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20 of 21 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
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...
Published on 11 Aug 2008 by N. Burgess

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40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A quality HD transfer, shame about the movie
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...
Published on 19 Jun 2008 by Vinman666


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20 of 21 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
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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40 of 44 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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This review is from: The Golden Compass (2-disc Extended edition)[Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
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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45 of 50 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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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 
Philip (Stafford, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Golden Compass (2-disc Extended edition)[Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
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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50 of 57 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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars okay, 4 April 2010
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The problem with films like this..., 23 Dec 2008
...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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Golden Compass, 16 July 2009
I enjoyed this film which was surprisingly faithful to the original novel (Northern Lights, Philip Pullman), even though much of the suspense-laden narrative had to be discarded. Some splendid performances too, especially Nicole Kidman as the chillingly evil Mrs Coulter, Ian McKellen's voice-over as the Armoured Bear, and newcomer Dakota Blue Richards as a thoroughly believable stroppy, independent-minded pre-adolescent Lyra. Perhaps it helped to have read the book? I don't know, but would have expected this film to have been more popular than I understand it has been so far. Definitely worth watching, and I hope the producers plan to make the sequels.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Is this Philip Pullman's Northern Lights ?, 3 Nov 2008
By 
Mr. J. C. Schofield "Redhighed" (Wakefield, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Golden Compass (2-disc Extended edition)[Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Philip Pullman's Northern Lights is a wonderfully written book. Packed with great imagination and depth. The characters, particularly Lyra's are well thought out and have a richness about them. The story line is challenging and in many parts takes a different path, than you're expecting. It takes on contentious issues cleverly and weaves a magical and dark storyline out of them.
Not since Tolkien's Trilogy has there been a series of fantasy books that have been acheing to be put on the silver screen.
Then the first film arrives, with it's American book title name 'The Golden Compass'. Visually the film is stunning especially on Blu Ray and if it was a Walt Disney film we'd all say aaaaww great swash buckling action.
But it's not it's suppose to be the reproduction of a masterpiece of fantasy. Is it possible to betray a book more than the film makers have done here, I think NOT !! All the parts of the storyline that really gave this book a real edge and made it stand out from the rest have been omitted. A gourmet meal turned into a happy meal. The storyline loosely ( and that's being kind )follows the book.
The film ignores the end of the book completely and rounds off any sharp edges that I'm sure they thought might damage the rating.
Director Chris Weitz, you should hang your head in Shame.I can't help wonder why you didn't stick to directing films like Antz and American Pie and let someone like Peter Jackson breath life into this book.
And Philip Pullman how could you stand back and watch them do this to your wonderful book.
The only hope is that Weitz strayed that far from the storyline he can't possibly make the second book and they'll have to remake The Golden Compass' again.
Devotees of Pullman must have physically wept when they saw this Disney style adaption.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Golden Compass- Blu-Ray, 4 Jan 2009
By 
Spider Monkey (UK) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Golden Compass (2-disc Extended edition)[Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
'The Golden Compass' is a good family, fantasy adventure and starts off being very promising. The children actors aren't too bad to watch, Kidman is very good, the various plot elements were intriguing and the effects were of good standard. This had a great cast of both on screen actors, as well as voice over actors and the costumes and sets were pretty impressive. I enjoyed the film most of the way through until I reached the ending which left so much unresolved and set itself up for a sequel. It was SO frustrating to end a film like this that it coloured my overall feelings towards the entire film. I like trilogy type films and those that spread a story over many sequels, but I also like each separate film to be resolved enough to leave you feeling satisfied with two hours viewing and intrigued to find out what will happen next. This left me with none of that. It is a shame that what seemed to be a good film, with a good premise and well directed and acted, shot itself in the foot in such a way. This is worth a viewing if you like fantasy adventure films, but just be aware that you'll have to expect a sequel to resolve the story.

Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.
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