Friday, December 14, 2007

THE GOLDEN COMPASS: Trip To A Parallel World

THE GOLDEN COMPASS (fantasy adventure)

Cast: Dakota Blue Richards (pic), Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Eva Green and Ian McKellen
Director: Chris Weitz
Time: 113 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL? We would have thought that by now, the so-called guardians of public morality would have learnt their lesson and leave blockbuster movies alone. But no. They feel the need to take on another crusade against this film to prevent the world from turning into heathens. If anything, the protests by religious groups would only provide the curiosity
factor to boost its box-office takings. Based on David Pullman's book, 'His Dark Materials', this movie was seen as anti-Christianity by many organisations and even Nicole Kidman had come out to refute this claim. However, its opening in the US had been lacklustre despite the publicity hype but the movie did much better elsewhere in the world, especially in Malaysia.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Well, "Golden Compass" is partly an attack on 'authorities' who try to impose their will on others, just like the organisations who tried to have this movie banned or boycotted. In the movie, they are called the Magisterium, a bunch of old men who want to control the minds of the people, especially children. Mainly, however, it is the story of Lyra
Belacqua (Dakota Blue Richards), an orphan whose only living relative is the respected Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig). She is picked by the beautiful Mrs. Coulter (Nicole Kidman) to accompany her on a trip to the north where she hopes to meet the Ice Bears. However, before she can depart, her best friend, Roger (Ben Walker), disappears, captured by a squad of goons known as The Gobblers. Lyra is given an alethiometer (which looks like a golden compass) by the Master of Jordan College. This is the device that will reveal the truth of things to her, but she must not let Mrs Coulter know that she has it.

The trip with Mrs Coulter is not what Lyra had thought it would be, and she escapes her clutches, setting out on a quest to find and rescue Roger. For this endeavour, she needs some extraordinary companions, including the armoured ice bear Iorek Byrnison (voice of Ian McKellan), an aeronaut named Lee Scoresby (Sam Elliott), the Gyptian king John Faa (Jim Carter), and the witch queen Serafina Pekkala (Eva Green). Their goal sets them at odds against the forces of the Magisterium.

HITS & MISSES: The plot lures of this fantasy flick are the concepts of Daemons and Dust in a universe parallel to Earth. Characters here do not have souls but are accompanied by animal embodiments of their souls. 'Dust' is the stuff that makes travel between universes possible. It's the thing most feared by the Magisterium. These new concepts take a bit of getting used to and the first half of the film expounds on them. The second half gives us duels between the Ice Bears, and rousing mid-air battles that recall the clashes of the "Chronicles Of Narnia". Why, even Kidman looks like the Snow Queen of Narnia, only more ravishing and seductive.
The other star who stands out as much as Kidman is young Dakota Blue Richards who seems to have to carry the movie on her own much of the time. She has the requisite screen chemistry and pluckiness but viewers need to warm up to her a bit more. Other big names in the cast have little screen time in this first instalment. Unlike "Lord Of The RIngs" and the Harry
Potter films, there are no spectacular creatures like dragons and trolls to wow the audience, only talking grizzlies and cute daemon creatures. However, director Chris Weitz makes up for it with enegetic plot development and distractions.

THE LOWDOWN: Don't expect to walk away from "Golden Compass" feeling 'totally satisfied'. This is only the first of its trilogy, so it ends in a cliffhanger. Keeps you in anticipation...


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