Preview of Golden Compass

A director friend of ours had tickets to a preview of the Golden Compass and invited Rob and me to a small screening. The production design on the show is gorgeous, with air ships that will make the most hardened steampunker swoon. The costumes are stunning throughout. The whole cast turns in really strong performances, particularly Dakota Blue, playing Lyra, who seems to spend most of the movie acting to CGI. I always believed that she was looking at something real.

The pacing is really atrocious and the movie skips from one action scene to the next. I do not remember the book feeling so full of lucky coincidences. This really felt like “And Lyra gets into trouble! Look! Someone saves her in the nick of time! And Lyra gets into trouble! Look! etc!!!”

I was sad. But I’ll still go see the second one, hoping that they get a handle on the pacing next time. It’s still worth seeing, mind you, because it is very, very pretty.

The rest of my complaints are spoilers.

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9 thoughts on “Preview of Golden Compass”

  1. “And Lyra gets into trouble! Look! Someone saves her in the nick of time! And Lyra gets into trouble! Look! etc!!!”

    I know exactly what you mean, and it frustrates me no end about so many American movies. I chalk it up to the stylistic influence of George Lucas and the original Star Wars movies. People want to imitate that sense of “edge of your seat” excitement, but forget that if you’re going to play it that way, you need some other unifying elements to hold the rhythm of the thing together, like grand Jungian metaphors, playful, self-aware humor, etc…

    As it is executed most of the time by lesser filmmakers than Lucas and Speilberg, I find it needy and insecure; as if the filmmakers think they have to trick their audience into being interested in the story.

  2. Oddly, “And Lyra gets into trouble! Look! Someone saves her in the nick of time! And Lyra gets into trouble! Look!” was exactly how I felt about…

    …the original book.

  3. I saw this last night, too. Wasn’t too impressed with the CG, all the more so as it was done by the company I used to work for. The bear was not synced well.

    Ditto to your complaints, although the last battle was very well executed. I liked the witches, in a way.

    Oh, and I was disappointed that I didn’t see Jesus fighting a polar bear, as all the Christian anti-Pullman propoganda I’d been emailed over the last weeks indicated I would…

  4. @Brian Dolton: That was my first thought too. It’s one of the few complaints I have about those books.

    I heard Pullman speak a few weeks ago and grit my teeth when he said something about Lyra being “an ordinary girl in extraordinary circumstances”. He promptly undermined the statement by reading a passage where she tells herself she has to be brave because she’s Lord Asriel’s daughter. She can play running about on rooftops all she likes, but in the end, she’s an extremely well-connected young lady, and a lot of the “Someone saves her in the nick of time!” moments are about her father’s ties to various people and organizations.

    I wonder whether the classism is as rampant in the movie. Do all the servants still have dog daemons?

  5. Oh, another thing came back to me while reading a review in the paper this morning. The first review I saw of it was on a Southern Baptist website(don’t ask what I was doing there; I couldn’t even tell you) that did a masterful job of not sounding completely deranged, even though it was. Their assessment of “The Golden Compass” as an elaborate story cooked up by someone who had a bone to pick with Christianity fits with what else I’ve read so far. Also, they were surprisingly non-histrionic about it.

  6. Brian and Rose: I’m sure the book was like that, but there were stretches in between when other things happened so I wasn’t so firmly aware of it. It really hits you in the face here.

    Chris: No, the CG lives firmly in the uncanny valley. It kept attracting attention to itself.

  7. Susan Marie Groppi

    The CG bothers me even in the commercials–I keep wondering why the Coca Cola polar bears have taken up arms.

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