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Dakota Blue Richards, There's Not One Iota of Richards in Blue - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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December 9th, 2007


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11:38 pm - Dakota Blue Richards, There's Not One Iota of Richards in Blue
So I saw The Golden Compass today. And it's supposedly OMG SO CONTROVERSIAL, but, really, the only thing controversial about it is whether you like it or not. And even that's not that controversial. Especially because it doesn't appear to matter what anyone thinks, since the movie kind of bombed, and the likelihood of the rest of the trilogy even being made is in question.

It was very hard not to focus on the movie as an adaptation rather than as a movie of its own, having read the books so recently. I couldn't really see how it would play to someone who had no knowledge of the books, except to wince at some of the expository dialogue that's required. Pullman lets you discover everything on your own, but there's no time for that in a two-hour movie! Here's some opening narration spelling out everything important, and here's some daemon rules dropped into children's conversations, and here's an important plot point told to Lyra for NO REASON WHATSOEVER.

I liked the movie much more once we were free of the exposition and things started moving. And they really did move! In the book, there would be all this time in a new location before something exciting happens, but there's no time for that in a two-hour movie! Here's a quick montage of stuff, and here's an attack right off the bat, and here's Lyra having a plan IMMEDIATELY UPON ARRIVAL. Surprisingly, though, they're pretty faithful to the book (with one notable timeline switch), and they keep all the major set pieces (except, of course, for one, but that's something to be discussed under the cut).

The CGI animals were done very well, and I liked how fluidly they changed. I liked that daemons were being themselves and sometimes changing even when they weren't the focus of attention. And, oh man, I kind of loved the sound and visual of daemons exploding into Dust as their humans died. Or, if that wasn't supposed to be Dust, since I don't remember that from the book...exploding into sparkly magical yellow stuff.

The movie is very well cast. Dakota Blue Richards is good, although I feel like the characterization of Lyra is a little wonky. They want to have it both ways: they want to stay true to her dirtier side, but they also want her to be lovable, when, honestly, she's kind of a brat. A brave and loyal brat, sure, but still. I wished they'd done more with her obsession with lying, but I suppose it's hard to get across without her inner thoughts. Eva Green is perfect as Serafina Pekkala, who is a complete and utter badass in this movie. Sam Elliott owns Lee Scoresby, getting across what needs to be gotten across about his character. The Magisterium goons are all very evil-looking, because they are clearly evil.

As everyone knows, they sort of gutted the religion right out of the movie, though there remain a couple vague references that mean what they mean if you know what they mean. But, because they don't come right out and define the Magisterium as the damn Church, their existence and role doesn't really make any sense. The characters' motivations get a bit lost, though the message of "Woo, free will!" remains.

So, I mean, I liked the movie all right, and there was pretty awesome fighting stuff, and it was cool to look at, but the book is a hundred times better.

YOU ARE ENTERING BOOK SPOILER TERRITORY.

The first thing that bugged me was that they changed who poisoned the decanter of Tokay! It was supposed to be the Master! Which was all confusing and ambiguous and interesting, but there's no time for that in a two-hour movie! Just have a Magisterium goon do it.

I totally didn't even notice that they gave Billy Costa Tony Makarios's role because it fit so well with the story. Well done.

Can witches become all invisible and shit in the book? That was cool, but I don't remember it.

The Gyptians really got short-changed. They were barely there, and they kind of made no sense. Farder Corram or Lord Faa or whoever had that weirdly out-of-place speech that went on forever.

I totally agree with cleolinda that Lyra was "weirdly, creepily seductive" when making her offer to Iofur/Ragnar. I hadn't even made the Mrs. Coulter connection, but that scene was great. It was like, "Shit, dude, you're thirteen! Stop being unnaturally sexy. You're not trying to turn on the bear."

Did Lyra consult the alethiometer right in front of him in the book? I thought she went away so he wouldn't know where she was getting the answer. If she's reading some device right in front of him, how does that prove ANYTHING?

Holy God, I was so confused when Lyra ended up in that scene so early in the movie. I thought they'd skipped Bolvangar! But they just moved it to the end, which is perfectly fine, since it has the BIG EPIC BATTLE that was made of awesome.

