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The Golden Compass: A DVD Movie Review

Submitted by on July 7, 2008 – 7:15 pmNo Comment

You may be asking yourself why a bit of a grumpy chap like me has decided to review a film such as The Golden Compass. You may be thinking that everyone pictured on the Golden Compass’ poster also looks a tad bit grumpy. You may be thinking……..Just stop the thinking for once in your life and listen up. The Golden Compass is a movie about er…a compass……right? And….it’s er…golden (or at least shiny). What else do you want me to say? The fact is this movie has a title that could belong to an old English Pub. You could just imagine a man named Gerald, informing his best friend (Jim) to meet him down The Golden Compass for a Pint and a Pasty. This is perhaps not the best start. Perhaps they should have called it “The Square & Compass” (a truly wonderful old English pub on the outskirts of Swanage, Dorset – RENT THIS SPACE). Perhaps then this inconspicuous compass (sorry…Alethiometer) would be a bit more interesting to look at.

Nevertheless, as you persevere through the title, get into the story and are introduced to the story-behind-the-story (involving a shiny metal round object that doesn’t point north) you are confronted with some horrors. Firstly it becomes clear (far too early in my opinion) that this is primarily a children’s film. Why am I saying that? Well, it’s probably because some awful children are on screen and they all have accented dialogue far too complicated for their years. Everyone seems to be speaking in an “Alright ’nor” old English accent, borrowed straight from in Mary Poppins. The trouble is Dick Van Dyke could get away with it (almost). Unfortunately (and quite scarily) these characters (and especially the main girl: Dakota Blue Richards) sound as if they belong to the back streets of Whitechapel. Think of Heather Graham’s dulcet tones as Mary Kelly in the Johnny Depp Jack-the-Ripper film “From Hell”. This voice is grating. It hurts. In fact if you don’t know how much it hurts, then have a listen to her in the trailer. About ten minutes into the movie I am wishing to myself that the annoying child named Lyra can die and we can get on with the storyline.

This does not happen. In fact, it is worse than that. Dakota Blue Richards (recently branded a “yob” in Britain for knocking down a snowman: no seriously) it seems is playing the main character. Not only that but every character on screen (bar from the polar bears) is accompanied by Daemons. These are animals that follow the humans around everywhere (a kind of out-of-the-body soul). To me this is a bit silly as one of the first shots in the movie is a bunch of children playing with a pet shop-like quantity of animals following behind. The fact is mealtime (for parents) is a stressful occasion with children anyway. Can you imagine trying to eat your Christmas meal whilst being accompanied by a farmyard? More importantly, what happens if your Daemon is a turkey and you happen to be having the dry tasting bird for a roast dinner? This, I imagine would cause some awkwardness at the dinner table.

A little while in and we are introduced to the lovely blue eyes of Daniel Craig….mmm..lovely. Perhaps a bit too lovely! No-one’s eyes are that darn blue. I have very nice eyes and yet they are merely stagnant water green in colour. It seems that Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman have been put under pressure to wear contact lenses. Unfortunately, this means that these “lead characters” all seem to have fixed pupil dilation akin to smoking a bit too much of the funny stuff. In truth, that would account for the story initially.

It takes a full seven minutes before Mr Bond (Craig) disappears for almost the entire length of the movie. He is replaced by other stars in five minute parts such as the very bottom-wiggly Nicole Kidman, A spooky(or is that kooky?) witch played by Eva Green, Gandalph (Ian McKellan) dressed as a polar bear, Sam Elliot and finally Christopher Lee (who I always expect to have red eyes). It would seem then that the estimated of $180 million (Yes, I know how to use Wikipedia) was almost entirely spent on special effects and not the actors who “starred” in it. It seems that most of these parts could have been played in five minute breaks whilst other movies had a short hiatus. Take Daniel Craig and Eva Green for example. Both of these actors were in Casino Royale and I imagine it wouldn’t take a lot for them (on a convenient lunch break) to come over to the Golden Compass set, do a bit of “acting” gain a few hundred thousand for their trouble and return before having to have a very British flirt over a poker table. I truly do not understand why they did this. It is because of this that we are left with (mostly – and in my opinion) B-movie actors who are much cheaper and less able of entertaining. Don’t get me wrong Nicole Kidman was about as entertaining as a brick being repeatedly plunged into my head. Eva Green did a lot of floating and Daniel Craig just doesn’t suit tweed. So it is not just the B-movie stars that play b-movie parts.

