Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Golden Compass

I went to see The Golden Compass today, starring Nicole Kidman as Marisa Coulter, Daniel Craig as Lord Asriel, Dakota Blue Richards as Lyra Belacqua (the heroine), Ian McKellen as Iorek Byrnison (voice), Tom Courtenay as Farder Coram and Sam Elliott as Lee Scoresby.

I saw it at 3:30 pm, and there were about 10 people in the theater, 2 singles (me and some guy) and 4 couples. No kids.

Well, it's not a kid's movie. I found the look of the movie's "steampunk" - everything runs with clockwork. The narrator at the beginning explains that people's souls in this universe live outside their body, as animals - and this is an important, key point as the movie continues.

The actors are good, especially Nicole Kidman as the villainous Mrs. Coulter, the scenery good, the dialog good for the most part, the special effects are good, the only problem is it starts out very slowly. In today's rapid-fire world, I wonder if teens have the patience to sit through all the opening exposition? But then...the story did have to be "set up" and I don't see how else they couldn've done it.

Well...there is another problem - Sam Elliott as Lee Scoresby. Oh, he does an excellent job, but his role is just too similar to his role in Ghost Rider, the older "mentor" type character with the Western accent. (I really have to read the book to see if the character is that way in the book!). At leat in this movie, Elliot's character gets in on the fight at the end, instead of in Ghost Rider, where he rides all the way to the final battlefield with Nicolas Cage...and then just rides on! Stupid!

The controversy about The Golden Compass is that, in the books at least, the villain is the Catholic Church. The religion that didn't acknowledge until just 20 or 30 years ago I think that the Earth revolved around the sun. In the movie, all mention of the Church has been exorcised and the Magisterium is just the government, that likes to control people to within an inch of their lives.

Well, I'm an atheist, so I have no problem with a movie that "promotes atheism" and thinking for yourself. I will say this for the Catholic Church that has banned the movie and urged librarians to confiscate all copies of the books... at least they aren't burning the movie theaters where the movie is being shown, or putting "fatwahs" on the author or any of the actors that dared be in it. There's that difference between Christianity (now, at any rate - not 200 years ago!) and a certain other religion that I won't name.)

Secular government is the only government that will keep all people safe, safeguard the rights of all people, etc. Every time I see these religious fundamentalists banning books or forbidding movies, I just shake my head. (Although, yes, certain movies that degrade women I think should be banned, but consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds...)

Oh, and one thing I forgot...

At the end of the film a few "Russianesque" soldiers block our heroine's way out of a certain location. The one character says several words in Russian, including the word "Nazad!" And I understood what that meant! I've been listeing on BBC Radio 7 to serials featuring Inspector Lionheart (Nicholas Courtney, Brig Gen Lethbridge-Stewart in Doctor Who) and Professor Edward Dunning, author of horror novels, comedy/mystery/horror programs.

In the first, The Nazad Conspiracy, the victims are the Russian individuals who killed Rasputin, so they're all talking Russian, and we learn that "Nazad!" means "back" or "return" in Russian. So I thought that was a bit of amusing serendipity.

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