Friday, December 07, 2007

Lemurs & Tigers & Armored Bears, Oh My!

Jen & I saw The Golden Compass this morning. I'm not going to get too much into it. We had a lot of fun, but it was very rushed. There was a lot of explaining going on. ("This is a truth-telling machine. It kind of looks like a compass. Now, it's never actually called a compass in the book, because the original name of the book in Britain is Northern Lights. But as everyone knows, Americans need a snappy title to buy a book. So American publishers, not even reading the book, saw what looked like a compass on the cover, and decreed that the American publication would be called The Golden Compass. But since Hollywood made a movie of it, we have to explain a few times that the truth-telling alethiometer kind of looks like a compass, and that's why we're calling this movie The Golden Compass. Got it?") Blech. The editing is a bit choppy, and the music is nothing memorable. (Cue up the fighting music! Now... cue up the scary music! Now... cue up the sappy music!) But that's all just nitpicking.

I didn't feel that the novel's more controversial elements had been watered down too much, (I think everyone knows by email or by news column that the evil Magisterium of the novels represents religion, and "The Authority" is, (not really, if you've actually read the books,) God. What pissed me off is that for some bizarre reason, the film cuts off the whole climax of the novel. Imagine Star Wars ending with the X-wings flying off to attack the Death Star. Cue voice over from Mark Hamil: "Well, we were going now, we had what we needed, and we- me, Biggs, Porkins, and R2, we were going to go with the spirit of Obi Wan, and we were going to bring that Death Star down!" -Cue sappy music, cue credits. The only thing I can figure is that- as with all Hollywood adaptations- the film was written with for the purpose of luring in as many new fans as possible at the expense of existing fans, so by leaving off the "dark" ending of the novel, they changed it into a hopeful one. Again, Blech.

(An almost completely unrelated note: every message board on line is claiming that the ending of the upcoming Watchmen movie will be changed from that of the original graphic novel. If this is true, I will hunt down everyone involved with the film and personally feed them their own spleens. Try me.)

But apart from all these, things, the movie was all in all a bit of fun. I had a good giggle over the fact that Nicole Kidman is starting to show her age. And OMG- it's Clare Higgins- the hammer-wielding, skin-stealing, undead-loving, sexy, sinister, singles-bar-hopping stepmom from Hellraiser & Hellbound! (wow, she got old too!) So, have fun, go and see it, then read the books and see what you missed. Just don't let anyone grab your dæmon.



steve said...

Good write up Tony. I just saw it and actually liked it too. Like you said, a fun flick, though the pacing could have been slowed a bit. And the bear battle was just plain awesome. Kidman looked hot in many shots, but yes, I agree, there was that close up profile shot where she was showing her age, but there I'm being nitpicky. I admit, I've yet to check out the books, but I've got a feeling the ending was tweaked so as to leave an opening for a sequel? Or maybe not.

Tony LaRocca said...

Well, there are two more books, so there are definitely sequel possibilities. They decided to truncate the ending because it is rather dark and controversial. They figured that a) fans of the books will see it no matter what, and b) it would get better reviews & attract newcomers if it had an upbeat ending. The money men, sadly, always dictate policy. I hope the decision doesn't bite them in the touchas, because a sequel depends on this film making moolah, and the biggest criticism of the film is that it doesn't have an ending!

Which brings up the next concern: When they make a movie of "The Subtle Knife," (the next book in the trilogy,) will it be rushed as well, because it will have to start with the ending of "The Golden Compass?"- or will it's ending simply be cut off as well? (It reminds me of the sinking feeling I got when they did the same thing to the ending of "The Two Towers." I turned to Jen & said, "Damn it, I know they're going to cut off the ending of 'Return of the King' now!" (And I was right!)

On the plus side, I thought the bears were awesome too. I was impressed that they used Ian McKellen's face as a model for the bear's- he sort of looked like a grizzly Gandalf :) Actually, when I saw the armored bear in the preview, my first thought was, "Dear Lord, they've made a movie of Warbears!" (

Aravis said...

I've read the trilogy and want to see this movie. They really cut away the end of this one? Hmph. It could be a lead-in to the sequel. But given the nature of the last book especially, I wonder what they'll do to those sequels to make them more palatable to the general population. Because if people were gnashing their teeth over the atheism of this movie, they'll be toothless and gumming by the end of the last- their teeth will have ground away!

Still, I'd like to see it. *G*

Craig J. said...

Well, you have to admit, 9/11 kind of made the original ending of Watchmen redundant. Which of course begs the question of why they're still going ahead with a movie version.

Tony LaRocca said...

Believe it or don't, but they're now saying that the ending is going to be the same as the graphic novel's! (I just hope Rorschach's escape from Big Figure when he's in prison is the same as it was in the book, as that's my favorite part.) Any chance they will take a lesson from The Golden Compass, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Aeon Flux, etc, etc, etc, and figure out that if you take a source with a large fan base & make watered down crap aimed at the greatest common denominator that appeals to no one, they're going to lose money? Nah...

Craig J. said...

At this point I'm afraid I can't be made to care too much. If I end up seeing the movie, it will be out of morbid curiosity and not the belief that it's going to be good/faithful/what-have-you.