The Golden Compass – spoilers included

If you haven’t read the book and are going to see the film, or even if you have read but are still going to see you probably don’t want to read this post.

Right, you’ve been warned. I’m not going to write a thorough review, I’m just going to list the things that really annoyed me. I’m glad I read some of the bad reviews before seeing it otherwise I’m not sure I’d have been able to sit through and not walk out.

Right, here we go:

  • How on earth did Chris Weitz think that his screenplay stood up as good enough? Come on it was a series of ticks in the boxes covering the major happenings of the film. No characters were defined, back stories explained or anything. You might as well buy the audio book from iTunes rather than see the film. It will be a lot more interesting.
  • Convenient member of the Magesterium along to attempt to poison Lord A. It would be far too complex to try to explain why the Master did it afterall.
  • Hello I’m Mrs. Coulter do you want to come with me to The North? Yes please. Can I take her Master? I guess so. No bulding up of why Lyra was so taken by Mrs. C. and why she was so desperate to go to the North
  • What happened to the two chapters worth of material about the journey from when Lyra is rescued by the Gyptians through to the roping? Not a single hint that she is being hunted the length and breadth of the country, the backstory about Lord A being her father, mother dying and being raised by Ma. Costa. None of the politics of the Gyptians and the expansions of Lord Faa and Farder Coram as characters at all.
  • Cut out the above and you lose any ability to give the impression that Lyra comes to grips with the alethiometer largely by herself. Instead we get a ludicrous scene in which she gets it first time around after a couple of words from Farder Coram. If it was that easy then anybody could have done it.
  • There was nowhere near enough explanation of the bond between a human and a daemon. The only nods being a quick explanation that one feels the pain of the other. Where was the detail about how the settling of the daemon’s form around puberty is an important time and how the settled form portrays the character of the person at that point? Including the scene onboard ship where Pantalaimon delights in being a porpoise and that worries Lyra in case he likes it so much that he wants to settle as one would have taken two minutes and really driven the point home.
  • On a similar note to the above, why no scene where Lyra deliberately streches the link between her and Pantalaimon when trying to get Iorek onboard? Another minute of screen time at most for a powerful example of the importance of the bond between human and daemon.
  • Why plonk Serafina Pekkala onto the ship and not her daemon as in the book? Just to give a minute of dialogue which helps to cut out a load of stuff by just explaining it point blank. Hardly any explanation of her back story with Father Coram and why she feels obliged to aid Lyra. Oh and to give Eva Green more screen time of course.
  • Why find Billy Costa without his daemon instead of Tony Markarios? Oh and Ma. Costa wasn’t allowed along on the trip in any case. Actually, all of that is reasonable as Billy doesn’t really play any other role later on and it saves introducing another character, but then it all gets totally mucked up when Billy doesn’t die like Tony did. So getting cut off from your daemon is ok then huh? No, all we get is Mrs. Coulter briefly saying “intercision isn’t perfected yet” later on, when it’s too late to really highlight why those words instill real fear in Lyra.
  • WHY, WHY, WHY totally switch the flow of the book to have the confrontation between Iorek and Iofur (oh, sorry, Ragnar – obviously having two bears whose names begin with the same letter is far too confusing) before the escape from Bolvangar? What purpose did that serve at all except to piss of people who had read the book that is. Imagine if they had switched the journey through Moria and the time in Lorien around in The Fellowship of the Ring for example.
  • Oh no, the reason was that it gave you a way to end the film without the actual ending of the book. So not ending it on a cliffhanger (and a pretty big one at that) is understandable and let’s face it, it worked for The Two Towers, but to completely change the way the story flows to accomodate a happy ending is maddening.
  • And on the subject of Iorek, why invent a totally false story about him losing a fight with Iofur and being exiled rather than spend a couple of minutes explaining that he was exiled for killing another bear – thus explaining the guilt he has which led him to where he ended up? The understanding that the book gives as to the fact that Iofur engineered the killing gives Iorek a motive for wanting to return and fight which the film doesn’t explain at all.
  • Dust. No real explanation as to what it represents. Almost no disussion about the Aurora and the visibility of the other world which is what Lyra is really keen on seeing hence why she is so ready to go with Mrs. Coulter. Yes they didn’t want to piss off a significant market of people by going the whole hog with the church/original sin stuff but they really could have done a better job without being in any way controversial. “A long time ago, one of our ancestors made a terrible mistake. They disobeyed the authority. And that is what brought Dust into the world.” is the nearest thing we get.

There are a load of other more minor things that I found annoying, but to be honest they pale into insignificance. If you are a fan of the Pullman novels and also somebody who watched Fellowship and got annoyed that Tom Bombadill and the razing of the shire were left out then seriously don’t go and see The Golden Compass.

How can they mess it up this much?

One thought on “The Golden Compass – spoilers included

  1. Oh dear, I won’t be going to see that one then..

    I get what you say about LOTR, losing the raising of the Shire was unforgivable, but Tom Bombadil not being there was a joy, such an irritating character. Also reducing the council of elrond to about 5 minutes was quite a relief as well, was always a chapter I skipped on the several re-reads I indulged myself with..

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