The Golden Compass... An Exciting Adventure? (Spoilers Allowed)

Discussion in 'Archive: SF&F: Films and Television' started by Vortigern99, Dec 10, 2007.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Vortigern99 Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 12, 2000
    star 5
    I talked to a reader of the books today who saw the film... and loved it. His explanation was that since he had read the book, he understood all this backstory and emotional context that the movie, he had to admit, failed to show. So, go figure. I'm glad some people like it, as it does have its winning qualities.
  2. raisedbywolves Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jul 1, 2005
    star 2
    Well, I went to see the movie with my brother yesterday and I have to say:

    [face_plain]

    Vortigern, I guess I can halfway understand what your friend who'd read the books meant when he said that for him, knowing the characters, it worked. But for me it was just way too flat. So many things were left out that it became a rote fantasy film.

    The Good:

    - Loved the girl who played Lyra, and that she was allowed to act like a little snot.

    - Nicole Kidman was great too. Also the writing for her character singlehandedly saved the slightly anarchic message of the movie from being buried in a pile of vague due to worries over anti-religious content as she explains that people don't know how to act properly, so they need the Magesterium to keep them in line. Also, Lyra shouldn't suffer incision because the process is still dangerous and because she's not "just anyone" like the other children. For me the slimy doublethink and Lyra's outrage about it got the point across.

    - Iorek "I lift heavy objects" Byrnison. Loved McKellan as the voice actor. He even smacked his opponent's jaw off, something I really expected would be left out.

    - The effects. It was pretty.


    The Bad:

    - The director just wasn't qualified to get the audience emotionally involved with the more esoteric aspects of the story. Everything that had to do with daemons (besides the fact they looked great) was woefully underplayed, making the whole reveal of what the Gobblers were doing at Bolvangar awfully anticlimactic. The whole scene with Tony Costa was indeed FRUSTRATING and contained no hint of the fear and loathing a person in his condition in Lyra's world should have inspired.

    - Bolvangar was also frustrating. Don't know whether the movie would have had to be PG-13 but for God's sake, ramp up the Kafka/mental institution vibe and make the incision machine really frightening!

    - Derivative images. I disliked the Gyptians' character design intensely. Also, moving photographs. Where have we seen that before?!

    - The compass-reading procedure. Sparkly, montage-tastic and annoying.


    The Ugly:

    - Infinitely worse than the compass-reading procedure was the way dying peoples' daemons went out in a cheerful burst of fireworks. That's just wrong.

    - If the filmmakers couldn't be bothered to put Iorek's actual backstory in the movie, they could've saved a lot of time in the film by not making up another, equally elaborate one.

    - There was a tendancy to miss the point of the things that happened. We hear that a witch was involved with one of the Gyptians when he was young, and that witches live for hundreds of years, but miss out on any indication that this disconnect might have been tragic for them both. Similarly, the reason Iorek won his duel which was that his opponent no longer thought like a bear and thus could be tricked like a human was almost entirely in the movie, except that they neglected to add maybe one line about it. Stuff like this just excised the poetry right out of the story. Sigh.

    - THE ENDING. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I can't believe they were that desperate to end it in an upbeat fashion. It's as though ESB had ended with Luke blasting off to Cloud City, monologuing to R2 about how sure he is that no matter what Yoda said, he'll have no trouble rescuing his friends using his new Force powers. And then he's going to end the Empire and make everything right! Roll credits!

    Seriously, I just cannot overstate the wrongness of this ending.



    I guess all there is to say about this is, go read the book. It's fantastic. The movie, not so much.
  3. ThrawnRocks Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 10, 2004
    star 6
    Ending? What ending? They didn't end the movie! There should have been another 15 minutes in the movie. I loved what they were doing in what turned out to be the end, because I thought that they were going to continue on and it would be the ultimate climax thanks to the contrast with their hopeful musings only minutes before. But no! They cut out the real juice of the ending and made a terrible happy ending that only exists to create demand for the next movie. Not to mention the lack of the proper ending made Craig's character completely useless. I don't know why they bothered casting someone of Craig's talent if they weren't going to use him. Asriel as a character has two moments in the book: the beginning and the end. The beginning is rather simple, and quite frankly any actor could have done that. But Craig could have really shined had they included the ending. I am extremely disappointed with this.