They fucked up Iorek's renaming of Lyra as Lyra Silvertongue. He didn't fucking explain it at all, and it made no sense since they never talked about how it's supposed to be impossible to trick a bear. And then that didn't even come into play during the big fight because I kept expecting Iorek to attack with the paw he appeared to be claiming was injured, but then the jaw went flying off in the opposite direction, and that was all not very clear at all.

It really bugged me that they had that random scene of Asriel where he, speaking to his daemon, refers to "that Coulter woman." BULLSHIT. He would have called her Marisa. Don't fucking talk about her like you don't know who she is just because THE AUDIENCE doesn't know who she is yet.

I was sort of meh on the way they did the alethiometer. I mean, okay, it would be really tedious to be interpreting symbols in the movie, but that's part of what I love about the damn thing in the first place. All this sparkly gold imagery doesn't really mean anything, and it also does not get across at all what it takes to read the alethiometer, and why only Lyra can read it. And the froofy images don't convey the specific question being asked, which is a very important part of using it! And they never bothered to explain the initial reading, with the hand stopping on the hourglass twice. I don't remember what it meant in the book.

Mrs. Coulter tells Lyra she's her mom?! Way to be all Darth Vader about it, guys.

I thought the line about their "ancestors" was a pretty clever way of getting around not actually mentioning Adam and Eve. I'm glad they kept the basic concept in there.

I got anticipatory chills at "It says I'm bringing him what he needs."

EXCEPT WHAT THE HELL. I KNEW THEY ENDED EARLY BUT THAT EARLY??? They don't even fucking get to Asriel! They took out the ominous dialogue about Lyra betraying Roger, and then she didn't even get to do it in the movie. Look, it's not like the movie is any more complete by ending it here; nothing is resolved except that she saved Roger.

And what really irks me is that I KNOW THEY FILMED THE ENDING BECAUSE IT WAS IN THE EARLY TRAILERS. There are even PICTURES. I was really looking forward to seeing all that cool stuff in this movie, where it belongs, because I am so with hobviously on endings being endings and not forced into the beginning of a story that has its own proper beginning. Without the real ending, Asriel is just a PROP in this movie; it's only at the end of the book does everything truly come into focus. So fucking annoying. Let's be all happy and hopeful and inspiring instead.

From what I've heard, Chris Weitz sacrificed religion and the ending for this first movie so that he could have more freedom on the second and third (which may not even get made now), but it still sucks. Curse you, Hollywood!

But, you know, there was some other good stuff.

YOU ARE NOW LEAVING BOOK SPOILER TERRITORY. IF YOU HAVE ANY TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES, PLEASE CALL SCHOLASTIC TECH SUPPORT AT 1-800-ASK-LISA.
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(23 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


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From:rowanceleste
Date:December 10th, 2007 07:51 am (UTC)
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I couldn't really see how it would play to someone who had no knowledge of the books, except to wince at some of the expository dialogue that's required.


Honestly, my cousin and I just saw it today and we went with a friend who hadn't read the book and she enjoyed the cinematography, etc, but she was completely lost with the story. Between the gobblers, gyptians, authority, magesterium, ice bears, witches and then what seems to be a random westerner, aka Lee Scoresby. I may have to watch it again when I'm less tired as well, because while I enjoyed the trilogy, I'm not sure how well this translates into movie form.

With HP, I have to take the movies as separate entities and judge the movies based on themselves, rather than the books, but with The Golden Compass, if you didn't have the books as a basis of knowledge, I think most people would come out of it having no idea what they just watched...
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From:alliterator
Date:December 10th, 2007 08:50 am (UTC)
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Sam Elliot is always awesome. Although now I'm imaging him as his character from The Big Lebowski in The Golden Compass. Crap, now I'm imagining The Golden Lebowski:

IOREK: This is what happens when you f&*% a bear in the ass! *rips Ragnar's jaw off* Anti-semite!
(Deleted comment)
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From:ethanvahlere
Date:December 11th, 2007 02:44 am (UTC)
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Sometimes, there's a bear...
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From:teapot37
Date:December 10th, 2007 12:46 pm (UTC)
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The real ending is even in the 48-page kids' Movie Storybook that I saw at the grocery store, with the "Lyra crossing the crumbling ice bridge" sequence used in its proper place, at the end.

