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51 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who are the critics writing for?
This film has been not just panned, but viciously berated. No wonder it attracted such luke-warm success. I went dreading it, as His Dark Materials was one of those life-changing books in my life. Imagine my pleasure when I found the film incredibly well done. I just do not know what the critics were carping about. As with the Harry Potter films, there had to be HUGE...
Published on 1 May 2008 by Ms. P. S. Manix

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The problem with films like this...
...those that have been adapted from well-loved novels for viewing on the big screen, is that unless they are done very, very skillfully, they cannot fail to dissapoint. Viewers will fall into one of 2 categories - a) fans of the novel who will spend the entirety of the film nit-picking at any deviances from the written works, (that wasn't the ending in the book!), or...
Published on 23 Dec. 2008 by Marly Z


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The problem with films like this..., 23 Dec. 2008
This review is from: The Golden Compass [DVD] [2007] (DVD)
...those that have been adapted from well-loved novels for viewing on the big screen, is that unless they are done very, very skillfully, they cannot fail to dissapoint. Viewers will fall into one of 2 categories - a) fans of the novel who will spend the entirety of the film nit-picking at any deviances from the written works, (that wasn't the ending in the book!), or they'll fall into catergory b), have very little knowledge of the world the fantasy is set in , and often fail to grasp the magic of what is going on, will roll-eyes at the incredulity of certain parts of the plot which are pulled off perfectly well in the novels (talking armoured bears? Souls as animals? Psh, what a load of rubbish!) and just miss the entire magic and joy the story in it's original form inspires.

I fall into the former catergory, so already had many expectations of the film (the story, the characters, Lyra's world) though it has been more than a couple years since I last read 'Northern Lights'. After being a fan of the Harry Potter books and then enduring the shambles that were called films, I didn't expect to be blown away by 'the Golden Compass' movie version, but was pleasently surprised. As the 3 star rating indicates, I didn't LOVE the film, but I didn't exactly hate it either. The acting was on the whole pretty good, the CGI brilliant (though nothing less is expected or tolerated these days), the script decent, the choice of what to include form the novels and what to pass by on the whole very good. But all this doesn't really amount to anything when you realise that this is the kind of story that belong on the pages of a book - not on a cinema screen.

If you've got a spare everning and are in need of something to watch, this wouldn't be a bad film to choose, just don't expect a film that will blow you away. If it's the story you're interested in, however, curious to know more about Philip Pullmans 'His Dark material' trilogy (which is incredible, by the way), or if you're just a fan of fantasty in general, then my advice would be to passover the film and inseatd read the books. You won't regret it!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars okay, 4 April 2010
This review is from: The Golden Compass [DVD] [2007] (DVD)
Well, I read the book many years ago, and therefore, by the time this film came out, I had pretty much forgotten what had happened in the book, so I can be impartial there.

But I watched this and thought 'meh'. Bad description, I know, but apt. I enjoyed watching it, but was glad when it was over, and I don't think I would ever watch it again, unless I had no choice. It wasn't a bad film, but it just wasn't engaging enough, and the characters weren't deep or interesting enough for me to really be that bothered about what happened to them.

I must say, they did the talking animals (or daemons) very well, and this is coming from someone who genuinely hates talking animals in films, so that is at least something.

From what I remember of the first book, it was enjoyable at best, so that perhaps contributes to my average liking of the film.

i really feel that there is a lot more could have been done with the film. There are brilliant ideas laid down by Pullman, but they never really come out. I think this film is a case of the book that should have remained a book. The description the books give you and what you conjur up in your own imagination, is a hundred times better than anything you could see in this film. This goes for many films too.

So all in all, an average film, worth a watch once, but don't expect too much from it.
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50 of 55 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This is not an extended edition of the movie, 10 May 2008
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Just to reiterate J.J. Hall's review, I saw this title in a store alongside the original and thought that like with LOTR they'd reinstated lots of scenes that would would enhance the film but were deemed cuttable to get the running time down to an acceptable cinema length. A quick perusal of both boxes showed that both had main features that ran for 108 mins. What you get with this 2-disc edition is just lots of extra features (making ofs, interviews, etc). From the same company that did the excellent LOTR extended editions, this is a real disappointment. This isn't a review of the film (which I still haven't seen to be honest, heard mixed reviews but utterly love the books), just didn't want to see anyone caught out by the "extended" on the cover.
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40 of 45 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A quality HD transfer, shame about the movie, 19 Jun. 2008
By 
Vinman666 (Essex, U.K.) - See all my reviews
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The high definition transfer to this Blu-ray disc is excellent: rich saturated colours and awesome levels of detail. Sound quality is equally good and although I don't have the ability to play the uncompressed DTS HD soundtrack the dynamic rangeis apparent even in standard stereo. In this respect it's one of the best Blu-ray discs I've seen so far.