    Actually, the ending shows all the symptoms of the problem with this movie. It felt like they were just trying to go through the motions of the book, rather than actually make a movie out of it. They had scenes and moments that were almost complete, but didn't take that next step to really finish the scene. For example, the bear fight. It was totally awesome and I'm glad the kept the violence. I think it was as close an adaptation of that scene as I could hope for, but then they missed the "punch line" of the scene (not in the sense of a joke, but the point that the entire scene was leading up to), there was no mention of Iorek's deception, or the fact that Ragnar lost because he wanted to be human. Similarly, we have both the witches and the Tatars, but both their shorelines were completely cut out, so their inclusion seemed awkward at best. In the book, the tatars are mentioned almost from page one as a threat descending upon Europe, and so their appearance in the North makes total sense and is a partial fulfillment of that storyline; but in the movie, I'm not sure they were mentioned at all until they showed up as the guards of Bolvangar, reducing them to little more than stormtroopers. As for the witches, there was basically useless as all the emotional content of the witch/Gyptian scene as raisedbywolves pointed out, and also the fact that the witch civil war subplot was completely taken out. It's just frustrating how they had a lot there, but they didn't use it. I guess I could say that about the entire movie, but I'm not quite ready to wrap up my thoughts yet.

    One of the big complaints I saw in the months leading up to this movie was the fact that they were going to play down the religious issues, but if anything, they played it up. Sure they didn't go right out and say that the Magisterium was a part of the Catholic Church, but it was so heavily implied especially if you know the controversy leading up to the film with the Church. They should have just grown a pair and said it, because all the beating around the bush just made them look desperate and stupid. Plus why the hell was Christoper Lee there? He was in it for ten seconds, and if you're going to have such a high profile actor, use him for heaven's sake! In addition, I'd like to point out that the Magisterium trying to take over all the parallel universes was extremely stupid, and not from the book at all. In the book they seemed to see all that as blasphemy. And the focus was put very much on the Magisterium as evil, and much less on Miss Coulter which was the complete opposite of the b
  4. Radical_Edward Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    May 2, 2002
    star 3
    I've got to agree with raisedbywolves. 90% of the film was a faithful and proper adaptation, 10% was missing. The problem is that the missing 10% is equatable to making a film adaptation of Lord of the Rings without any reference to the Ring(s).

    I was also disheartened by some of the comments by folks who haven't read the book, particularly Charlemagne's. Their interpretation of how the movie should have been made me realize that there were major problems with the film that I didn't even notice and was able to gloss over mentally because of foreknowledge of the story. For example, Charlemagne's suggestion that Asriel should have been played more as a happy uncle than a stern relative made me realize that the relationship between him and Lyra was sorely misrepresented in the film. I'm not addressing this particular point to be nit-picky, but because it is an important point that has severe reprocussions both in the missing ending and in the sequels. Asriel is supposed to be a loveless hardass, a disciplinarian who has been more grooming Lyra like a kung-fu master would his pupil than stewarting his innocent orphan relative, only showing the briefest affection to keep from totally alienating the girl (Hence the line in the film where the Master tells Coulter that taking Lyra away from Oxford would be against Asriel's wishes for her education) Lyra stands by him not out of love but because she admires his strength and tanacity and resourcefulness, virtues that are key to her and which she emulates throughout the story.

    Also, I can't express the limits of my frustration about how the Ice Bear and kidnapped children plots were reversed. The Ice Bears were the big Plot, the climax of the story, not a measily subplot to throw some excitement in mid-stream. Rescuing the children should have been the lesser subplot (in the book, Lyra frequently scolds herself for forgetting about the kidnapped kids and reminds herself that she has to get something done about that...eventually)

    I was going to say more about the ice bears, particularly how "the ice bears having a kingdom was handled in a completely deadpan way" (grr...yet another failing of the ice bears' plot reduction) I don't think I'd be contributing anything by continuing, so I'll stop here and stew in silence.
  5. Vortigern99 Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 12, 2000
    star 5
    Radical_Edward, I welcome your ruminations on the differences between the book and the film. Having not yet read the book, but having been disappointed by the underwhelming yet full-of-potential movie, I'm intrigued to understand where the filmmakers went wrong, and how they diverged (to their detriment) from what is by all accounts a rippingly good novel.

