The Golden Compass  

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Golden Compass
2007, in theaters

You should know
Ok, I actually have read this one. I’ve only read the first book in the trilogy, but I plan on borrowing the rest from Dan one of these days.

When we saw the movie, Dan had not read the book yet. He went out and bought the trilogy soon after.

I’m also currently re-reading the book for my book club. We’ll be talking about the spiritual/religious messages and the controversy. I’m looking forward to it.

While the story was definitely watered down from the original text, it was fairly close, at least in spirit. I didn’t have much of a problem with the cuts and changes that were chosen for time constraints (although the movies is only 113 minutes long, not quite two hours). Iorek Byrnison is toned down a bit, Serafina Pekkala’s role is shortchanged, and the revelation of Lyra’s parentage is handled very differently than in the book, but otherwise, I was satisfied. That said, the movie ended a bit before the book did, although not on an inappropriate note.

To review the plot: Lyra, an orphan girl living at a major university in Oxford in a universe where people’s souls are housed in familiars called daemons, is thrust into a dangerous plot when she catches a university official trying to poison her uncle, Lord Asrael. Soon after, she’s taken in (in both senses of the phrase) by the lovely, if suspicious, Mrs. Coulter, at which point she finally gets a taste of the danger and adventure to come. Children are being kidnapped, daemons are in danger, and Lyra comes into the possession of an alethiometer, the titular golden compass that tells her the truth about anything she asks of it. Airships, polar bears, Texans… I think I covered most of this in my review of the book.

Check it out
If you enjoyed the book but aren’t a stickler for perfect transcription, if you like a good fantasy movie, or if you have older kids (it’s a bit intense for little ones), go for it. But don’t expect heavy-handed Catholic bashing a la the controversy.

The rest of the Internet
Warning: possible spoilers
At the official move site, you can play with an alethiometer or create your own daemon.
The Wikipedia pages for the film and the book.
The IMDb page.
Snopes confirms the root of the controversy.
The reviews are not great at Rotten Tomatoes.
Peter T. Chattaway at Christianity Today seemed to like the movie well enough, though he considers the religious themes potentially problematic. The article includes some interesting discussion questions.
Stephanie Zacharek at Salon did not like the movie at all.
Songshards liked the movie more than the book.
John at Come to Find Out liked the movie, but loved the book.
Chris Kohler at Underwire thinks the movie should have been longer and darker.

Awesome link of the week
Now, those who know me might not guess that I’d pick a blog about World War I. But those who know me really well won’t be too surprised by this one. It's all about letters.

Pte Harry Lamin would be 120 this year. He served in the First World War as a member of the British Army, and over the course of the war wrote many letters home. The letters he sent to his brother and sister were saved, and his grandson, Bill, has taken to posting transcriptions of the letters 90 years to the day from when they were written. Since Harry’s family never knew when (or if) another letter was coming, neither do the readers (although Bill occasionally will give readers a heads-up if he has reason to believe the delay is due to a bundle of letters being lost, rather than a disaster). He has also compiled reader comments and his responses to many of them, as well as transcriptions of the battalion’s war diaries to add historical context.

Bill Lamin will not reveal Harry’s fate -- and since Harry left a young son at home when he went to war, Bill’s existence is not a clue. I’m hoping we’ll get to read some nice, happy letters either this November 11 or next June.

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