I KNEW THEY ENDED EARLY BUT THAT EARLY??? They don't even fucking get to Asriel!
I didn't even know they were ending early! I guess that's what I get for being anti-spoiler. When they were in the middle of the last scene, I could see somebody going down the aisle slowly, trying to beat the crowd, and I remember thinking, "This guy thinks the movie is over, when there's still some stuff they have to do yet!" And then the music swelled and the movie ended. And my sister and I were all WTF? Of course, the idiots behind us who did the awesome running commentary throughout the movie let us know that this was the first book in a trilogy, and that the rest of the story was in the next movie. "Yeah, but that's not even how *this* book ends! They cut the last two chapters out!" Luckily, there seemed to be some other fans there that were sharing in out frustration.

The thing that really gets my goat is that they changed the voice of Iorek Byrnison since the earliest trailers. It used to be a guy named Nonso Anozie, and he had the perfect voice - very deep and gravelly, just like it is in the audio adaptation. But apparently the head of New Line hated the voice and replaced him with Ian McKellen, who does a decent job, but he's not a perfect fit like the old voice. (Apparently, the studio head also made Chris Weitz put Christopher Lee in there, because otherwise I can't see any reason for him being in there for three minutes of screen time other than saying "hey, we have Gandalf *and* Saruman in our new New Line movie, just like Lord of the Rings!")
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:December 10th, 2007 03:33 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, cleolinda really liked the old Iorek too, as did Chris Weitz. I remember the voice from the trailers, and it was pretty sweet, I agree.
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From:latropita
Date:December 10th, 2007 03:30 pm (UTC)
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The first thing that bugged me was that they changed who poisoned the decanter of Tokay!
Yeah, that was super lame, and Asriel never pulled his make-it-look-like-Butler-did-it move, instead just...not explaining it AT ALL. Smooth!

Can witches become all invisible and shit in the book? That was cool, but I don't remember it.
Yes. We see it at the end of the second book. It's explained as not really becoming invisible, but a state of mind so that people stop noticing you [kind of like the keys at the end of S3 of DW].

They fucked up Iorek's renaming of Lyra as Lyra Silvertongue. He didn't fucking explain it at all, and it made no sense since they never talked about how it's supposed to be impossible to trick a bear.
SERIOUSLY. Way to ruin one of my two favorite scenes with my favorite character, you guys!

I got anticipatory chills at "It says I'm bringing him what he needs."
I was even still confused at that point because Lyra says out loud, but this is strange because the alethiometer has a different way of refering to itself and this isn't it! What can this mean?!

Without the real ending, Asriel is just a PROP in this movie; it's only at the end of the book does everything truly come into focus.
Daniel Craig was in what, three scenes? Why did they even bother? That's going to be such a weird fucking way to start a movie. HERE'S US CREATING A BRIDGE TO A NEW WORLD...OH HEY WILL, SUP? Ugh.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:December 10th, 2007 03:39 pm (UTC)
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Asriel never pulled his make-it-look-like-Butler-did-it move, instead just...not explaining it AT ALL.
I don't remember that move, but it was so weird that, like, no one said ANYTHING about the SHATTERED GLASS ON THE FLOOR as soon as they walked in.

I was even still confused at that point because Lyra says out loud, but this is strange because the alethiometer has a different way of refering to itself and this isn't it! What can this mean?!
Oh, I forgot that she says that there. Way to hint that it's not the alethiometer, Pullman! Although at that point in the book, there's no reason to suspect it's referring to Roger, because we think Asriel's good.

OH HEY WILL, SUP?
I was wondering why the Russian company who bought LJ was in the next movie.
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From:latropita
Date:December 10th, 2007 07:34 pm (UTC)
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I don't remember that move, but it was so weird that, like, no one said ANYTHING about the SHATTERED GLASS ON THE FLOOR as soon as they walked in.
In the book, the Butler was coming in to...I don't know, make sure the wine was decanting properly or some Butlering shit, and since he's old and a bit senile Asriel manages to knock the wine bottle to the ground and yell at the Butler for it so that people don't suspect how he has magic POISON DETECTION POWERS or what have you.

Although at that point in the book, there's no reason to suspect it's referring to Roger, because we think Asriel's good.
True, but it's building suspicion that adds up when you get to the I DID NOT SEND FOR YOU!!! [see: keyword] scene of great drama.

I forgot though, Eva Green was really amazing. I disagree a bit about the dæmons, though, since that golden monkey did not look like an animal that naturally occurs in nature. And I wish they'd made it more clear that the shape is driven by imagination, that scene [one they obviously couldn't have included, but would have looked amazing] when Lyra and Roger are getting drunk and their dæmons are gradually making themselves look like uglier and uglier gargoyles is hilarious. Oh, drunken shenanigans, why are you the same in every universe.

