December 9th, 2007

Cylons = gods

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.

Collapse )