The Golden Compass

There is a standard phrase about movies that were made after books. “The book was better”. Some people are rather annoyed by this, because you always hear it that way, never any other. But what can I do when seeing a movie where the book is really better, such as “The Golden Compass”?

I’ve seen this one yesterday with my family, very shortly after reading the book “The Northern Lights” (Golden Compass in the USA) by Philip Pullman, on which it is based. It’s set in a fantasy steampunk world where every person has a personal dæmon, and which is controlled by a merciless institution which is only known as the “Magisterium” in the movie, but actually an evolved form of the catholic church in the books. The hero is Lyra, a twelve year old girl, who tries to find out what the Magisterium is doing up in the North, using an odd device known as an Alethiometer or golden compass only she can control.

The book is a very interesting work, building a great world consistently. It has very good characters, interesting messages, and it gets them across perfectly. I can only recommend everyone to read it.

However, the movie is somehow lacking. Not only is the book’s end is missing, other parts are shortened too much as well. Not all that are shortened are done badly, but some are. Lyra, for example, appears rather omniscient, as ideas she has to work long to find in the book appear to her suddenly and without any effort. Some parts of the story were swapped around, so that it no longer makes much sense if you start asking.

Is it a bad movie? No, not at all.

First of all, the world it presents is done beautifully. The dirigibles, magical carriages, railroads (only on the sideliens) and the secret research station all work really well.

Many of the characters are done great. Daniel Craig is far more convincing here than he ever was as James Bond for me. Nicole Kidman is probably the best choice for Mrs Coulter anyone could have made. The texan Aeronaut is the classic stereotype of the old friendly cowboy, and he does this really well.

So all in all, it’s not a bad film, but the book was better…

On an unrelated note: Merry Christmas!

Written on December 24th, 2007 at 01:02 pm


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