Massawyrm Talks THE GOLDEN COMPASS, Religion, And Harry's Review!!
Published at: Dec. 6, 2007, 8:03 a.m. CST by merrick
Hola all. Massawyrm here.
I love Harry. No, this isn't one of those It's his birthday so I'm gonna publicly fellate the boss sort of things. It's that while there are many times in which we feel the other is a complete motard for his opinions on a film, there are a lot of times in which we not only see eye to eye, but when one of us beats the other to a posted review, it almost seems pointless to post our own – it's all already been said. Sometimes we seem to peel the words right out of each others heads. And such is exactly how I feel about The Golden Compass. I thought I was in the clear. If I took a few hours to nap after an early morning screening I would be fine, right?
Wrong. Harry beat me to the punch. Tortoise and the Hare and all that shit. With dread I clicked open his story and read line by line as he spelt out virtually every feeling I had for the film. It is gorgeous, a unique and wonderfully conceived fantasy concept that plunks you right smack dab into a world you've never even pondered, but almost instantly believe exists. You sit there drinking in every moment of the first act enjoying all the various fantasy ideas brought together with even the most tired and clichéd among them seemingly having new life breathed into them. And for a while you miss just how hollow this film is. You don't realize just how hard this film is trying to keep its best secrets for itself.
The exposition is thick as an ice cream cake fresh out of the freezer and just about as easy to cut through. There's a lot of information they want to lay out, a lot of questions they want you to ask while simultaneously refusing to answer almost any of them. That's what the next two films are for….and that's where this film begins to suffer its chief and most debilitating flaw. It operates under the assumption that there will definitely be a second and third film and has an ending that feels awfully familiar as a result. Remember how a large number of people felt a little let down at the end of Fellowship of the Ring? Remember that really, that was the climax feeling? Well imagine that without the promise of a followup film the following Christmas. That's what the final act of The Golden Compass feels like.
Now I'm certain that if this does well enough the answers will really begin to flow in the next film. But how long am I gonna have to wait? Is it a sure thing? Will it ever even happen? These are the thoughts running through your head at the end of this. And it shouldn't. A first film like this really needs to feel like it stands on its own, really needs to feel like its own thing, like something I WANT more of…not NEED more of to feel complete. But The Golden Compass has a big glaring TO BE CONTINUED practically plastered across its third act and it is kind of a let down in that way.
But it is beautiful. There are some killer moments and visuals that make you feel like a kid again. If you haven't read Harry's review, do so. He addresses all the salient details worth mentioning about this film – except he somehow forgot to mention the sheer awesomeness of every moment Sam Elliot is on the screen. Is it a SAG rule that all cowboy stereotypes MUST be played by Elliot, or is it that he is just sugarfried awesome with a hint of musk? Who cares. He kicks ass.
But is the film offensive? No. I've gotta side with the American Catholic Bishops that viewed this film rather than the headline grabbing William Donohue and his Catholic League. Sure, when viewed by an adult familiar with Pullman's religious stances and the overall theme of the books – yeah, there's still enough there for a reasoned adult to see the themes. But when viewed on its own, looked at without a lot of the contextual references that New Line and Weitz were very careful to excise from this mass distributed version of the story, there is nothing deliberately anti-religion, anti-god or especially anti-catholic. Does the Magesterium look a lot like the very worst of the Catholic church? Sure – there's a definite aspect of the Inquisition to it. But it is nothing to get in a twist over – just the usual anti-authoritarian stuff prevalent in just about every great adventure story ever written. But it's not like there really are still Catholics out there trying to tell us what we should watch, read or think...is there?
And this bollocks about the movie being a gateway to the books – which admittedly do contain some anti-religious/anti-Christian sentiments – dude, if it bothers you don't let your kids read the books. It really is that simple. Tell them that the movie's different. It is. And it's safe. You know, as safe as a PG-13 movie can be. Donohue and his bunch have really kind of missed the point here. New Line specifically toned down the offensive content as not to rile up the boycotters, to provide a film that entertained instead of proselytized – and rather than thanks, they get calls of a boycott. Just what kind of message are you trying to send there, Bill? If you take issue with the books, caution parents against the books – not the movie that had its offensive bits sanitized.
Overall, it is a film worth checking out. I enjoyed it and found some of the bits to be a collection of truly perfect moments. But it feels incomplete. Maybe once I've gotten through to the end of the third, all of the holes will have been filled in with the awesomeness to follow. I mean, no one is let down by the ending of FotR anymore, are they? Instead they just get excited to throw in disc 3 of what is a 6 disc movie. Maybe I'll feel like that one day. But today, I feel like the movie kept all of the best stuff to itself for later. This comes Recommended to anyone who considers themselves a fantasy fan or has kids old enough to take to a PG-13 movie. It might not tickle your pink parts for two hours, but it will entertain you.
Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em.