Friday, December 7, 2007

Movie Review: The Golden Compass

Yes, I went and saw This Movie, and yes, I still believe in God.

Seriously, though. I went in with an earnest desire to want to enjoy this movie. I really did. I'm not into boycotting things that I know nothing about (outside of the of reviews I've read from people, most of whom haven't seen the movie either). I'm not into dismissing a movie based on the book it is meant to follow. And, I'm not into telling the world I am a Christ follower by telling them about the things I frown upon.

I really wanted to like this movie, because I knew if I did, I could, with an unbiased opinion address the "Christian" concerns that have been raised. Unfortunately, I was disappointed.

The special effects were great. The special effects were really cool. And, the special effects were very entertaining. Beyond the special effects...let's just say I'm glad I had a free ticket and did not pay for this one.

This movie was way too complicated to be only about 113 minutes long. It's really hard to introduce an imaginary world without spending a lot of time explaining the story behind the story...that did not happen here. It jumped right into the plot, and I swear it took me half the movie to figure out what was going on.

The movie was incredibly anti-climactic...I kept waiting for the big payoff. I kept waiting for the big bad guy to get his, or for the hero/heroine to completely save the day. It never happened.

Neither did much character development. The movie could have easily gone another 20 minutes if that time had been spent explaining some of the characters a bit more. I left the theatre knowing just a little more about the main characters than I did going in.

The heroine, a little girl named Lyra, spent half of the movie being kind-hearted and purely heroic, and the other half giving the mean adults evil looks and figuring out ways to lie and deceive her way out of dire situations. She was cute enough, and her motives seemed good, but I finished the movie liking her little animal soul thing more than her.

Beyond what I've already mentioned, the one huge dynamic that was really missing was humor. I can't even remember smiling once, much less laughing. All of the other fantasy adventure stories that this movie (and by his own admission, stories that the author wants to be compared to) has been compared to had the humor was sorely missing here.

This movie was surprisingly dark and violent. (and not because I'm a Christian...) I can't see many kids under 10 or so enjoying this movie without some nightmares. There were a few moments of serious tension...not just a mean adult chasing a little kid, but a bunch of adults talking about and trying to torture and kill the little kids. I was more than a little shocked when a polar bear dies in a fight by having his lower jaw swiped off by another bear...

And, as far as the controversial "anti-Christian" themes...unless you were looking for them going in, there's a good chance you would have missed them altogether. God definitely did not die, nor was he even mentioned. There was a very obvious anti-church message, but being an evangelical, I'd say it was more of an anti-Catholic message than anything else...and, to be completely honest, that doesn't really bother me.

Anyway, like I said, I was very disappointed. I left feeling like nothing had taken place, and without much of any interest in seeing the next movie in the series. The author did a great job in writing a story to hold up against the likes of Narnia and good a job, in fact, that I felt that I was watching a boring and confusing retelling of those stories. I certainly don't want to tell you not to go, because I'm sure this movie will pull in a good revenue and easily pave the way for the second in the series...but, don't say I didn't warn you.



Billy Chia said...

Wow that sucks or not depending on how you look at it. I thought they had a pretty sweet website.

btw - from what I've heard (having not read or seen anything) this is a movie based on the first book in a trilogy. God (called "Yahweh" and "The Ancient of Days" in the books) dies in the third novel.

Nice review.

MilePost13 said...

that's what I've read as well.

I've already gotten some criticism of my review on another website. Oh well... ;)

I saw a good comment on another blog...why can't we consider that the "god" that this movie is attacking is not the True God of the Bible? How would that change the Christian perception of the film?

Chris Jordan said...


Thanks for posting your movie review. I also enjoyed checking out your blog, too. Here are a few comments for you.

One of the points that I tried to make in my review of the books was the fact that this first book/movie, The Golden Compass, was the least overtly anti-Christian of all three books, and that with each successive book, the author became more obvious about his hatred towards God/the church. And you are right that God (the Authority) does not die in the first story, TGC. That climactic event is the high point of the third and final book, where 'God' / Authority is killed, and mankind is freed up to do whatever they desire - free from the Authority's restricting controlling commandments.

But I did like your very helpful observation that the movie is full of blood, gore and violence that is deifnitely not appropriate for young children - regardless of your religious bent.

Anyway, if you're interested in reading my take on the books, I encourage you to check out my blog here:

Travis said...

I enjoyed your thoughts. I blogged on it similarly and linked to you on one of my comments, Glad to see I am not the only one frustrated with the unknowing protestors.

MilePost13 said...

thanks, guys.

WorshipCity said...

Good review. I'm torn in watching it or not. I want to and think I will but what I've read (Entertainment Weekly had a big article and review on it released Saturday) was that this Chris Wientz intentionally left out or watered down the theology to draw a mass audience. By his own admission he did this so he could make enough money to turn it into a franchise and create the 2nd and 3rd installment the way Pullman intended them to be.
We can say that the god that is defeated is not the one true God but by Pullman's own admission, it's what he's using it to be a metaphor by. I'm not that put off by it. Fellow blogger Billy Chia said it already: They've killed our God before and that didn't stop Him :)
What disturbs me more is that in the later sequences there is some pretty sexually explicit scenes not fit for a child's movie. I'm having coffee with a lady from our church who has read the books before and is rereading them so I hope to have that up by the end of the week.

Matt said...

Hey Nate,

Glad to see you showing the way to make decisions based on what you see...

If you want to see what some folks are saying in the UK check out Jonny Baker's take

MilePost13 said...

I'll check it out. Thanks, Matt.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

The screenplay was awful. Notably, it left out the last three climatic chapters.

Also, in the book, Lyra is far less heroic and endearing. She is written intentionally as a rather selfish pathological liar. She isn't mean spirited, but isn't selfless either.