The Golden Compass
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Dakota Blue Richards, Ben Walker, Freddie Highmore, Ian McKellen, Eva Green
Directed by: Chris Weitz
New Line Cinema
The Official Site of The Golden Compass
Discuss Golden Compass on the boards!
Ever since the three consecutive years that the Lord of the Rings dominated the winter and made fantasy adventures the most popular thing since comic book adaptations (seriously, they're still planning on making a Namor movie…) studios have been trying to come up with the next fantasy novel to adapted into a crowd pleasing, blockbuster. The thing is - they got greedy. They tried to make it accessible to children too.
Time after time a "broader audience" appeal has ruined would otherwise be a true adventure. Bloodless battlefields and simplified storytelling left audiences unimpressed with nothing but memories of a graphic and complex Rings trilogy to keep them warm at night.
Is it possible to bottle the same magic and still get a rating that not only allows but encourages you to bring your children? Of course it is, a sound story told well is an undeniable thing, but will the 18 to 35-year-olds that made Rings such a blowout success really make return trips to see a talking bear and a little girl become totally BFF?
I've gotta say that even though I won't be seeing The Golden Compass a second time, of the less than outstanding offerings in the past few years (Have we all forgotten Eragon yet?) this adaptation of Philip Pullman's popular children’s series has a promising start. Even with the toned down action sequences and some middle-of-the-road performances, in an hour and change, Compass has introduced us to a world worth exploring and adventure worth following.
In Compass, a girl named Lyra (New comer Dakota Blue Richards), orphaned as a baby and raised in a college, heads to the north to rescue her missing friends that have been kidnapped by a mysterious organization to be experimented on. Before she begins her journey she is given and Alethiometer, also known as The Golden Compass. The Compass allows the user to detect the truth, but only Lyra can use it. Naturally the pair become a very popular and valuable set.
The opening of the film is a bit stuffy. There's lots of ground to cover and in the first third of the movie we're subjected to something like a dozen scenes featuring prim and proper bureaucrats contemplating the girls actions or potential. Thankfully these scenes are brief but each still acts as a tap in the breaks of the movies momentum. Stop talking about armored polar bears and show me one already!
Thankfully, once the movie finds its comfort zone (right around the time Lyra catches on that her adopted mentor, played by a stunningly wicked Nicole Kidman, might be up to no good), it knows how to keep things moving. Every twenty minutes there's a new backdrop to soak in and character to befriend. We're talking about Sam Elliot in an air-ship, Ian McShane as the king of all polar bears and a flying Eva Green launching arrows into the sky, so there's plenty to pay attention to.
I confess though that I was somewhat disappointed at the lack of Daniel Craig in the film. As Lord Asriel, Lyra's uncle, he's off on a mission within the first 10 minutes, and missing in action within 30. So there's little to no Bond to speak of in Compass and considering the size of Craig's head on the poster, you'd think he'd be all over this thing. He was certainly easy to find in the movies promotional campaign.
The good news of course is that if the movies ending (where they all but do a puppet show mapping out the big plans for the next chapter) indicates that Craig will be back for part 2 and featured as Lyra's next big mission. Those of you that have read the source material (The Golden Compass is only Book 1 of Pullman's "His Dark Materials" series) are either calling me very perceptive or a complete jackass right now. I could have easily wikipedia'd the bones of the next stories plot but I liked Compass enough where I'd rather be surprised!
Despite my nit picking above the movie is engaging because there's always something to admire. Even the stale set-up within the walls of Lyra's college upbringing is peppered with the introduction of Daemons.
In this world, a person's soul resides outside their body in the form of an animal. They speak and think and are connected to their human counter parts. Talking animals is a cool enough concept but I was fascinated by the younger versions that belonged to the children. These younger Daemons had not yet settled on a form so at will they could transform from a house cat to a butterfly to a mouse to a ferret and so on. It’s a fantastic concept that the film takes advantage of quite a bit.
I just wish I knew why they're called daemons. It seems ridiculous to me because of how loaded that word has become in our culture. Plus it's no secret that Pullman is an atheist and outspoken non-fan of C.S. Lewis' pro-Christian Narnia series, and some speculate that His Dark Material is just a disguised attack at organized religion in our society. Kinda…
I hate how this is all anyone is talking about. I mean, sure, it's there. If you look for it - it's there. This character is God, this character is the devil, these are souls... etc. But everything is always about something else. The Wizard of Oz is really about the Socialist Agenda. (For real.) Art is meant for interpretation and you can take as little or as much away from it as you'd like. If you take you're kids to see The Golden Compass, they're not going to want to kill God. Some of them are just going to enjoy it for the adventure that it is.