PS, Did Lyra consult the alethiometer right in front of him in the book? I thought she went away so he wouldn't know where she was getting the answer., no, not at all. In the book she tells him it's dæmon magic and he can see how it's done after she's his dæmon. That was also...a totally different question/answer than in the book! And, to answer a question you didn't ask, it really bugged that they had Mrs. Coulter tell Lyra instead of Lyra realizing it for herself. That's part of her character, that she's this clever little liar, but if she's not clever at reading her audience, how is she that great at lying? AUGH.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:December 10th, 2007 09:09 pm (UTC)
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In the book, the Butler was coming in to...I don't know, make sure the wine was decanting properly or some Butlering shit, and since he's old and a bit senile Asriel manages to knock the wine bottle to the ground and yell at the Butler for it so that people don't suspect how he has magic POISON DETECTION POWERS or what have you.
Aha! Yes. That is better.

I forgot though, Eva Green was really amazing.
She looks just like a hot witch should look in that universe!

That was also...a totally different question/answer than in the book!
Are you sure? I thought he did ask her how he became king, but I don't think I remember the bit about Iorek (and she was speaking her answer so fast I didn't even catch it, something about poisoning or something).

And, to answer a question you didn't ask, it really bugged that they had Mrs. Coulter tell Lyra instead of Lyra realizing it for herself.
But didn't Ma Costa tell her in the book?
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From:latropita
Date:December 10th, 2007 09:19 pm (UTC)
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Aha! Yes. That is better.
Asriel also tells Lyra to hide in the closet and that if she sees anything interesting, he won't get her in trouble, and she tells him who noted the wine stain.

That was also...a totally different question/answer than in the book!
Are you sure? I thought he did ask her how he became king, but I don't think I remember the bit about Iorek (and she was speaking her answer so fast I didn't even catch it, something about poisoning or something).

Yeah, in the book he asks her who was the first person [...ish] he ever killed, and she goes into the little room and comes back all, Oh, Iorek, truly you are the most powerful bear, you killed your father and he's all awed because he's never told anyone that and then asks her a second question which is how did he become king [they gave Iofur drugs so that he went into a rage and killed another bear], whereas in the movie he just asks that how did he become king, and it's really unclear about what she's saying but I think it was similar to the answer from the book.

And, to answer a question you didn't ask, it really bugged that they had Mrs. Coulter tell Lyra instead of Lyra realizing it for herself.
But didn't Ma Costa tell her in the book?

Oh, sorry, I guess that was an unclear complaint. Yeah, Ma Costa tells her the saga of the affair [which is an interesting bit of characterization that you miss in the movie, that Asriel doesn't care about laws or institutions and Mrs. Coulter is willing to do whatever within the bounds of being a woman], but I meant when Mrs. Coulter tells Lyra at the beginning of the film, during the dinner, that Ragnar wants to have a dæmon. It's like the first thing out of her mouth.
(Deleted comment)
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From:etherealclarity
Date:December 10th, 2007 04:10 pm (UTC)
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EXCEPT WHAT THE HELL. I KNEW THEY ENDED EARLY BUT THAT EARLY??? They don't even fucking get to Asriel! They took out the ominous dialogue about Lyra betraying Roger, and then she didn't even get to do it in the movie. Look, it's not like the movie is any more complete by ending it here; nothing is resolved except that she saved Roger.

UGH!!! I was not happy about that, not happy at all.

Overall, I was somewhat disappointed with the movie... much of which was due to the clunky exposition. I know it's tough to turn a book into a movie, but seriously... a really good writer could have handled that better.

On the up side, my boyfriend (who has not read the books) came to see the movie with me and it intrigued him enough to want to read the books. So there's that.
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From:sabra_n
Date:December 10th, 2007 04:34 pm (UTC)
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That script...maybe Weitz is truly awful, but that mix of rushing through key info and expositing useless crap just screamed "multiple studio-ordered drafts" to me. I fricking hate Lord of the Rings; why does that get what are by most accounts great movies while His Dark Materials gets this?

-blue
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From:loopychew
Date:December 10th, 2007 05:13 pm (UTC)
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You're not trying to turn on the bear.

