The Golden Compass (2008)
I was disappointed by The Golden Compass: by all accounts the books are good – intelligent young adult’s fantasy stories, a rare thing indeed – but this film falls woefully short. Its failings are obvious in retrospect. In attempting to adapt a large, thoughtful, intelligent novel for the screen the danger is that either there is too much exposition to explain the concepts (or history) of the novel, the film becomes boring and “talky” or you get the effect that The Golden Compass displays – the film is almost incoherent because nothing is explained, and the intelligence is abandoned for the action. There were some clearly important central issues in the novel that were just incomprehensible in the film: what exactly was the Magisterium? How did it rule? How could it seize power? What the hell is “dust”? What was this “infection by dust”? The alethiometer, the golden compass of the title, just seemed to be a deus ex machina – solving every problem the heroine encountered. The list goes on. There were some nice parts to the movie, not the least being the acting of the child lead Dakota Blue Richards, but nothing that can overcome the central flaw of the movie. In short: don’t waste your money or time.