The Golden Compass
Last night I went to see the film The Golden Compass, based on Philip Pullman’s book Northern Lights. It’s been a bit controversial, with some people urging others to boycott it, which I blogged about here. So this comment is avbout the film itself rather than whatever moral or philosophical or theological issues it raises.
One of the problems of films made from fantasy books is whether one should see them in case the film does not live up to the book. I did not see the films of Lord of the rings because I did not want the film to interfere with the pictures in my head when I read the book. I had no such problem with, for example, the Harry Potter films. Though I haven’t seen them, I’d be quite happy to see the Narnia films. But not Lord of the rings.
But The Golden Compass was for the most part OK. It generally stuck fairly closely to the book. Other people who have seen it said that the bits with the armoured bears were the best, and I have to agree, and in fact those were better than the book. The armoured bears were something I liked least about the book, but worked better on film.
The beginning and the end, however, were cut short.
Perhaps the end of Northern Lights will be tagged on to the beginning of next one (The subtle knife) if it is made.
But the beginning was cut so short as to be confusing. The explanation that it was not taking place in our world, but in one of many possible parallel universes was OK, but the explanation of Dust at the beginning was a bit of a spoiler. Not that it should make much difference, though. One of the things that hooks the reader is that “Dust” is something of a mystery, and one goes on reading to find out more about it, and one of the disappointments is that Pullman never really explains it.
The emphasis on the aletheiometer and the explanation of it as a “golden compass” of the title of the film also seems to oversimplify the plot in the film. Perhaps that is inevitable in the transfer from book to film, but when the plot was a bit tjhin in the first place it seems a pity to oversimplify it further.
I just had another look at Mard’s blog where there was a discussion of Pan’s labyrinth (with a link back to my discussion of it on this blog), and it struck me that there were some similarities, in that in both the protagonist is an 11-year-old girl.
And Pan’s labyrinth is by far the superior film. Of course the comparison is not completely fair, as The Golden Compass is aimed at kids, and has even been a bit over-simplified from the book, while Pan’s labyrinth is definitely an adult film.
But comparing them makes me realise even more that Lyra Belaqua is a kind of juvenile Ayn Rand heroine, striding like a colossus across the earth, using people and discarding them along the way.