That was the good news (and reason for the 3 stars); if only the conversion of book to movie had been even remotely as good. The special effects are very good and Lyra's Oxford is well realised; Mrs Coulter is also subtly played by the excellent Nicole Kidman and...unfortunately that's about as far as I can go with compliments.

The strengths of the book(s) are Philip Pullman's expert story-telling, allied to a complex - but accessible - plot and wonderful characters.
Of course condensing everything from the book to a 2 hour film would be impossible but what we are presented with is a series of action sequences linked by ham-fisted exposition. For example, the episode with Billy Costa (who has merged characters with Tony Macarios), once found separated from his Ratter, should emphasise the relationship between human and daemon and build the requisite tension to what is happening at Bolvangar but the opportunity is wasted. Then there is the pointless re-naming of Iofur Raknison to 'Ragnar' (one can just imagine the Focus Group brainstorming a generic scandinavian name: "Ooh I know, how about Ernest Borgnine's name in The Vikings!") and the weakening of Iorek Byrnison (why not rename him too: Erik the Ice Bear, anyone?) by having him (1) expelled from Svalbard as a coward and (2) almost killed and only just saved by Lee Scoresby. Iorek's character is supposed to be the practically indestructible rock that underpins Lyra's (and, later, Will's) resolve for what follows. Those are just 2 examples of many.

The removal of the true ending of the book from the film and the general watering down of the religious undertone sums up what many fans of the book feared would happen: Hollywood has chickened out (again). The bar for intelligent fantasy book transfers to film has been raised by Peter Jackson, and this movie falls woefully short of that level.

The BBC Cover to Cover talking book, read by Philip Pullman with a cast providing the dialogue, is vastly superior to the BBC Radio dramatisation (I've got both) but even the latter is better than the film. If you haven't read the books, I encourage you to do so - the film is passable in a Dark Crystal/Hawk the Slayer action-fantasy genre but the books have so much more depth.
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39 of 44 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A passable adaptation of an excellent book, 5 Jun. 2008
By 
Mendo Shutaro (Leamington) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This is certainly a beautiful looking movie, and looks wonderful on blu-ray, no doubts there. However as an adaptation of Philip Pullman's excellent novel it falls rather short. Much of the commentary of the terrible evils of religion and their attacks on freedom, science, and knowledge, and specifically the catholic church have been removed or dulled hugely, changing the story from a multi faceted and complex tale into a simple adventure yarn.

Also, and this is particularly agregious, the final chapter was completely omitted, robbing the story of any closure at all, and given how this performed in the US box office, thanks to religious nut cases running a smear campaign against it I doubt the two sequels will ever get made.

My advice - read the books instead.
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51 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who are the critics writing for?, 1 May 2008
By 
Ms. P. S. Manix "Peargrower" (Woodstock, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This film has been not just panned, but viciously berated. No wonder it attracted such luke-warm success. I went dreading it, as His Dark Materials was one of those life-changing books in my life. Imagine my pleasure when I found the film incredibly well done. I just do not know what the critics were carping about. As with the Harry Potter films, there had to be HUGE compromises made to the two-hour limitation of a film, but The Golden Compass FAR OUTDID any of the Harry Potters in condensing a complex and hefty book into a comprehendible 2 hour film. I thought the short cuts and abridgments they did with the Golden Compass were entirely in keeping with and reverential to the book---it was brilliantly done. Sure, there are always differences in interpretations of individual characters on the screen (Craige is far too warm, Kidman should be dark, not blonde...) but the rest of the characters/actors were positively spot on, and Daniel Craig and Kidman did such excellent jobs otherwise capturing the essence of the characters in the minute periods of time they had, that you quickly lent them the benefit of the doubt for starting from a slightly different place than the book. Sure, thousands of details, and side stories were sacrificed to the film's abridgment, and sure, some stories were merged to help condense the story, but even these were masterfully done and retained the spirit of the story.
Hey! A two hour film can NEVER compete with a 600 page book. But it CAN capture some of the magic of a story and portray it with integrity. This film is a first rate film of a remarkable book. I, for one, cannot WAIT for the next two installments. Bravo.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A disappointing and fragmented adaptation, 20 Nov. 2009
By 
S. Datta "I wonder if..." (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Golden Compass [DVD] [2007] (DVD)
You have to applaud any director for being willing to take on this trilogy. Combining a set of novels which are at once intricately woven and simultaneously panoramic in terms of themes, ideas and even characters into a set of films is hugely ambitious. So how does the first adaption fare?

