I wanted to post about the movie The Golden Compass separate from the book. As some of you may be aware of, The Golden Compass came out in 2007. I remember watching it, and enjoying it. However, if you asked me a month ago to tell you what it was about, I probably couldn’t have done that. All I really remember is the opening scene and the wonderful critters. I might have recommended it, but maybe not. It hadn’t left a strong impression on me one way or the other.
As you may have presumed, I did not read the book before watching the film. Though I wasn’t the target audience, I liked the movie trailer because:
- It had Daniel Craig in it,
- It looked like it would be an awesome fantasy story with a spunky little girl instead of an emo boy, and
- It had Daniel Craig in it.
Now that you know how shallow I am, let’s move on…
The Golden Compass was directed by Chris Weitz. Not a particularly stellar director, but adequate and experienced. So, given the source material – an excellent story with an adventurous plot that would adapt well to the screen due to all the great visuals – what-the-freak happened? Why wasn’t the film at least half as good as the book? Though it did garner some awards for its visual effects, it just didn’t do all that well because it sucked.
I think it sucked for two reasons.
One is that they messed with the story. They toned down all the anti-religious themes, and a rearranged stuff while leaving out the awesome ending of Lyra following her father into another world (sorry about the spoiler). Apparently, the original script had adhered to the novel quite well, but due to studio constraints it was changed (read: trying to make it work for the religious-right American market).
In Pullman’s novel, the sentiment that a religious order controls and is doing horrendous things in the name of morality is quite clear, but that theme is discovered as you read about Lyra’s story. A young reader is lead to think on their own and to question an all-knowing authority. No where does the author or any of his characters out right say they are anti-religious. The point of the book isn’t to “preach” anti-religion, but rather to allow a reader to look at religion from a more balanced viewpoint.
If the film had been allowed to stick closer to the events and dialogue in the book, I think it would have been better for it. As it is, the film’s story doesn’t make sense and we are simply left watching a puppet go through the motions of finding her father, saving the kids, and then… Well, then nothing.
It is too bad that the film did not realize the grand adventure painted in the book, because now we’ll never get to see the rest of Lyra’s story. But! No worries, you can read it in The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, and that’s even better.