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The Alethiometer tells us that three readers have seen GOLDEN COMPASS... annnnddd....

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. I'm looking forward to this movie. I've read the first book and 3/4ths of the second... it was one of those I put down and just never picked up again, although I didn't really have any problem with it. I guess I just disconnected. Anyway, I dig the first HIS DARK MATERIALS book and I dig the look of the trailer and the cast they've compiled. We've got three reviews... Be wary of spoilers, especially if you haven't read the book. Enjoy our first review!

Hello, I just saw The Golden Compass this Sunday, and as I haven't seen any reviews yet, well, here it goes: I got invited to a cast and crew screening of the Golden Compass this Sunday, as I (worked in some capacity on the movie). I also have to point out that I've read the books and I quite like them, but I've always wondered how easily they could be translated to the big screen. The end result of this conversion was better than I expected, but not great by any means. The film starts up with a quick overview, using voice-over narration, of the fantasy setting or "universe" that the story is set in. It reminded me a bit of the beginning of some terrible movies, like Jet Lee's One and Reign of Fire, where the viewer is asked in a quick narration to accept the basic premise and suspend disbelief, in other word, to not think and just "swallow the pill". In this case, the pill you get to swallow is that the story takes place in an alternative universe, very much like our own, with the biggest difference being that people's souls have a material representation in the form of talking animals (daemons), which accompany each person throughout their lives. I had not much trouble getting into it as I knew the story, but I can see people who don't having a bit of a difficulty accepting it, specially in the hasty way in which it is presented. I prefer when a fantasy movie shows me, rather than explicitly tells me, the rules of their alternate reality. Ultimately, this is a fantasy film and the main target for it is kids, so most of the audience will probably go along with it, but I guess some adults might be a bit annoyed by the way the story gets going. The Golden Compass has many interesting sequences, ranging from the journey to London, to an armoured Polar bear fight, to an intense battle in an ice landscape, most of which have an exciting pace and are executed nicely from a visual point of view. The art direction is top notch, specially in the first part of the film, and the design of vehicles, devices and wardrobe wonderfully conveys the concept of an alternate reality. The visual effects are also for the most part good, and the polar bear fight is specially well executed, as the bears have a very convincing weight and momentum to them. However, many of the other animals have a very CG, animated feel to them, and their quality and believability is very irregular. The acting is also good for the most part, although some of the interactions with the cg animals have that "talking to air" feel to them. Daniel Craig is specially charming, though his part in the film was limited to very few scenes. Nicole Kidman works great for me as the Ms. Coulter character, as she portrays it exactly as I imagined it from the book, sexy and mischievous, but with a touch of tenderness. Dakota Blue Richards plays the role of the cute, smart girl well enough, but is really nothing special, and some of her lines sound unnecessarily overdone. The main problem I have with the film is that the flow of the story between scenes, and the editing generally, feels rather choppy. I know for a fact that the cut was changed multiple times, and the timeline of events from the book was altered partially for financial, marketing, and artistic reasons. In my opinion, although slightly different from the book, it doesn't betray the spirit of the story, although hardcore fans might disagree. My main problem with it is that the different sequences don't seem to connect with each other as smoothly as they should. Other than that, the whole tone of the story is definitely more cheerful than the books, as some characters that die in original story manage to survive here, which is a pity, as I really like fantasy films that aren't afraid to show tragedy to a younger audience. The studio and director also decided to leave some key events for the second film, which is not surprising seeing that they (NewLine) did the same with the Lord of the Rings. To wrap up, I would recommend Golden Compass to any fantasy film fan out there, but I have to admit that I don't think it fully fulfilled its potential as an adaptation of a great book, specially as it doesn't dare to be as dark and controversial as the literary version. However, it still is one of the finer fantasy films that's come out since the Lord of the Rings, although not my favourite this year (Beowulf was awesome!). Anyway, I'm interested in hearing the impression of people who don't know the books. My two cents...

Seems very fair and a solid mixed-positive. Our next two reviews are probably more solidly mixed and with some more spoilers, including something about the end of the movie that might upset some fans of the book.

Howdy Harry, first-time responder & short-time reader here who was treated to an early screening to New Line Cinema's adaptation of Philip Pullman's "Northern Lights" : "The Golden Compass". I'm going to try and keep this brief because I do not have much time. I'm not a reviewer by any sense, just a lover of film so you can take my thoughts as you like them. The visuals are amazing with the dæmons and the polar bears being the highlights. The film is exceptionally crafted with some terrific set design and costuming. Although, some of the makeup was a bit much. There is some great voice work on behalf of Ian McKellan, Ian McShane and Freddie Highmore. For some reason Christopher Lee gets a giant credit when he is in one scene and says one line and Daniel Craig gets an "and" and has more lines. I enjoyed Sam Elliot as Lee Scoresby, the aeronaut, (he could stand there and talk about anything and he would be good, here he is a real spark) and almost everyone else except for Dakota Blue Richards as Lyra. A complete miscast. She does not seem as confident as Lyra was in the book and when she cried (rather, became emotional) she could not pull it off. I was able to look past that because everything around her was beyond what I expected. Now let me get to the part that made me mad - the ending. For those of you who have read the book, as I have, you will expect to see the ending on film because it is a perfect setup for "The Subtle Knife". Let me tell you that it does not exist in this film. It was clearly shot, as shown in the trailer, but it did not appear on screen. This made me say out loud in the theatre "Where's the ending?". I always stay until the end of the credits and I hoped that the final bits would make it in, alas they did not. They essentially removed the last chapter and had they left it in they would have given audiences something to talk about/guess how the story would continue. Thus generating more buzz for the next film. I would recommend seeing it and I might end up seeing it again. I would say that this is not a children's fantasy, more of a young adult fantasy because there are some scenes that could frighten smaller children. The plot is a bit complicated for those who have not read the book. Case in point, the person I saw it with said they would need to see it another time to get everything. If you use this call me Skillet. (obviously this wasn't very brief, but what can you do) Johnny K

And here's our final and shortest review.

Hi Harry I was lucky enough to be at the GC world premiere last night.... Having read the books a few years ago and being what one could describe as a fan of them, I was willing this movie to be the new LOTR (ie a trilogy that both adults and children can enjoy).... I won't waste describing the plot of the film as surely everyone knows that by now... The main actors are all fantastic especially Nicole Kidman and young Dakota as Lyra, the film looks amazing, the effects are stunning, and yet there is a big hole missing in the centre of the film and alas it is the absence of a plot. If you have not read the books, then forgetaboutit! You'll enjoy looking at the film but you won't have a scooby (clue) as to what is going on... I hope it succeeds but before they film the sequels they may want to think about getting in someone to help with the scripts... Cheers MC

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