Harry can't quite get this damn GOLDEN COMPASS thing to work, but it sure is pretty and fun!
Do you remember YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES?
For me, it’s a perfect juvenile adventure film. It has a tragic weight to it and a spirit of great adventure, but in many ways – we were like young Watson, not understanding the brilliance that was inherent even to the youthful Sherlock Holmes.
THE GOLDEN COMPASS is an evolutionary leap from that film, but without the ultimate courage that YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES had at the end of its tale.
The honey-rich intellectual footsie that the film takes with its metaphysical odyssey will sure leap, jump and soar over the heads of folks that came to see the Coca Cola bear gallop with a kid astride, but this film is probably the most visually accomplished vision of a dimensional alternative to our universe.
It’s not just that they have talking animals and polar bears that are not drowning in an evaporating arctic. This is just a complete universe. I never fully read the first novel, I got a couple of chapters in and put it down thinking that it didn’t really translate to a film universe. The book’s theories about alternate dimensions and the rules therein just seemed to heady for typical cinematic exposition. And even though it’s toned down to a bare minimum, when compared to the saturated content in the book – it may still confuse some.
However, I think its very likely that kids will just look past all this high minded speak and just be wowed by the audacious wonder of this other dimension. I found myself like a Polar Bear king, wanting a daemon of my own… in fact, after the film I came home and went to New Line’s site and found out that my daemon was a female Tiger – and that’s pretty friggin awesome. I mean, in their universe – I could have a Tiger chick named Elpis that would be the mirror of my soul. What is weird about this is this. When I was a kid working at a Renaissance Faire, I tried to buy a tiger – I had the money, from my job as an entertainer – but the seller wanted to meet my parents. And my dad said I couldn’t have a tiger in town. .
It’s more than the animals too. They’ve got a strange power source in this universe that looks akin to those badass Plasma balls, but they pull carriages along, the power deco as can be zeppelins as well as ocean sailing paddle boats.
There’s nothing in this world, that really particularly feels like ours. Things have doors, people have clothes, but it all seems alien and foreign in a way that doesn’t feel drenched in lameness.
The little girl, Dakota Blue Richards, playing Lyra Belacqua carries the entire film on her shoulders and does a great job of it. She’s not cute in that “Awwwwwww” kinda way, but in a rascally mischievous minx-like way. She’s wily and devilish. There’s a glee to what she does, this pixie… and a there is a glow to her… and when you hear about a prophecy that says she’s special, you believe it. Because she is something special.
The characters that fill this universe are just universally exquisite choices. Nicole Kidman is lustrous, just stunningly beautiful… a villain, yet one that is so maternal, so guiding – yet as soon as she’s out of sight of the child, she’s a vicious cunt. And that scary fucking mute monkey creature of hers… WHAT IS THAT THING? It’s just evil.
Every moment that Daniel Craig is in this film as Lord Asriel… he’s the star. I could totally just go with a movie about Daniel Craig as an adventurous explorer in the arctic with a trained snow leopard. It’s just… classic.
Now – as hot as Nicole is in this film, the hottest is… without a doubt, Eva Green. Her wispy flying witch is just hot as could be. Eva was my pick for playing Dejah Thoris in JOHN CARTER – she is radiant and regal – here she adds mysterious to her quiet sensuality. And she kicks a lot of dust in this flick.
Now the star of the film is easily Ian McKellen as the voice of Iorek Byrnison – the Polar Bear that Lyra hires to kick ass and take names for her. He imbues so much soul into this character and the animation is excellent. Particularly in the Bear showdown. And folks – there is a moment in that fight that is the singularly most badass thing that I’ve seen in a theater this year.
That isn’t to say this movie is great – but it does contain the single most jaw… dropping moment I’ve seen in a film this year. One of those… what the hell just happened moments of ass-kickery that brings the house down. And it doesn’t take place at the end.
In fact the end is just sort of there. A flaccid, the adventure will continue endings – instead of the ending in the book which would have made for one of the most awesome OH MY GOD moments of the year…
There’s an awfully lot of great work in this movie, lots more than were in the original NARNIA film that Disney put out, but like that film – the sum is never greater than the height of its moments. The film soars, then treads water. It roars, then whispers. It beats its chest, then wipes its ass. That said – I found the film mesmerizing – a gorgeous and thrilling film to contemplate and talk about, but because there isn’t an ending to blow my mind… or even one to vaguely satisfy, well, it just sort of peters out. It just isn’t complete and I wonder if what was there will make the audience propel it till we get to see that ending as a tacked on beginning to a whole new film.
I’d be very very interested to see Chris Weitz’s director’s cut – cuz you can quite clearly tell… this is not it.
Definitely worth checking out – but as is, this is not a new LORD OF THE RINGS.