    Pray continue with a full account of the ice bears' significance!
  6. ThrawnRocks Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 10, 2004
    star 6
    I think that Craig's Asriel was very true to the character. What would make Charles say that is the fact that without the ending, or the plot exposition about his history with Miss Coulter, he just looks like a hardass without reason. Both those put his character in more context and give him a character arc which he is sorrily lacking.
  7. raisedbywolves Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jul 1, 2005
    star 2
    ThrawnRocks: I just wanted to underline that you're right in your observations about the movie. Also I must have missed the bit about how the Magesterium was supposedly trying to conquer the other worlds in the film. That's absolutely ridiculous, you'd think that they'd have been first in line to fund Asriel's research if that were the case. Grr.

    Vortigern (is that name from an episode of Long Ago and Far Away which I remember oh so vaguely?):
    I'm not sure what Edward meant by the significance of the ice bears, but they seemed to serve the narrative purpose of introducing readers to different kinds of sentience and relationships to the soul, i.e. they are attached to their armor, have a bizarre code of honor, cannot be tricked, etcetera. Diverse kinds of sentient beings show up throughout the series, so the ice bears give us a taste of that. Also, as part of the Magesterium's political machinations in the book, it is planning to enslave the ice bears to its cause and beliefs by promising them they can become more like humans and have daemons too. King Ragnar is in the process of making the ice bears want to be human when Iorek arrives.

    So yes, read the book. At the very least sit down in Barnes & Noble and read the last few chapters, so you can find out what important item Lyra is bringing to Asriel... [face_skull]
  8. Sniper_Wolf Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 26, 2002
    star 4
    When I saw the movie (without reading the book) I thought it was alright. The biggest weakness is the ending since lacked any resolution at all. The movie basically stops. Now after just finishing the book the movie's ending is flat out criminal. Golden Compass has the type of ending that completely rewrites the reader's perceptions on everything that happened to that point besides being quite downbeat for a young adult novel. I don't mind changes from novel to screenplay as long as the essence of the novel is preserved. The lack of the ending fails to transplant what Pullman is trying to say in the original novel. That's the main failing of the film.
  9. DorkmanScott Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 6
    I'm going to chime in as well. I saw the movie not having read the book, and even based on that I thought it was pretty lame. There wasn't much of an ending and it didn't really bother to develop or follow-through on any of the few themes established. I'm glad I saw the film first for a couple of reasons.

    For one thing, it was difficult for me to envision exactly the world we were dealing with (I only got to "John Faa" on my previous attempts to read the books and I had no real understanding of what was happening). Having the understanding of what was going on with the daemons helped immensely.

    The second reason I'm glad I hadn't read the book first is because I would have been furious at the film's mistreatment of the story in removing the ending. As it is I read the book two weeks later and I'm STILL furious about it now. How dare they even MAKE the film if they're not going to tell the story? It's not even that they didn't tell it "properly", they didn't tell it AT ALL. And now that I'm a third of the way through Subtle Knife, they haven't set it up properly either. They basically destroyed the possibility of actually telling the story properly.

    *sigh*

    I guess we'll have to wait 20 years for someone with some clout (and talent) to come along and "remake" them. Which is a pity, since, as others said, the things they got right (like Lyra's performance), they really got right.
  10. Sauntaero Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 9, 2003
    star 4
    I don't know if this is a dead topi by now, but I just saw the film a few days ago.

    Hmmm.
    I'd defintely give it props for staying relatively faithful to the book, but I'd add that that might be what made it so...boring? Mediocre movie. Not gripping or engaging, unfortunately, since the book was both (but I was fidgiting all thru the movie!) I guess things got lost in translation--I'm not a fan of books-to-movies at all.

    However, there were some good parts. It's a little like a Disney-version of the book, simplified for prettiness and skewed a bit to have a happy ending. I think the acting was the only thing that was holding it together, really. I won't say the performances were perfect, but they pulled off some difficult lines and imaginary feats. Lyra I was impressed with, and Billy Costa was great! Mrs. Coulter could've been a bit more creepy, the bears could've been a bit more magical, and everything more relaxed. I wouldn't say the pacing was too fast, but it was difficult to get a feel for anything in such a brief amount of time. No emotion, on the whole.
    Final Judgement: lost in translation.

    .02
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.