Compass has more to offer though. If you're hung up on talking animals attacking God or there never being anything as good as Lord of the Rings on, then there's nothing I can say that would convince you to check out The Golden Compass. The good news is that there are plenty of pro-God movies to enjoy and that the Rings movies are so long that by the time you've finished the third, the first will suddenly be fresh. But after seasons of uninspired and formulaic fantasy adventures, it's really encouraging to be introduced to an original, well told adventure that has room to grow. Here's hoping for more Bond next time around.
Rating: 7 out of 10 - I'm being realistic about this one. A couple of years ago I gave Narnia a 9. I remember leaving the theater quit impressed by the way the film unraveled. It was careful and perfect. It felt like I was reading a book. But the further I got away from it the less impressed I was. Pieces of the puzzle just didn't fit and though the fight sequences were grander than Compass’, I just couldn't bring myself to really care. I regret that rating and wanted to realistically approach Compass with something more conservative. 7 is good. In 6 months I could be singing a different tune.
It's too soon to tell. They've converted me to the world of the Gold Compass. I'm on board in terms of interest towards the characters, and more importantly, what happens next in the story. As I eluded, the movie ends with a cliffhanger solidifying this first installment as little more than an introduction of the key players.
I enjoyed the movie quite a bit but on it's own, it's not DVD worthy. Where's the action? Where's the solid pacing? Where's the ending? Sure some polar bear goes all Roadhouse on some dude but is a three second mauling worth 20 bucks? It is if the follow up is good. If the next installment of the Golden Compass raises the bar, then I'm in for sure. This isn't a movie like Pirates of the Caribbean where it stands alone and introduces you to a new world. This is the first chapter of a bigger story and if I get sucked into that story, I may be saving my pennies for the complete adventure.
Or… they could just release it a week before the second installment with a free ticket inside. That would probably convince me to pick it up. Hello, my name is Joe and I'm addicted to DVDs.
Either way lets hope they're good and quick about turning over that sequel. Part of the reason Rings and Potter work is because they have a schedule. Get to work, crank it out, don't wait too long like Narnia who've taken their sweet time letting Prince Caspian come out and play. The franchise will be better off for it.
Yeo is livid about getting stuck with My Little Pony. She wanted Hello Kitty but I thought it was too good a fit with King Leonidas. If he does in fact become a regular character it may not be so odd to see an adorable, trademarked kitten following him around.
Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring - Golden Compass desperately wants to be The Lord of the Rings. So many smaller moments from the narrated intro featuring a precious item that would be entrusted to one very special youth, to the stop dead ending that leaves you anxious for more (or angry enough to spit), draw direct parallels between the two films. Though I think it's fair to say that on all counts, Rings comes out on top.
It's broader scope just allows for a better story to be told and for the audience to really become part of the adventure. You feel the temptation of the ring, you feel the danger of the specters and you feel as if you're one of the Fellowship along for the ride. Compass cant boast the same.
As I watched Compass I realized that part of the reason it was harder to get involved was because there was so much to adjust to, unlike Rings. Hobbits are short; wizards shoot fireworks - got it. They're extraordinary characters, but they live in our world. The backdrop of Rings is nature. Jackson and crew simply went to the most beautiful place on Earth, turned on their cameras and won awards. Ok, I'm sure it wasn't as cut and dry as that, but a beautiful stretch of untouched land is a breathtaking thing. Compass was forced to incorporate technology and cities that included several shots that looked like they were lifted straight out of Episode 1. Pretty, but not exactly authentic. Rings took advantage of familiarity. We all know what castles, towers and old time taverns look like. Compass is a bigger stretch of the imagination and by the time you get used to hover zeppelins and bear armor the movie is already halfway gone.
Rings will be a fantasy benchmark for decades and for me Fellowship is the stand out. Two Towers finds the group splitting up and eventually we've got 4 or 5 narratives running at the same time. Fellowship is pure. 8 guys going from point A to point B, killing monsters along the way. That's sweeter than YooHoo.
I Am Legend - Over the weekend I read I Am Legend.
It was surprisingly short (something like 170 pages) and I could not put the damn thing down. When I had picked it up on Friday afternoon I thought, "Well… I've got a week to dig through this before the movie comes out. No harm if I don't get to the ending before I see it on the big screen. I'll at least have something to compare it to." 160 pages later and I'm eating my words and turning the page.
I love reading the source material to movies and have long wanted to open that up to discussion in the JLCM/Digital Pimp community. Sort of a "Joe Loves Crappy Movies Book Club". With only 5 days left it might be a little presumptuous to think I'd get any kind of response to folks reading and discussing I AM Legend, but everything has to start somewhere.
