The Golden Compass

December 7th, 2007

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The Golden Compass

Still of Eva Green in The Golden CompassStill of Nicole Kidman in The Golden CompassNoah Emmerich and Toby Emmerich at event of The Golden CompassSam Elliott, Chris Weitz and Dakota Blue Richards in The Golden CompassStill of Nicole Kidman in The Golden CompassStill of Sam Elliott in The Golden Compass

In a parallel universe, young Lyra Belacqua journeys to the far North to save her best friend and other kidnapped children from terrible experiments by a mysterious organization.

Release Year: 2007

Rating: 6.2/10 (75,246 voted)

Critic's Score: 51/100

Director: Chris Weitz

Stars: Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Dakota Blue Richards

It was no ordinary life for a young girl: living among scholars in the hallowed halls of Jordan College and tearing unsupervised through Oxford's motley streets on mad quests for adventure. But Lyra's greatest adventure would begin closer to home, the day she heard hushed talk of an extraordinary particle. Microscopic in size, the magical dust- discovered in the vast Arctic expanse of the North -was rumored to possess profound properties that could unite whole universes. But there were those who feared the particle and would stop at nothing to destroy it. Catapulted into the heart of a terrible struggle, Lyra was forced to seek aid from clans, 'gyptians, and formidable armored bears. And as she journeyed into unbelievable danger, she had not the faintest clue that she alone was destined to win, or to lose, this more-than-mortal battle...

Writers: Chris Weitz, Philip Pullman

Nicole Kidman - Marisa Coulter
Daniel Craig - Lord Asriel
Dakota Blue Richards - Lyra 'Silvertongue' Belacqua
Ben Walker - Roger
Freddie Highmore - Pantalaimon (voice)
Ian McKellen - Iorek Byrnison (voice)
Eva Green - Serafina Pekkala
Jim Carter - John Faa
Tom Courtenay - Farder Coram
Ian McShane - Ragnar Sturlusson (voice)
Sam Elliott - Lee Scoresby
Christopher Lee - First High Councilor
Kristin Scott Thomas - Stelmaria (voice)
Edward de Souza - Second High Councilor
Kathy Bates - Hester (voice)

Taglines: "It is the Alethiometer. It tells the truth. As for how to read it, you'll have to learn by yourself."


Official Website: Metropolitan Films [France] | Newine Cinema [United States] |

Release Date: 7 December 2007

Filming Locations: BCE Place, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Box Office Details

Budget: $180,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend: $25,783,232 (USA) (9 December 2007) (3528 Screens)

Gross: $70,083,519 (USA) (2 March 2008)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

Dakota Blue Richards' mother (Mickey Richards) made a cameo appearance as a diner in the scene at the restaurant with Nicole Kidman.

Incorrectly regarded as goofs: When Mrs. Coulter is about to deploy the small robotic bugs to seek out Lyra, she says, "They'll seek her out like bees to honey." Bees do not seek out honey, they seek out the nectar and pollen to make honey. Nonetheless, "like bees to honey" is an old expression based on the affinity of many bees for anything sweet, to which those with an unguarded hummingbird feeder can attest.

[first lines]
Serafina Pekkala: There are many universes and many Earths parallel to each other. Worlds like yours, where people's souls live inside their bodies, and worlds like mine, where they walk beside us, as animal spirits we call daemons.
Stelmaria: Are we going to see the child?
Lord Asriel: I should think so.
Serafina Pekkala: So many worlds. But connecting them all is Dust. Dust was here before the witches of the air, the Gyptians of the water, and the bears of the ice. In my world, scholars invented an alethiometer - a golden compass - and it showed them all that was hidden. But the ruling power, fearing any truth but their own, destroyed these devices and forbade the very mention of Dust. One compass remains, however, and only one who can read it.

User Review

Entertaining, but missed opportunity

Rating: 6/10

His Dark Materials: Northern Lights, the original name for the book, in the UK. What a poignant, mysterious title for a book. The Golden Compass? Well, it doesn't quite have the same impact, does it? The use of the American name of the book for the film really didn't bother me at first, but as early warning signs come, it doesn't get much more obvious than this; we should have guessed from the off that this was going to be a very different beast to the book.

