Nine out of ten movie adaptations of books will disappoint – that’s my general opinion, and this was no exception. What does make it exceptional is that people who have not read the book, like Sniffles, would say that it is a bad movie, and people who have read the book, like myself, would say that it is bad to the power of infinitive. I mean, take The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – that was an admirable effort. Yes, the book was still better, but one wouldn’t say the movie was bad. Even the Harry Potter series, where there was just no way the movies could have been as good as the books – something was translated effectively onto the big screen – the quidditch matches, the realisation of Hogwarts, right down to the costumes of the characters. Then, there is LOTR. I could never tolerate Tolkien. Even in my younger days, at a time when I read anything under the sun, I couldn’t get past the first five pages of The Hobbit, not to mention LOTR. I mean, I can read The Tale of the Genji, I can read The Brothers Karamazov, but I cannot read LOTR. I just can’t. But the movies… they were great. I will never watch them again, but they were great.
So, back to The Golden Compass. Nicole Kidman is amazing. She is exquisite in every way. Just watching her in her clothes is an immense pleasure. Daniel Craig was looking devastatingly gorgeous, even fully-clothed. But hey.. they’re just the supporting cast. The girl who played Lyra, the main character… perhaps it was just the really bad scripting and direction – there was just no saving grace about her, I’m sorry to say.
To be fair, even from the book, Lyra wouldn’t be a very likeable character. Well, at least not to me. There is something annoyingly crude about her. But in the book, it was possible for her to slowly evolve and time for her to endear herself to the reader, but not in the movie, I feel. And perhaps that was the whole problem with the movie – everything was being condensed to fit into two hours, and this is not a story that allows that. Even as I was reading the book , I was asking myself how kids could possibly understand the storyline. There are big words and theories postulated that would go over the heads of even adults. The attempt to make this into a movie resulted in something ridiculous.
So, about the religious controversy that’s been buzzing around the Net, even before the movie opened – I don’t see any cause for it at all. The movie, unlike the book, doesn’t even mention the words god or church. And rumours about how this is a story encouraging children to kill God so that they can do whatever they want are just unfounded, be it in the movie or the book. Yes, there are some religious elements – these are hardly present in the movie, but more apparent in the book – a book that has won many major awards as Children’s Literature. In fact, the last book in the trilogy that is His Dark Materials, of which The Golden Compass is the first book, won a Parents’ Choice gold award, so I don’t think there’s really anything seriously objectionable about the plot or the themes.
The final verdict? Don’t bother watching the movie. Try the book. It’s not as easy to read as The Chronicles of Narnia or Harry Potter but it does make for a modern classic.