So welcome to the JLCM Book Club. Periodically throughout the year I'll open up a thread on the boards to talk about specific novels that upcoming and recent movies are based on. This will be for the purposes of comparing the differences and sharing the experiences with other people that love movies and a good book. Which novels we read will be up to all of us. I'll take suggestions, set up a voting system where you guys can decide what we dig into next.
Follow this link to my initial reaction on Richard Matheson's I am Legend and if you've read the book, please feel free to share your thoughts, dispute mine, whatever you like. Now, this thread will contain spoilers for the novel and by Friday for the movie as well but don't let that scare you. Just dig into the book. It's fantastic.
Woo that one is a long one. Kudos to everyone that stuck it out. I’ll mention that we’ve got the Triple Feature? tonight, and that I have some fun holiday news to announce in the next day or so. Thanks for reading gang!
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Joe – The creator of the strip who has embraced giving crappy movies the chance they deserve. Like the majority of the cast he’s obsessed with boobs.
First Appearance - The Introduction
Yeo – Yeo is Joe’s wife and often the voice of reason in the strip. Having her act rational allows the rest of the cast to embrace being in a comic strip which primarily involves randomly punching people, interacting with fictional characters and talking about boobs. Yeo is smart, beautiful and way too good for Joe. Don’t tip her off.
First Appearance - Fever Pitch
Irv – Joe’s movie-going sidekick who’s always down for watching Jason Statham crescent moon kick some thug through a plate glass window and getting some drinks before after and during a Vin Diesel movie. Like the majority of the cast he’s obsessed with boobs.
First Appearance - Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior
Agent 337 George Jones – A government Agent that took over for Joe after he was bad-mouthing President Bush in the V for Vendetta strip. George ran the show for over a month bring a much needed sense of patriotism and justice to both the strips and reviews. He eventually got too attached to his work, empathizing with Joe’s plight to give crappy movies a fair shake. In a way he came to love crappy movies as well and was pushed out of the position. He spiraled out of control and ended up in prison. His adventures will be told in the limited series JLCM Presents: 337 Locked Up which is set to début Christmas of 09.
First Appearance - V for Vendetta
Other Notable Appearances: Stay Alive, Ice age 2, Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector, Slither, Here Comes Guest week, Let’s Go To Prison
Leonidas – The former king of Sparta who has traveled into the future and is having trouble coping with the modern times. Yelling loudly and kicking people into giant holes doesn’t really work the same way it did in the olden days. As time as gone by he’s adjusted but it’s a safe bet that he’s always one bad message away from throwing a spear through someone.
First Appearance - 300
Other Notable Appearances: Four Brothers, Strip# 300, The Golden Compass, Rambo, Untraceable, The Ladies of Max Paybe
Palpatine – Former Senator, Emperor of the Galactic Empire, Sith Lord... He shows up in the Joe Loves Crappy movies galaxy on occasion to let people know that they’re being stupid. No one’s really sure how he shows up in this universe but chances are it breaks all kinds of copywrite laws.
First Appearance - Episode III: The Dark Side
Other Notable Appearances: Four Brothers, Night Watch, Saw 3, Are We Done Yet
Slow Billy – Billy is a sweet kid but he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed. If you’re watching him for the day be prepared to explain to him the plot of the movie or how popcorn works or, not so much where babies come from, but what babies are. He’s a complete moron.
First Appearance - Four Brothers
Other Notable Appearances: The Chronicles of Narnia, The Da Vinci Code, Vantage Point, Journey to the Center of the Earth
Kyle the Movie Snob – Be careful what fun facts about movies you tell your friends at a friendly gathering or in line for the latest blockbuster, because if you’re even slightly wrong, Kyle will be more than happy to let you know. He usually gets what’s coming to him though. Poor guy has cracked three ribs since joining the JLCM cast.
First Appearance - Ultraviolet
Other Notable Appearances: 16 Blocks, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Transformers, Journey to the Center of the Earth
Jean-Luc Picard – Another lawsuit waiting to happen is Jean Luc Picard who, towards the end of the strip’s first year, became the go-to background character. If there was ever a seat to fill or a random person to place wandering around in the background, nine times out of ten it was Picard. While Picard has crossed paths with Irv he and Joe have never met. Perhaps they will some day but for now just can an eye on the background.
First Appearance - The Producers
Other Notable Appearances: I’m not telling you, that’s no fun. It’ like Where’s Waldo – go find him!
Ice Cream Sandwich – Delicious and… deadly? Usually when you see someone eating an Ice Cream sandwich, someone else is experiencing a substantial amount of pain. Still, how nice is an ice cream sandwich on a hot summer day?
First Appearance - Saw IV
Other Notable Appearances: Bee Movie, Run Fatboy Run, Saw V