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The Golden Compass (****)
directed by Chris Weitz
written by Chris Weitz based on the novel by Philip Pullman
The Golden Compass
Principal Cast
Nicole Kidman -- Marisa Coulter
Daniel Craig -- Lord Asriel
Dakota Blue Richards -- Lyra Belacqua
Ben Walker -- Roger
Eva Green -- Serafina Pekkala
Jim Carter -- John Faa
Tom Courtenay -- Farder Coram
Sam Elliott -- Lee Scoresby
Christopher Lee -- First High Councilor
Edward de Souza -- Second High Councilor
Ratings are based on Rick's four star system.
One star - the commercials are more entertaining than the viewing.
Two stars - watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars - good solid entertainment.
Four stars - you never dreamed viewing could be this good.
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rick Norwood

The Golden Compass is one of the most beautiful and original fantasy films of all time. Sadly, the call for a boycott by the Catholic League of Decency caused the money men to order a short film, an hour and fifty-three minutes (compare the more than two and a half hours of the first Harry Potter movie). As writer-director Chris Weitz put it, "New Line is a company that makes films for economic returns. They have expressed worry about the possibility of His Dark Materials perceived antireligiosity making it an unviable project financially." Faced with a hard choice, Chris Weitz has wisely avoided spreading himself thin. Only about half the book made it to the screen, but everything there is opulent and intelligently crafted.

I did not become engrossed in the film until after the first fifteen minutes, which felt rushed -- well, they were rushed. They cover about a third of the novel, giving us the information we need to understand the rest of the movie, but they cover it far too rapidly. Once Lyra heads north, the story really begins and the film soars. At the end of the polar bear fight, the audience cheered!

So, the League of Decency has succeeded in hurting the film, but not in killing it. Sadly, the box office, while good, is probably not good enough for us to see films of the other two books -- unless those of us who like the film go to see it more than once. I intend to.

The Catholic League of Decency! Imagine what Jesus Christ would make of such an organization. Not, "love your neighbor" but rather, "force your neighbor to be decent." Not freedom of religion, but rather freedom of religion from any criticism. If you want to read what they say, follow this link

You will notice that anyone who doesn't agree with the Church is accused of "hating" the Church. It's like Ann Coulter's claim that anyone who doesn't agree with the war in Iraq hates America. The idea that a person might want to live their own life and enjoy themselves is not an option. If you don't do what I tell you, it's because you hate Christians. And, since freedom of speech means freedom from hate speech, and since anyone who disagrees with my point of view clearly hates Christians, my civil rights are being violated if anyone makes a movie I don't like.

Well, enough of that. The Golden Compass is a great film based on one of the best fantasy trilogies of recent times, and anyone who thinks it is Satanic probably thinks the same thing about The Wizard of Oz. (Even the League of Decency admits that there is nothing objectionable about the movie itself. They have, however, discovered a cunning plot. The movie is part of, in their words, "a stealth campaign" to cause innocent and unsuspecting children to, horror of horrors, read the book!)

Philip Pullman is an atheist. With so many Christians preaching a gospel of materialism, bigotry, irrationalism, and hate, who can blame him? I really think that the "League of Decency" would have better results if they forgot about "decency" and returned to the teachings of Christ. There is room in my heart for both The Chronicles of Narnia and His Dark Materials.

The movie ends at a point where the book still has several chapters to go, for reasons that will be clear to anyone who has read the novel. I can accept this more easily than I can accept the rushed beginning. If I remember correctly, the end credits say that the film is only based on the middle third of the novel. If there is a film of the second book, it will probably begin with those missing chapters, which I understand were filmed but not shown. If the second book is never filmed, as seems likely now, then we can look forward to a lot of extras on the DVD.

Meanwhile, see the movie. The Golden Compass creates a complex, fully realized, and exciting fantasy world unlike any other.

Copyright © 2007 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.

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