Well, on the plus side it looks, on the whole, beautiful. Some of the CGI is a little wobbly, particularly around the armoured bears, but the renditions of the icy landscapes and steepled Oxford are beautiful. Equally the casting of the main characters is spot on, with Nicole Kidman perfect as the cold and arch Mrs. Coulter and Sam Elliot as the astronaut (who I forget the name of!). Others clearly disagree but I liked Dakota Blue Richards - she is clearly, particularly in the first book, a cocky and annoying street kid as well as the complex character she develops into and the actress captures both of these.

On the downsides, well, very simply, it is hopelessly fragmented in every sense. The overarching themes and ideas which make the book so beautiful and much more than the sum of its parts are very much lost in the adaptation and renders the film just a set of rather beautiful set pieces. There are so many examples of this, but to pick a few: the sense of the daemons being an integral part of the person is lost despite forced scripting to - it rather feels like their little pet buddy rather than anything else; key religious aspects are largely lost entirely which form the foundation of later stories and which shape the characters themselves; the witches pop up out nowhere, with no history and none of their beautiful back story - they were reduced to simply an airforce attack unit ("Quick, we're being attacked from the sky, call the witches!") - and then disappear equally quickly. I can't tell you how frustrating it is watching a composite story being reduced to nothing more than an incoherent set of random episodes.

I'd also add that whilst the casting, and acting of the main characters is great, the acting of much of the supporting cash is terrible - wooden, cliché ridden and more in line with what you'd expect in a school drama. Such a shame, but to be fair, it would probably have been difficult to achieve, unless you're Peter Jackson of course
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Loses its way, 22 Oct. 2009
By 
Trevor Willsmer (London, England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
Coming to The Golden Compass cold without having read the books, it's easy to understand why this was met with relative indifference by the unconverted. It's also easy to see why the fans of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy were so disappointed - for all the money and spectacular design and special effects lavished on it, this really does look like the studio destroyed the film in an attempt to make it into The Lord of the Lion, The Ring and The Potter. The film hits plot points but never lingers long enough for scenes or characters to really gain weight or play as well as they should because it's just in too damn much of a hurry. Even the score by the usually reliable Alexandre Desplat falls into the trap of following an all too identifiable temp track of other scores at times despite the odd burst of originality or genuine lyricism. A big part of the problem seems to be that this was a studio-led project rather than a film-maker driven one: with no Peter Jackson to drive his vision through and the project going from Chris Weitz to Anand Tucker to Tom Stoppard and back to Weitz it's no surprise it's so diluted. What is surprising is just how incomplete it feels: it literally stops just as the story is beginning in a way I haven't seen since Captain From Castille, leaving the film feeling like either a trailer or a TV pilot.

What's so much worse in the case is that they actually shot the ending and dumped a huge amount of footage (much in the film's trailer and containing most of Daniel Craig's scenes) and rearranged the order of the second half of the film in an attempt to give it a happier climax, purely for marketing concerns and to boost the chances of a sequel that will now never come. From what has leaked its way onto YouTube, it's easy to see why the marketing and moneymen had second thoughts, but if they'd had the guts to go with the original ending it would have given the film a real kick - it's genuinely shocking stuff, especially for a big-budget fantasy - but also would have made the religion versus science argument less one-sided with its conclusion that pure science is just as much an evil as intolerant religion and there are fanatics of all hues.

