December 7, 2007 The Golden Compass
Studio: New Line Cinema Rating: PG-13 for sequences of fantasy violence.
A controversial book makes its way into your local theater.
New Line Cinema is hoping lightning strikes again. After making billions worldwide with the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy the studio has released another "epic" film, "The Golden Compass."
Based on novelist Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy, the story starts rolling when Lyra (Dakota Blue Richards) is given a golden compass which the Magisterium desperately wants. A shadowy authority dedicated to ruling the world, the Magisterium will stop at nothing to obtain the device.
But recognizing the danger the organization represents, Lyra escapes from the Magisterium's Mrs. Coulter (Nicole Kidman) and travels north to find a young friend who has been captured by the Gobblers. Along the way she gains powerful allies, including an ice bear voiced by Ian McKellen. Their journey and the battle between the forces of good and evil carry the film to its conclusion.
The source material for this movie has stirred up strong feelings among Christian groups. Pullman is an acknowledged atheist and his novels don't portray the church, especially the Catholic Church, in a favorable light.
However, those themes just aren't present in the movie. The filmmakers took them out in order to appeal to a wide audience. "The Golden Compass" settles in as a battle between light and dark, with lessons about blindly obeying authority and trusting your friends also thrown in for good measure.
It's a rousing adventure with a top-notch cast that includes Sam Elliott, Daniel Craig and Eva Green.
The special effects are fantastic and the story moves along at a good clip. The only complaint is that it ends on a rather ambiguous note. That would be fine if sequels were guaranteed. But if the movie doesn't perform well we may never see how the adventure ends.
Even with that minor quibble, as first chapters go it's well worth checking out.
On my rating scale, "The Golden Compass" earns a Triple.
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