Saturday, December 08, 2007

Review: The Golden Compass

Often I worry that reading other reviews for a movie will prejudice my own. Even though I review based on how I enjoy the film and not on "artistic merit", sometimes reading a review will change my expectations. The few reviews I'd read on The Golden Compass complained that there was "too much information" or that the "plot was too complicated".

Now I remember... there is no IQ test to be reviewer.

One can argue that I have an unfair advantage because I've read Phillip Pullman's Dark Materials trilogy. But that was roughly 8 - 10 years ago. My girlfriend at the time told me "Harry Potter is crap... read this instead" and handed me her copy of the Golden Compass. The material is much more complicated than Rowling's books and I think that is part of the reason it has taken so long for Dark Materials to make it to the screen. It is a real challenge to distill it down to the point that the average person can follow and enjoy it.

The movie itself turned out very well. It relied a *lot* on CGI, but it wasn't distracting and the acting was very good. It managed to avoid the epicitis of other fantasy movies (Peter Jackson I'm looking at you) with out sacrificing too much. I really hope they make the other two movies. Especially since in the movie they pretty much committed to it.

My only beef with the movie is how it ended. Without spoiling, it felt like we were a couple of chapters away from the end. The initial chapters in trilogies like Star Wars, the Matrix, and Pirates of the Caribbean had an advantage in that they weren't designed to be trilogies, so the first move had to stand alone. Somehow Jackson managed to close each of the LotR movies with out us going "huh? That's it?"

That's what happened at the end of Compass. In fact, the main character summarizes all of the remaining plot threads, then we go to black.

But overall, it's a very enjoyable movie, will be added to the DVD collection, and I look forward to (and hope for) the other two installments in the trilogy.

And armored polar bears rock.

My rating: 4 of 5 shape-shifting daemon flying monkeys.



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