Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Golden Compass (2007)

I have never read any of Philip Pullman’s books, but apparently these Fantasy books have a very anti-religious message at its core and the film has been criticised for watering this message down quite a notch. No idea how much this does indeed come across in the books, but there are still more than enough anti-religious and anti-authoritarian stances in this production. In actual fact if there is one thing this film can be accused of is that this is way too preachy. I got no problem with the overall message, but anytime something gets explained (and there are lots of those situations around!) we are confronted with over the top, heavy duty, let’s-make-sure-even-the-biggest-dunce-in-the-theatre-understands-this symbolism. This is not an allegory, but a frigging preachy sermon that just won’t stop. If the books equally hit you over the head with those more than obvious messages, then I doubt I’d ever feel the need to read them.

Truth be told: I am probably not the right person to judge this kind of production. Twee Fantasy epics with annoying kids in a CGI environment aren’t exactly my favourite genre, and I doubt that I’d have ever given The Golden Compass a chance if it wasn’t for the fact that Christopher Lee was in it.

Mr Lee’s part is, however, minute. He appears for just about a minute or two spouting some threatening plan to rid the world of children’s independent spirits or some such and then is never seen again. What did surprise me was, however, that Hammer star Edward De Souza could also be seen in the same scene, alas without any dialogue whatsoever and a look that seems to ask where his next drink could be found.


Robert JE Simpson said...

Have you seen De Souza in Coronation Street yet? His guest spot a few weeks back on Harry Hill was frankly embarrassing!

Holger Haase said...

De Souza in Coronation Street? No, I never knew! I generally don't watch it unless someone else has it on (which admittedly is often enough). But this would make me look out for him. He seems to be getting busier these days than for quite some time.

Anonymous said...

Hi Holger,
I read these books because my mother, who works in the schools, asked me to. They are considering censoring them. She wanted to know if they really killed God. Ultimately, what people think of as God does die (no one killed him) and the Archangle MEtatron is a crazy, usurping evil being.
I have a different understanding of these books, because I have gotten into spiritulism. I believe what she really meant by the entire series is that the power to create comes from within. That what we call god is another being like you and I with the higher ability to create. What she calls dust is actually the zero point field (look it up in Quantum Physics) or what some people call the Akashic Record. In the end we are all gods, living and learning here and accessing the zero point field/akashic record (AKA: dust) for our further growth.
I don't care for these books. They are dark and the plot is just too convuluted and dreary. There's nothing to be happy about in the books. In the end she sets up the main character as the new eve with an awful lot of sensuality for someone who is supposed to be a child. I don't think there will be another movie.

DW Golden
Fly with Fairies in a new young adult novel: Purple Butterflies

Holger Haase said...

Hi DW, you are making some interesting points. As I haven't read the books I can't comment, but your last comment about there possibly not being any more films is interesting as another thing I found slightly annoying with this film was that a number of characters were just introduced without much meaning for this film (though possibly for future productions). The most notable is Daniel Craig's character who is presented as a lead, but really has little to do and is often of no consequence whatsoever for the main story. Same with the flying witches who just pop up practically out of nowhere with hints of huge back stories that never really get delivered. All in all, it was definitely a bit of a disappointment.

Anonymous said...

All three of these books were written well, but I do not understand how they could have been marketed to a child audience. The subject matter is much darker and violent then I would think children's books would have. Also the theological and philisophical ideas and messages are quite deep, and while I was reading them I had difficulty wrapping my mind around what he was getting at. Many of the characters are difficult to like, and the only characters I found myself growing to like were the boy and the polar bear king. Everyone else I mostly found distasteful and uninteresting. The ending was also lacking in closure and seemed incomplete. I thought that the film was relatively good, better than the book, but as a fantasy author I would have gone several different ways with the story. There was all of this talk about "killing God" and I do not recall that ever occurring in the plot. It would have been interesting to see them try to do it or fail, but that whole sequence was quite confusing. He did however write to get people to think and discuss ideas, so in that regard he did superb.