So the “names” have gone and we are left with a girl who can’t act, sounds like a badly acted Whitechapel , Gandalph the polar bear, a very hairy redneck and a subplot involving dust! Yes. Dust! Everyone seems to get irate when the subject of dust is brought up in healthy conversation. Have they all watched too much “Little Britain” and have an unhealthy anger towards Marjorie Dawes? Dust! Anyone? Anyone? Dust. You’d think that because of the way it is referred to, it has an underlying meaning. You know. One of those thematic concepts you find in poetry that only 5 people in the world ever understand. Is “dust” a subtle reference to some sort of illegal narcotic? Perhaps there are morals in this tale. I doubt it somehow as our friend Lyra (played by Dakota Richards) seems to have no problems at all in sending her “friend” the polar bear to a fight. I mean, she doesn’t even like the polar bear! Who doesn’t like Gandalph as a polar bear? Unfortunately, it seems that the awful acting capabilities of our dear Dakota extend to flirting with Gandalph’s nemesis (the evil king polar bear). I’m being quite serious here. I’m sure the director was going for deceptive and calculating, but what occurred on screen was full-on underage flirting with a bear! This is not a children’s movie. It’s more like a film for those unusual gentlemen who keep propositioning me outside King’s Cross Station dressed in long coats, accompanied by a scruffy animal.

The very sad thing about this whole palaver is the fact that the film is a good beginning to a seemingly epic tale. It is not a movie in its own right. Unfortunately the rest of the “story” (yet to be filmed) continues with the annoyingly accented girl called Lyra. This is the biggest mistake of the movie. If you are going to create a series of films that stars several key characters, it is essential that you use actors capable of being reliable and believable. No-one in this film (bar from Gandalph the bear) is believable, reliable or even entertaining. It seems that they were making a film that no-one wanted to be in. Even the child actress looks bored. If any sequels are to be made (I haven’t even checked yet), then I request only a few alterations. Keep Kidman’s wiggly looking if you have to, keep Craig’s tweed wearing character, but please please please……kill off (or even replace) the child playing Lyra. She spoils this film. Okay so does Eva Green, some awful movie mistakes (including a shadow-less zeppelin) and the accents that ensure that instead of simply removing the DVD from the player after the movie ends, it is flung (Frisbee-like) across the room and swiftly returned to the shop from whence it was bought and replaced with that Xbox game you just haven’t gotten round to buying yet.

Since this review is carrying on a bit, I thought I’d include some incredibly important issues that I have with the movie in bullet form:

  • Kidman’s hair is inconsistent in the film. She is initially golden blonde and gets more and more grey.
  • Someone tell the bloody child that when you are running away from a scary person, it is normal to sound out of breath
  • Who invited Santa Claus’ coal-dust covered brother to the movie? Spot him on the bathtub of a ship about 40 minutes into the film
  • Clockwork “Spyflies”? Oh please
  • “Only one person can read the compass”. Why does it have to be an annoying runt of a child?
  • At the very end of the piece, some very strange dialogue appears. At one point, it seems to turn into an incestathon
  • As the polar bear yawned on screen, so did I for the 8th time. Thankfully the movie finished soon after.

Despite this quite unprecedented rant (well not really), I actually liked the concept of the film. Too much was borrowed from other superior stories. In fact, I’m off to read the books now. At least then I don’t have to suffer the scratching-the-chalkboard accent that was Lyra’s.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Such a great shame. Make the sequel better. Stop bullying snowmen and learn how to speak proper (like what I do)!

Was the Golden Compass a good film in your opinion? Do I need some serious therapy? Your thoughts are always appreciated.

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