The Golden Compass (2007)

The_Golden_CompassPersonally, I always thought of this film as a dumb, impotent Narnia clone when it was new, and nearly a decade later, it certainly hasn’t aged well at all. I haven’t exactly read the book this is based on, but I’ve heard dozens of complaints saying that the book toned down several of the anti-religious elements of the books in order to avoid angering the Catholics. I can certainly tell that the plot was written very lazily, and it seems that they tried fitting in all manner of plot devices, events and characters in a film that’s clearly too short to handle everything. On top of that, the film is paced in such a manner that it seems as though everything’s being rushed, and it leaves too little time for the characters to develop properly, and bodes just as poorly for the many unanswered questions that the film’s haphazardly written plot leaves behind.

To be completely honest though, the film’s mythology could have been quite interesting, and there might have been some hope for it had the screenwriters made more of an effort, but they settled on a trimmed down, by-the-numbers fantasy flick, and to make matters worse, they deliberately designed the ending so that it could lead on to a sequel, never mind that it would never ever get a sequel, not that such a meagre film deserves one. The characters weren’t overly bad, but they were written in such a way that you can’t really feel for them no matter how hard the actors try to convince us to feel for them. It doesn’t help that there’s no sense of moral ambiguity whatsoever. You can immediately tell who is good and who is evil just by looking at the characters. I could just as easily make the argument that you could tell who the villains were just by looking at the poster. Nothing is left to your imagination, and that I feel is a serious problem, and is not conducive to good fantasy fiction.

To compensate for all that, the film sports some admittedly decent special effects, but worryingly enough, the film is almost all special effects, and so the CGI effectively becomes the producers’ way of overcompensating for a poorly written film that, if were very honest, was simply trying to copy the kind of success that The Lord of the Rings enjoyed years earlier. Of course, the visuals and the special effects are pretty much the only noteworthy thing about the film, and that’s because they’re the only thing the film has to show for itself aside from what I can guess is a bad transition from book to screen.

Clearly they should have put more thought and effort into this film, because if they had, this could have been somewhat better than all the other LoTR clones that had sprung up throughout the 2000’s. Instead, we have a film that is quite slavish in its copying of other fantasy films. Whatever potential the film could have had is ultimately snuffed out by its lack of originality and the laziness of its producers.

  • Score: 46%
  • Grade: D
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