Posted by: Dr P | April 11, 2008

The Golden Compass

First of all, let’s get the obvious comment out of the way. This film should have been called “Northern Lights” but as usual Hollywood takes over and just because Americans don’t even know which way North actually is, we get the Golden Compass.

Right. It’s not a compass, either. It’s an alethiometer. However, once again we suspect that much of the core audience is either too young or too dim to get the word “alethiometer”, so every single time it was mentioned in the film, someone immediately said “golden compass”.

Okay, rewind.

I knew it was going to be one of those nights when my regular film companion and next door neighbour, who for the purposes of anonymity we shall call ‘G’ (his name’s Gareth, but I promised not to say that), called it “The Golden Shower”. Nice. That set me off straight away.

As this was the first night release, there were no adverts – an immediate half star added there as we didn’t have to sit through those annoying “pirate DVD” ads where someone “always gets up to go to the toilet”. However, we then take off half a star because there was no Orange Film Board skit, which always cracks me up. It’s Macauley Culkin at the moment: “look, the guards are getting hit with things in the head!” Wonderful.

OK, onto the film, and after the initial disappointment that it’s NOT actually called “The Golden Shower”, we’re into an elaborate introduction which tells us some background information. Specifically that there’s a problem with Dust.

If they’d just thought to get a Dyson with one of those filter things, we could have saved the whole 2 hours there and then!

Next up we meet Lyra, the heroine of the books and film(s?). Having lived her entire life in the plush surroundings of Jordan College, Oxford, and – as it later turns out – is the daughter of two remarkably posh folk, she inexplicably talks like an extra from Oliver! “Awright, Rod-jer, fancy a knees up?”

If you’ve read the books, you don’t need me to summarise the plot, and if you haven’t, go see the bloody film! Jeez! Boys, there’s a really hot witch for you to ogle (even if she is dressed like Enya from the Orinoco Flow video), and for the girls, Daniel Craig’s in the film for about 3 minutes. No swimming trunks, alas.

It struck me about two thirds of the way through that actually this film is Star Wars. Let’s consider the evidence. Talking creatures – check. Mythical ‘matter’ forming the core of the universe (dust/force) – check. A rogue “adventurer” who has his own vessel and teams up with outlaws – check (all that was missing was for the wonderful Lee Scoresby to exclaim “hell, kid, I’ve flown from one side of Svalbard to the other, and I ain’t never seen any of that dust” and it would have been perfect). A shock revelation about the main character’s parentage? Check! Oops, slight spoiler there …

Oh and there was also a brilliant Lord of the Rings connection, with both Saruman and Gandalf (well, his voice anyway) playing parts … we shall look forward to the part in the next film where Gandalf’s polar bear is imprisoned on top of the very tall Magisterium tower and has to be rescued by jumping on the back of a giant eagle!

Despite the impression I may have given thus far, I really enjoyed this. Forget the silly religious furore (pretty much all religious references from the book have been cut out) and just focus on the cool bears, the fights, the airships and the hot witch. Well worth the admission price (which was halved cos Big G and I split the cost on Orange Wednesday’s 2 for 1!).

Oh and right at the end of the credits (you should stay just to confirm this), the announced that the 2nd film will be released next December and will be entitled “The Silver Set Square”.

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