The Golden Compass (2007)

Do Over: EYG Sunday Morning Revisit Week 3

I just barely remember the first time I watched The Golden Compass. It was on DVD and my slight memory was that I was bored during it. So when I saw that this movie was leaving HBO Max at the end of the month of May, I decided this would be a good film to use for week three of the Do Over.

What I found amazing upon the second viewing was that a film with as many fantastical elements and magical creatures could be as dull as The Golden Compass was.

According to IMDB: “It was no ordinary life for a young girl: living among scholars in the hallowed halls of Jordan College and tearing unsupervised through Oxford’s motley streets on mad quests for adventure. But Lyra’s greatest adventure would begin closer to home, the day she heard hushed talk of an extraordinary particle. Microscopic in size, the magical dust–discovered in the vast Arctic expanse of the North–was rumored to possess profound properties that could unite whole universes. But there were those who feared the particle and would stop at nothing to destroy it. Catapulted into the heart of a terrible struggle, Lyra was forced to seek aid from clans, ‘gyptians, and formidable armored bears. And as she journeyed into unbelievable danger, she had not the faintest clue that she alone was destined to win, or to lose, this more-than-mortal battle.

That synopsis from IMDB just scratches the surface of the convoluted story of The Golden Compass. What a mess the story of this film was. It seemed to change every ten minutes or so, much like the main antagonist (if that is who she was) Nicole Kidman. Kidman played Mrs. Coulter and her motives changed in every other scene. The movie also starred Daniel Craig as Lord Asriel, although I could understand if you forgot that he was in the movie because the movie certainly forgot that. He appeared at the beginning and was not seen again until the very end, and that was not even in person.

The young protagonist Lyra (Dakota Blue Richards) showed herself to be quite a strong little girl who was an accomplished liar or manipulator. She was thrown into several situations but I never once felt that she was in any jeopardy (except the one near the end in a lab, but it was resolved in such a unlikely manner that you could hardly count that one).

I did enjoy the inclusion of Sam Elliott as Lee Scoresby, a character nearly identical to dozens of characters I have seen Sam Elliott play before, though he is such a likeable actor that you forgive the repetitive nature. The ever wonderful Ian McKellan voiced the polar bear Iorek Byrnison, who went from drunken servant to king in the space of about 30 minutes. He pledged his fealty to Lyra because she let him know where his armor was being held, despite it being a painfully apparent location.

The CGI and special effects were hit and miss. Sometimes the film looked good, but other times it looked as fake as you could imagine.

The the film just ended. It pulled a Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring ending (which also had Ian McKellan in it) and the group had come together to head off on a quest. Let’s just say that this was nowhere near as satisfying as that movie was.

Prior to the abrupt ending the film pulled out about three Dues Ex Machinas in the final battle. This included the sudden appearance of Iorek Byrnison, who apparently can teleport (or else is a really sneaky gigantic armoured polar bear).

The Golden Compass was a disappointment and packed with ideas that are not executed or are so messy that you do not care by the time the film gets around to them.

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