Last Friday I went to see The Golden Compass, the film made after Philip Pullman’s book Northern Lights. I had been looking forward to this film for ages and unfortunately I was sorely disappointed even though the acting was very good and the art direction and effects were impressive. What was (is) a magnificent book full of philosophy, theology, psycology, poetry, and adventure became a confusing massing together of peaks of excitement. What were mysteries became simple explanations. What was complicated was ignored. And it didn’t even manage to be a truly thrilling or efficient action story.
Great Dakota Blue Richards as Lyra riding the fierce panserbjørn Iorek Byrnison.
I guess the problem is twofold. The minor problem is that the producers of the film didn’t dare make too obvious allusions to the church since an American market would shrink back at that. Which is quite problematic when you are dealing with an atheist author massively criticising the church in very clear terms.
The major problem is that this book, which is the first of a trilogy, is a rare combination of airy matters of divinity and philosophy and a very action filled quest taking our heroine from Oxford to Svalbard and onto other worlds. How do you combine those elements on screen? This film did it clumsily and just talked and explained even before we got to wondering about things. And I wonder how the sequels will do. The books become more and more clear in their criticism of the church and less and less clear in terms of action and an easily referrable plot.
Nicole Kidman as the icy Mrs Coulter and Daniel Craig as the stern Lord Asriel. Parents gone bad…
May I recommend Philip Pullman’s wonderful, wonderful books. They are many layered and have that basic quality of a great children’s book: that they can be read on different levels. One for the adults, another for the teenagers and yet another for the tweens.