Northern Lights/The Golden Compass

‘Tis a while since I read His Dark Materials trilogy, but having just seen the first film in the series, I wonder if I read the same book that Chris Weitz (American Pie) read at all. On a superficial level it’s all there – the alethiometer, the daemons, the armoured bears – but either I thought it was about something else altogether or its had its heart ripped out (like Ragnar Sturlusson in the book and not, significantly, in the film). Essentially it’s been converted into an action film, with anything vaguely puzzling or troubling explained before it happens. The explicitly religious nature of the magesterium is gone altogether and the violence is cartoon violence, with deamons popping. Bizarrely here’s not a drop of blood in the sanitised bear fight, and the only evocation of the brutality of the book was a momentary expression on Eva Green’s face as she sunk her dagger into a magesterium soldier. I had thought that a film that the Catholic League boycotted couldn’t be bad, but the truth is it just isn’t a good film. The pacing is poor – it feels padded whilst seeming rushed – and it hurtles towards an ending that has apparently been cut altogether – it just stops. There’s a wealth of star talent (Kidman, Craig, McKellen, Jacobi, Lee and many others) who have earned the spurs in other films. Dakota Blue Richards is a convincing presence, but the direction is leaden and in an effort to spend the special effects budget, the producers haven’t noticed the intercession – a little cut – that has separated the film from its intellectual engagement and enjoyability.

About Simon Wood

E-learning officer, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See simonwood.info for more…

9 thoughts on “Northern Lights/The Golden Compass

  1. I was particularly disappointed at the truncated ending.

    Talk about changing the tone of a book completely! I understand the “proper” ending was filmed, but held back for the second (now never-to-come) film.

  2. I was particularly disappointed at the truncated ending.

    Talk about changing the tone of a book completely! I understand the “proper” ending was filmed, but held back for the second (now never-to-come) film.

  3. It seemed the book had as a central theme the “quest for Roger” which would only be properly concluded in the original ending, together with the other major theme: Asriel’s “betreyal”. As a narrative, this drove Lyra’s growing up during the course of Northern Lights from her wildcat childish innocence and ignorance to an awareness of the full horror of the evil in the world of adults and, yes, the Church.

    I hadn’t realised the film had flopped in the US. I can’t help but wonder if that’s something to do with the religious furore. I had assumed the sequels were inevitable, the thing had done so well over here. I’m conflicted how I feel about that – I’d been looking forward to the continuing uproar (though now less so to the films themselves). But perhaps if they cannot be adapted for film they’ll get a longer television adaptation, with a low special effects budget and a director with the imagination to use that to his advantage. I know radio 4 did an adaptation, and I’d be interested now to get hold of that…

  4. It seemed the book had as a central theme the “quest for Roger” which would only be properly concluded in the original ending, together with the other major theme: Asriel’s “betreyal”. As a narrative, this drove Lyra’s growing up during the course of Northern Lights from her wildcat childish innocence and ignorance to an awareness of the full horror of the evil in the world of adults and, yes, the Church.

    I hadn’t realised the film had flopped in the US. I can’t help but wonder if that’s something to do with the religious furore. I had assumed the sequels were inevitable, the thing had done so well over here. I’m conflicted how I feel about that – I’d been looking forward to the continuing uproar (though now less so to the films themselves). But perhaps if they cannot be adapted for film they’ll get a longer television adaptation, with a low special effects budget and a director with the imagination to use that to his advantage. I know radio 4 did an adaptation, and I’d be interested now to get hold of that…

  5. There are two! And, wow, 10+ hours! The one that is described as “unabridged”, which seems and odd description for a dramatisation, is also described as a “full cast reading” but there seems to be very little information out there on what that actually means…

    Perhaps it will come on BBC 7…

  6. There are two! And, wow, 10+ hours! The one that is described as “unabridged”, which seems and odd description for a dramatisation, is also described as a “full cast reading” but there seems to be very little information out there on what that actually means…

    Perhaps it will come on BBC 7…

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