The Golden Compass

The Golden Compass

Hot on the heels of the 'Lord Of The Rings' and 'Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe' buzz is the 'His Dark Materials' trilogy. The award winning fantasy novels (released in 95, 97 & 2000) are by author Philip Pullman and have been praised for their adventurous stories enriched by philosophical metaphors.

This is based on the first novel (also released under the title 'Northern Lights'). It's set in a parallel universe – where people's souls manifest themselves as small animals, talking bears fight wars, and children are mysteriously disappearing. It follows 12-year-old Lyra (newcomer Dakato Blue Richards) and her quest to find her kidnapped friend Roger. Unwittingly catapulted into the heart of a much bigger, terrible struggle, Lyra is forced to seek aid from the good and bad of her world.

On Demand, DVD & Blu-Ray

Available from 1 providers

Flicks Review

While the inevitable comparisons with other fantasy films will ensue, The Golden Compass is better than the early Potters, beats Narnia hands down, and easily surpasses the recent Stardust. It loses something in the translation from book to screen, but remains an exciting adventure with some fantastic sights.

The Golden Compass is an adventurous tale of young Lyra who leaves her refined Oxford home to travel to the ice-bound north, where her uncle, Lord Asriel, is conducting heretical experiments to open up a gateway into a parallel world. It's a savage land, where armoured bears prowl, beautiful witches fly through the skies, and evil British scientists are conducting horrible experiments on children.

The parallel world setting is magnificent, and their London is a steam-punk art-deco metropolis. Life here is also different. Every human being has their soul represented as an animal that wanders beside them, called a daemon. Children's daemons change, and only settle as the humans reach adulthood. There is a very interesting subtext here – it's bad to touch someone else's daemon, or wander too far from your own – but the film doesn't explore this in huge detail.

Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy was a successful fantasy adaptation because it felt fresh and original. It was like nothing else out there. Unfortunately, The Golden Compass doesn't have quite the same panache or conviction. It looks great, but there is something too literal about the translation from book to screen. It never transcends the source material, so there is little to move audiences unfamiliar with the story.

And without the context of the two sequels, the deeper meanings and philosophical questions that were posed by the books are largely left unanswered here. Characters are thinner, and their goals aren't quite as clear-cut. Add in the fact that the book's final chapters have been shifted to the beginning of a potential second movie, and you've got one very underwhelming ending (although, conversely, it made me rabidly excited about the sequel).

But in spite of all that, for my money, this is as good a young person's fantasy as you're going to get. The visual effects are very impressive, particularly the animation used to bring the polar bears to life. You can almost feel their weight during a brutal bear fight. Their king, Ragnar Sturlusson, is a scary creation indeed.

Performances, too, are all good. Particularly Dakota Blue Richards who plays Lyra with a plucky artful-dodger type charm. Daniel Craig plays Lord Asriel as Ernest Shackleton meets Indiana Jones - half oxford professor, half artic explorer. Nicole Kidman is creepy as the cunning Mrs Coulter.

The Golden Compass certainly provides a decent start to the fantasy trilogy, and we can only hope that the filmmakers are allowed to take more risks with the sequels.

The Peoples' Reviews

Average ratings from 11 ratings, 12 reviews
Reviewed & Rated by
Your rating & review
Rate / Review this movie

Just let the kid in you enjoy
I really enjoyed most of the content
There are one hell of a lot worse fantasy movies out there

Not worth seeing at the movies

Movies are not supposed to be a permanent release from reality.

When I saw this movie i was bored out of mind. I mean the story was impossible to understand or keep up with at that matter. Everyones saying that this movie is so good and that is why I saw it.

I think my cousins wasted their money on a piece of junk. They also wasted their time. It was worse than Fools Gold witch was terrible by the way.

Im surprised that people liked the movie. Its like paying someone to kill you.



Showing 5 of 12 reviews. See all reviews

The Press Reviews

  • A darker, deeper fantasy epic than the "Rings" trilogy, "The Chronicles of Narnia" or the "Potter" films. It springs from the same British world of quasi-philosophical magic, but creates more complex villains and poses more intriguing questions. As a visual experience, it is superb. As an escapist fantasy, it is challenging.... Full Review

  • A crushing disappointment for fans and a scuppered opportunity for a cinematic event. That the first book has been so mishandled doesn’t bode well for the (already greenlit) more complicated ones to come... Full Review

  • Me, I just think it blows. What does it matter if you spend millions on a movie - love the talking, battling bears! - if the effects are cheesy, the story runs off on tangents and after watching the movie fail utterly to be the next Lord of the Rings, you just want to go home... Full Review

  • This is what happens when filmmakers bend over backwards to try to please everyone. Nobody's really happy... Full Review

  • A "soft" epic, a film touching on childhood fantasies with sturdy, unwavering characters driven to evil or good. More "Harry Potter," in other words, than "Beowulf."... Full Review

  • Nicole Kidman’s glittering villainess, some gorgeously rendered CG design and a bolshy, 11-year-old heroine can’t entirely rescue this $180-million franchise gamble from a juddering, shuddering outcome. Not a failure by any stretch, but Compass leaves its future hanging in the balance... Full Review