No, but she IS trying to turn on the bear. Maybe they accidentally delivered the prompt wrong.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:December 10th, 2007 05:28 pm (UTC)
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Heeeeeeee. Well played.
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From:sterope
Date:December 10th, 2007 05:43 pm (UTC)
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The witches can become all invisible and shit. I remember that from the second book. I guess I'm totally stupid, but when I read the books (I only finished the first two and about a fifth of the third) I didn't get the whole anti-religion thing from it. I got the religious references and stuff, but I really didn't understand how it was anti-religion aside from the church being the "bad guys." Oh well.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:December 10th, 2007 05:47 pm (UTC)
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Well, it becomes more prominent in the third, but they do basically discuss declaring war on God and Heaven in the second book. And it's really more anti-organized religion than anti-religion, per se. cleolinda has a really nice summary of her read.
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From:loopychew
Date:December 10th, 2007 05:56 pm (UTC)
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Y'know, for someone who hasn't read the books, I didn't really enjoy this film the way New Line wanted us to.

Honestly, though, I would still pay theater money for The Subtle Knife, simply because I believe that this movie was more like, "let's get the exposition out of the way, so we can get to the meat!" than an actual film. Now that the premise, characters, and setting have been established, the real plot could start moving.

There was just far too much to get through and too many characters to cover, as indicated fairly well by the fact that all the A-listers they promoted in the film (and a lot they didn't) had a collective thirty seconds of screentime in a two-hour movie. Thankfully Lyra was appealing enough to keep people from chanting about celebrities.

This movie will at least break even in its domestic run; I don't know if that'll be enough for New Line to option the sequel movies, but I certainly hope it will.
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From:teapot37
Date:December 10th, 2007 06:10 pm (UTC)
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I believe that this movie was more like, "let's get the exposition out of the way, so we can get to the meat!" than an actual film. Now that the premise, characters, and setting have been established, the real plot could start moving.

This is one reason why I disliked the first Harry Potter film - I believe I nearly fell asleep about halfway through it - and liked the subsequent Potter films much more.
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From:seawench
Date:December 10th, 2007 06:03 pm (UTC)
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I took my reader's group from the library on Saturday. All 14-17 year old girls who adored the books. At the last fade out, the least tactful of them yelled, "What?" Apparently none of the people sitting in front of us had read the books, and while they enjoyed the movie they were rather peeved when they learned the ending had been chopped off (as well as a bit creeped out when the ending was described to them).

I didn't mind the other changes as much. The visuals were spectacular, and I thought the daemons were explained/shown rather well. It felt like the 3rd Star Wars prequel to me - that bits had been left out at the last minute. If you watch the deleted scenes for that one, you find all the missing plot about Padme's political adventures and the reasons she and Anakin don't actually say much to one another in the rest of the movie. Like the end of GC, they have all the SFX and the score and were simply shaved off the movie by the studio.
I'll never understand the need to lobotomize great storytelling.

Off to read the books again.
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From:mycenae
Date:December 10th, 2007 09:04 pm (UTC)
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Hm. The more I hear about this movie the less I want to see it. I really liked the books (although I haven't read them in about two years) and the movie just sounds... pretty, but ultimately pointless.

I wonder if New Line had allowed a truer (and thus more controversial) script if maybe the movie would have gotten more publicity and thus better box office. All the publicity I saw on it was basically how they backed down from the condemnation of religion in the books, and turned it into something watered down and kind of confusing. (There was a very interesting article in this month's Atlantic called "How Hollywood Saved God." Spoilers for all books in that article.)

I'm not boycotting the film, I simply have no interest to see it. However, if I'd heard good things about it, I'd be all about dragging people to see it. I don't know if there are enough people willing to watch a fantasy epic for intellectual reasons rather than just stunning, but ultimately bland, visuals. New Line apparently decided it didn't want to find out, so, oh, well.
[User Picture]
From:ethanvahlere
Date:December 11th, 2007 02:52 am (UTC)
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I didn't think the movie was terrible, but compared to LOTR or the first Narnia movie, it simply didn't move me as much. It was adequate to the occasion, and I liked the actors (Kidman especially was well suited to her role), but there was no fire. And I had the same experience as seawench, only it wasn't just teenage girls complaining about the movie compared to the book, it was guys my age I heard in the men's room later. So I don't think they're going to get to film the rest of the books.

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