If you're wondering how a book about a little girl hanging out with an armored polar bear can have so many religious conservatives scared, you're probably not alone. With THE GOLDEN COMPASS having screened in a nationwide sneak on Saturday, many may wonder where the God-bashing was that they've heard so much about?
That is, if anyone actually saw the film at all, because those fundamentalist boycotts can be pretty effective at times. Remember the last fantasy movie based on a book about a young kid and his magic friends that the God squad objected to? Harry something-or-other? Apparently it was never heard from again.
Here's the thing – the God-bashing in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, of which COMPASS is part one, doesn't really kick in until part three, and even then, you can argue that the God depicted isn't actually Jesus Christ or Jehovah or Allah, but rather the obnoxious version of a backwards deity that Pullman perceives various faiths to be pushing. Nonetheless, they're probably never going to have to worry about seeing it onscreen, as the likelihood of THE GOLDEN COMPASS getting a sequel strikes me as pretty low.
First off, how many viewers are going to go in cold not knowing it's part one of a trilogy? Unlike the Tolkien movies, or even that horrible travesty of THE DARK IS RISING that briefly entered theaters a little while back, COMPASS isn't being billed as part one of three. So imagine how pissed off audiences might be when the film doesn't end. It just stops. The good guys are on their way to finally confront the bad guys, and the movie just ends.
That, and it doesn't explain anything. What is capital-d Dust? Why are the baddies trying to separate kids from their animal spirits? What's up with Mrs. Coulter anyway – is she trying to invade countries, kill leaders, and convert them to Christianity? [It would explain why they made her a blonde]
Please note: I am well aware that the books answer all this stuff in time. But the first movie does not, nor is there any immediate indication of a sequel. Cliffhangers suck badly enough when you know you have to wait a couple years for the resolution (hello, George Lucas!), but when there's no guarantee at all...well, you have the books, anyway, and now your imagination can be supplanted by images of some Hollywood actors when you read them. Which is fine by me – I never thought Pullman did that good a job of describing what his characters looked like to begin with. But the book ended with a superior cliffhanger – the movie leaves out the last couple of chapters entirely.
As for the movie in and of itself, I feel about it roughly the same way I did about the book – hard to get into until the armored bears show up, and then pretty awesome as long as the bears hang around. The movie improves a bit in some charcter areas – I never found much to like in our heroine Lyra as written, but Dakota Blue Richards gives her some humanity. And Eva Green as the witch is a nice choice too – from the book I couldn't even tell whether she was supposed to be young-looking or not for the longest time.
I don't like the reading of the compass bits. The book explains how the compass/alethiometer is read – the movie tries to visualize this, and makes it look like the thing gives Lyra hallucinations. Overly cheesy, say I.
But all in all it seems fairly faithful – both book and movie are kinda blah. I thought the books got progressively more interesting, and only kept at them because I had heard the same from others. Maybe I just couldn't wait for all the atheism stuff to hit me.
I would like to see book 3 get made. But I'm not expecting it.