). If Pullman was going to do that he would have done so eleven or so years ago when the first book came out, not last week through a movie!

Having read the first two books and being almost half way through the third, I found the movie lacking in a lot of ways (surprise) in terms of a what makes a good movie (granted I’m not specialist). Movies tend to lack when they try to stay close to the text, but maybe not. I’m sure there are examples of successful interpretations from book to movie (anybody got one?) The movie forced the relationships and moved too quickly through some of the character development in order to get to the next action scene. To be fair, I really enjoyed watching the action scenes and comparing them to how I saw them in my mind when I read the book. This allowed me to enjoy the film only because I already knew what was going on, as if I had an insider view. But movies shouldn’t work that way. The movie critic’s were right, though. Nicole Kidman did a spectacular job playing Ms. Coulter. While, the screenplay writers didn’t quite capture the whole character Pullman created in Ms. Coulter, Kidman did a remarkable job displaying the tension between a mom torn between the Magisterium (the bad guys whom she works for) and her daughter. The very first scene in which Ms. Coulter is introduced is a dinner scene at Jordan College where Lyra (Coulter’s daughter) lives. Mind you, she is only twelve. It captures Coulter’s captivating presence among the Jordan scholars as well as how she dazzles Lyra into her confidence. I was particularly impressed with how the background music just draw’s you into the tension. This was a remarkable scene! Also, Iorek Byrnison, King of the ice bears, and the witch, Serafina Pekala, rocked! They will be fun to watch later.

In the end, however, I would save your money till the movie hits the redbox. Read the books, they're way better.

Plus, I have a feeling you won’t get the full affect of the controversy surrounding Pullman’s “agenda” unless you read the books. I just don’t think the movies will have the juevos to say what Pullman said. I might post on Pullmans ideas later, but not now.


Wilson Ryland said...

There is one great adaptation out now: No Country for Old Men. Lord of the Rings trilogy. Another one of my favorite adaptations, where the movie was far greater than the source material was Memento.

Wilson Ryland said...

and Blade Runner and 2001 and The Shining (pretty much any Kubrick film) and The Godfather...