Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Golden Compass

I know that no movie will have the depth of the book it's based on, but I still can't help being just a little disappointed, although not as much as PZ seemed to be. There are no spoiler's in this post. If you've read the book, you already know what happens; if you haven't, you'll have no idea what the hell I'm talking about.

As movies go, The Golden Compass was okay. It had great effects and plenty of action. If I had not read the book, I probably would have said the plot was a little rushed, and thin in spots, but still pretty good.

Having read the book (the complete trilogy, in fact), I have to say the movie was poorly adapted. It's clear that the writer's attempted to follow the book as closely as they could, given pacing constraints and a clear order to remove anything that might offend the religious (there isn't much in the first book that should do that, but when the Authority is mentioned, it could very well just be the Pope, making the Magisterium simply a fallen organization, disconnected from God). Even so, much of the story was lost.

Some changes made no sense. The reason for Iorek's exile, for example. The reason from the book may have taken a few more minutes to establish, but would have been more satisfying and shown Ragnar much more clearly as a villain. When Iorek names Lyra "Silvertongue", there is no explanation, no apparent reason for it.

The movie was also made SafeForChildrenTM. There is violence, but it's pretty sterile and bloodless. The seriousness of intercision is not emphasized as much as in the book (It is briefly mentioned at the very beginning that a person's daemon is his/her soul, but never again). The kid that Lyra finds merely seems sad about losing his daemon. He also survives and is reunited with his mother. Even when Iorek and Ragnar are fighting, there is no blood. Ragnar gets a solid bite on Iorek's foreleg (and panzerbjorn teeth are impressive), but there's no blood. When the fight ends (the same way as in the book), there's still no blood. I also half expected the bears to toast the winner with bottles of Coke. (Note: Ragnar is named Iofur in the book. Another change that I don't quite get)

It is made clear that Lord Asriel is trying to open a passage to another world. The Church Magisterium is trying to stop him. If he succeeds, however, they will apparently attempt to spread their control to other worlds, so it isn't clear why, exactly, they're trying to stop him. The order of events is changed from the book, with the fight between Iorek and Ragnar coming before the events at Bolvangar. And yes, the last chapter of the book is dropped.

One change that I liked happened right at the beginning. A representative of the Magisterium poisens the wine, not the Master of Jordan College. That makes more sense. The Magisterium people (except Mrs. Coulter) all dress like priests and are concerned with preventing heresy, so the Magisterium is clearly the Church. That much was kept at least.

The ending is left very open, but with just enough closure that a sequel is not absolutely necessary. So I'm not really expecting the rest of the trilogy. In fact, if the studio is going to try removing the "God=Evil, Lying Tyrant" theme, I'd prefer the other two books not ever be made into movies.


2 people have spouted off:

Jackie said...

"I also half expected the bears to toast the winner with bottles of Coke." Ha! I haven't seen the movie yet, but just from the comercials, that's really funny. I guess I won't read the book first, so that I can still enjoy the movie. Then when I read the book, it will be like, "Oh, that's what was happening." The book-to-movie cut reminds my of Harry Potter. They try to jam as many clips from the book as possible, without concern for maintaining a coherent plot. If I watch the movies, I see them as little re-caps of the books that can't really stand alone.

John said...
"They try to jam as many clips from the book as possible, without concern for maintaining a coherent plot."

That's exactly what PZ said in his review on Pharyngula. Pretty accurate, too.
12/9/07, 9:53 AM