As a huge fan of Philip Pullman's epic trilogy, I had been eagerly anticipating this film adaptation for at least a year. I had fallen in love with the books a while back; not due to the fantastical elements, but due to the way it introduced this fantastical parallel universe to the reader in a slow, subtle, familiar way and made it feel real and tangible. The books are gritty, rugged and at times violent, and the stories' themes are philosophical and even spiritual in a way. It grieves me to say that the film misses the point; concentrating instead, on the fantasy, the action and the giant talking polar bears (panserbjorne).

The story is the same: it follows the exploits of a young orphan girl, Lyra, who lives among scholars at Oxford's Jordan College, in a world parallel to our own, in which every human is joined to a physical manifestation of their soul (daemon). One day Lyra hears hushed talk of an extraordinary particle which is rumoured to possess profound properties that could unite whole universes. But there are those who fear the particle and would stop at nothing to destroy it. Children are also being kidnapped left, right and centre, and Lyra's best friend, Roger, is among them. Catapulted into the heart of a desperate struggle, Lyra is forced to seek aid from witches, gyptians, and formidable armoured bears, to help her save her friends from these evil experiments.

But the soul of the story is all but gone. Gone is the mystery; the slow, developing understanding of a person's bond with their daemon; and the gentle, calm introduction to each character and their entwining relationships. Granted, such a complex story was always going to be difficult to adapt, but surely restricting it to such a short-time span (114 minutes) to tell the story just increases that difficulty. By ripping out the very things that made the novel so spell-binding and original, we're left with an ultimately quite hollow, shallow and self-conscious movie, which is more interested in showing off it's (admittedly breathtaking special effects) than telling an interesting story.

The problem isn't that I've read the books. The problem is that this film is very nearly a complete disaster, even as a film unto it's own right; there is no character development, some of the dialogue is awfully contrived and the pacing is all over the shop. Virtually everything from the book is in there, in fact; it's just every scene flies by at a ridiculous pace. The characters are given no time to breathe or grow and concepts such as the daemons, Dust and the magesterium are explained to you via convoluted exposition rather than simply shown to you. The result is a rather detached feeling and thus you never care about any of the characters, which is a crying shame, considering the source from which the stories came.

Oddly, despite nearly being a disaster, the film could have gone the other way - some of it teeters on perfection even. For one, it is visual eye candy, with the design departments each paying extraordinary attention to detail in their creation of Lyra's world and it is not their fault that Weitz's (or New Line's) vision differs so wildly from Pullman's description. Also, the acting itself from almost everyone is very strong, with each actor portraying the characters from the books superbly. Daniel Craig owns both scenes he's in, as Lord Asriel does in the book; Nicole Kidman's magnetic, seductive beauty is perfect for Mrs Coulter; Sam Elliott charms and delights as Lee Scoresby; and Dakota Blue Richards is every bit the lovable rogue of the Lyra of the novel. (Had there not been the need for her to be so pleonastic, the audience might even have actually cared about her).

As far as entertainment goes, the whole film is actually pretty high up the scale; captivating and engrossing the audience throughout, who barely have time to catch a breath. It's a damn good spectacle, that's for sure. It's just an utter shame how great this could have been on many levels, and how as it is it's only a little better than your average family adventure film. Children from about 8-14 WILL love this, but it doesn't have the depth or layers of, say... The Lord of the Rings (the comparison was always inevitable), to not only entertain, but to excite, thrill, shock, scare, move, and even inspire viewers of all ages, like it could have done.

As far as summaries go, you need just watch the film, which is over in an instant and in fact runs very much like a summary of the book. It's worth watching for the entertainment value but you'll probably have forgotten about it by tomorrow.

It sounds like a pretty scathing review, but I still think the quality of the story shines through in the end, and most people will find something to enjoy on some level. It is certainly unlike anything you've ever seen: so very good and yet so very, very unsatisfactory.

Must do better.

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