The Golden Compass (4/10)
by Tony Medley
Despite all the controversy
and hullabaloo, this is too incoherent and full of plot holes to lure
impressionable children down some primrose path to the atheism of the
book’s author, Philip Pullman. Sure, it’s a fantasy about a parallel
universe where animals talk, witches fly, and all the children have
their own daemons serving as a constant voice of reason, so it’s not my
cup of tea. But, still, in order to be entertaining, the basic story
should make sense and be cohesive. This has neither attribute. Worse,
since this is the first of a trilogy, the film doesn’t end. To be
honest, they should have added, “To be continued…” at the end, but they
Maybe a subject of more
legitimate criticism is the lack of respect for adult authority this
movie foists on the wee tykes in the audience. Even more disappointing
is that Chris Weitz, who did such a smashing job with About A Boy
(2002), directed this debacle. Even the way the titular Golden Compass
works is never explained. It’s just movie magic. This is but one of the
many aspects of the film that defy common sense. I guess you just have
to take everything on faith, you should pardon the expression.
This has more plot holes
than you could shake a stick at. To its credit, New Line toned down the
story to eliminate, or mute, much of the anti-religious and
anti-Catholic content of atheist Philip Pullman’s book. A child would
have to be brilliant beyond belief to draw an anti-religious theme out
of this effort. If you know what you’re looking for, I guess it’s there,
but it’s such a stretch to think that a child could ascertain what is
Lyra Belacqua (Dakota Blue
Richards) is a 12-year-old girl who is a ward of distinguished Jordan
College. Her constant companion is her daemon, Pantalaimon (Freddie
Highmore’s voice) – a small, ever-changing animal that serves as a
constant voice of reason. In fact, all the children in the movie have
their own daemons.
Her uncle, Lord Asriel
(Daniel Craig), is embarking on a trip to the Arctic Circle to
investigate a mysterious element called Dust, but the Magisterium, which
seems to run this strange world, would go to any lengths – including
shutting down Jordan College – to stop him.
At the same time, rumors of
children mysteriously disappearing and being taken north become real
when Lyra’s best friend Roger (Ben Walker) goes missing. Lyra swears to
go to the ends of the earth to rescue him, and when a new figure appears
at the college – Marisa Coulter (Nicole Kidman), a somewhat mysterious
scientist and world traveler – she sees her best chance to get away.
But Lyra finds that she has
been drawn into a trap designed to take from her the one thing she
possesses that the Magisterium desperately seeks – the Golden Compass.
Given to her as a gift by the Master of Jordan College (Jack Shepherd),
it is a mystical, powerful device that can tell the truth, reveal what
others wish to hide and foreshadow – and even change – the future. The
rest of the film is basically a chase movie with the bad guys trying to
get Lyra and Lyra trying to find Roger.
Unfortunately, the way the
Compass works is never explained. It’s just movie magic. Lyra looks at
it and determines what’s going on. This is just one of the many aspects
of the film that makes no sense and is not explained.
You want plot holes? I’ll
give you plot holes. Much of the movie takes place in a desolate north
that looks like Antarctica. I mean, there’s nothing there. But every
time they go anywhere, there’s something just around the corner. There’s
a huge polar bear that has the perspicacity to think that maybe, just
maybe, the ever so thin ice bridge across a huge chasm might not hold
his half ton weight and Lyra’s 90 lbs., so she crosses without him and
the ice bridge crashes, stranding the bear. Not to worry, though,
because a short time later he shows up at the climax on the other side
of the bridge to save the day. They all know exactly where they’re
going, even though it’s all white and completely deserted. They want to
confront someone without anything other than a feeling that they should,
and just take off. Voila! after an extended journey, there they are,
spot on, at their intended destination with everyone they expected to be
there, there! This movie is nothing but nonsense. It’s so silly I don’t
think even a child could swallow it.
For Daniel Craig to be
listed as one of the main players in this borders on fraudulent
advertising, to say the least. He’s in only a few scenes before he flies
the coop to investigate the North. It seemed to me that he will appear
in subsequent films, because there is no reason for him to be in this
film, except to set up a sequel.
The only thing I liked
about the film was the appearance of Sam Elliot, who plays Lee Scoresby,
an “aeronaut” flying his own peculiar-looking machine. Elliot is still
the same laconic guy he’s always been no matter the world or universe in
which he appears, with a voice never to be forgotten.
I have been in few films in
which I have consulted my watch more often. When the end finally did
come after 93 excruciating minutes, I had an inkling of what it must
feel like to experience a miracle.
December 7, 2007