The extras on this 2-disc set are fairly comprehensive, but it's significant that there are no deleted scenes (New Line initially talked about using the ending as the opening for the proposed followup). Hopefully one day there'll be a director's cut (despite the misleading packaging, this certainly isn't it): on this evidence, despite several missteps Weitz wasn't so guilty of diluting the source material as the film makes it look and it'd be a huge improvement. As it stands it has its moments but feels at times like you're watching a trailer rather than a finished film.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars dissapointment., 24 Oct. 2008
This review is from: The Golden Compass [DVD] [2007] (DVD)
I read 'His Dark Materials' a couple of years before the film hit our screens, it is one of my favorite novels of all time and was literaly a life changing experience reading it, when I first heard about a movie adaptation I was very excited...and I waited in anticipation for this for what seemed like ages, I was expecting a 12 or 12a rating for this movie and I was a little shocked when I saw it has a 'PG' rating......this was what first put doubts in my head. Then I saw the running time, after the 'epic' Lord of the Rings I was expecting at least a 200 min film for the Golden Compass.....on release I went to the Cinema not expecting much for these reasons alone, what can I say? 'Average' is the word that springs to mind, it wasn't terrible, just average.. which considering it's based on one of the greatest books ever written is a shame. After watching it really does feel like you've only seen the beggining of the film, if you want a similar experience pick up any DVD watch the first 20 mins and eject it, that's what it feels like...why not make the film longer and tell a bit more of the story?

As an adult I never felt like I was reading a children's book, the same can't be said for this film, it's a children's film and make no mistake about it. Very dissapointing, very average.....and I'm also a little angry that they've turned something as wonderful as 'His Dark Materials' into DVD bargain bin fodder.

I really think it's going to take one of the big Japanese animation companies to pick this up and do a screen version that does the books justice. After watching 'Spirited Away' all I can say is Hayao Miyazaki help us please!!! I dare anyone to say that wouldn't be amazing.....
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a perfect adaptation of Northern Lights, but still a very good film, 11 Aug. 2008
This review is from: The Golden Compass [DVD] [2007] (DVD)
First I must point out that before I saw this film I had already read, and hugely enjoyed, the original book, so I approached this film with a mixture of high hopes as well as concern about how Hollywood would treat Philip Pullman's work. To my relief, I can report that the transition to the big screen was, give or take a few compromises, a success.

The 'alternative Earth' world that Philip Pullman has superbly conceptualised is visually re-created in this film very convincingly. The weirdly futuristic yet slightly Victorian technology is conveyed very well via some impressive CG-enhanced cinematography and the daemons that accompany every human are also very realistic and show that no expense has been spared in reproducing this strange world. The cast is also top notch. Daniel Craig makes a great Lord Asriel, mixing authority and intelligence with a subtle charm. Nicole Kidman is also wonderful playing the sinister Mrs Coulter, flicking effortlessly between affability and damn right scariness. The exiled bear prince Iorek Byrnison is also very well portrayed, the CG rendering is top notch and, being voiced over by Ian McKellen, gives the character the right amount of gravitas.

Where the film works well is that it makes Pullman's story very accessible to anyone who hasn't read the book. In his book Pullman crams in an incredible amount of ideas, some of which are quite mysterious and don't get fully explained until later on in the book. Therefore the film makers chose to simplify some of these intricacies to make them more 'movie friendly'. So, for instance, the whole concept of what a daemon is gets explained very early on in the film so the viewer doesn't sit wondering why everyone walks around with their own talking animal. This is in contrast to the book, where deamons just exist, no simple explanation is given as to why people have these animals, and it's only through reading the whole book that you begin to understand the mysteries of these enigmatic creatures.

I know many Pullman fans have criticised the film's simplification of many of Pullman's ideas as dumbing down, but I think this is a little unfair. Without doubt some of the more involved subplots are only touched on in this film, giving the impression that some of it was a little rushed as the film makers tried to cram as much of the book as they could into a 2 hour film. For instance, the Bear King's infatuation with being human, as well as his usurping of Iorek, has far more significance and depth in the book than it does in this film. Also, in the film, the role of the Witches is quite understated and they're portrayed almost like 'guns for hire' to help Lyra and the Gyptians when needed. In the book, however, they have a very profound involvement in the story and very much hold the balance of power in the unfolding events.

But the biggest compromise is without doubt the point at which the film ends. I will not give anything away, other than to say the film ends at about three quarters of the way through the book. So the film gets denied the book's original climactic ending, and kind of just fizzles out. It really isn't a proper ending and I feel this definitely could have been handled better.

But generally the compromises do not detract from the fact that this film is very enjoyable and a great introduction to the fascinating world that Phillip Pullman has created. Admittedly this adaptation isn't perfect and many of the book's subtleties and intricacies have been lost. But as a fan of the book I'm just pleased such a wonderful story has been given the Hollywood treatment and allowed a whole new audience to discover its delights.
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The Golden Compass [DVD] [2007]
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