Friday, December 5, 2008

THE GOLDEN COMPASS (Chris Weitz, 2007, UK) We need not suspend our disbelief concerning the story’s basic premise: the Church trying to stifle Reason and keep the masses ignorant, condemned to a Dark Age of superstition and metaphysics. Unfortunately, this ubiquitous fact is not fantasy and is a dangerously real threat to all freethinkers and intelligent people. Now, let’s talk about this mess with one caveat: I have not read the books so I am reviewing on the basis of the film only. First, the story is fractured and makes little sense at all. Very little is explained and characters are introduced just to move the plot along. There is no connection to anyone, especially our heroine Lyra. We need some background, some foundation of emotional attachment to empathize with the protagonists. The second major problem is that we are given no insight into this Victorian alternate reality: we don’t know the basic boundaries of the technology or metaphysics involved. This leads to narrative problems because the story often takes the easy way out: the only god is the Deus Ex Machina! The alethiometer is used as a contrivance for Lyra to solve any problems quickly and with little effort…just turn the dials and the story progresses to the next point. Awful. Finally, I was confused by the daemons; they are supposed to be a human’s externalized soul (I would imagine the connection should be very deep and natural) but they seem to be nothing more than CGI pets. Do they poop? My mind was wandering during this 2-hour yawn fest. Maybe the producers should hire the HARRY POTTER screenwriter Steve Kloves because he understands how to pare-down a complex and intricate story into an enjoyable 2-hour narrative. But I do like Pullman’s concept of alternate worlds, daemons, despotic theocracies, and conspiracy theories so I will read the books. Even the roguish and always-cool Sam Elliot can’t save this film from becoming lost. (D)

No comments: