International Writers Magazine: Film Review
Directed & written by Chris Weitz
1hr 58min - Adventure/Fantasy - English
Based upon Philip Pullman's novel 'Northern
Lyra Belacqua- Dakota Blue Richards
Mrs. Coulter- Nicole Kidman
Lord Asriel- Daniel Craig
John Faa- Jim Carter
Serafina Pekkala- Eva Green
Lee Scoresby- Sam Elliott
Sam North review
for Two Oscars
I approached entering
the Vue Cinema with some trepidation. Like millions of others who have
cherished Philip Pullman's 'His Dark Materials' I was slightly
apprehensive as to what the American director Chris Weitz (About
a Boy) would do with it. Cinema is littered with bad adaptations,
but then again, some would say, and I am one of them, that Harry Potter
is a damn sight better on screen than in the books. The difference being
that Pullman is a better writer.
But right from the
start, with Lyra on the rooftops of her parallel Oxford and mixing with
the Gyptian kids, it was right and felt that someone had really thought
hard about what we would see and had a sense of the position Lyra holds
in our hearts.
the amazing designs and beautifully devised modes of transport,
the fully realised vision of this alternative world and the high
victorian costuming, someone has done their homework. It is lavish
and convincing. The casting of Nicole Kidman as the evil Mrs Coulter
works well, she is truly, icily evil. Born for this. By contrast,
Lyra, played by Dakota Blue Richards is a wayward tyke, a tad obnoxious
at first, but strong and needs to be to get through the tasks ahead.
Pretty damn good casting. She has to carry the film and practically
carries it off.
of the shots feel as though some someone referenced early Liz Taylor
movies and costuming takes its cue from National Velvet and Terry
The Gyptians, the marsh people, who are outside the rules and influences
of the Majesterium, arrived pretty quickly, possibly too quickly, but
there is a lot to get through. Lyra saves her Uncle's life, is entrusted
with the alethiometer (Golden Compass) and then finds herself whisked
away by Mrs Coulter, only to find she is heading up the Gobblers, who
are abducting children for a specific, cruel experiment. They are trying
to part children from their souls. In this world, children and adults
souls appear as animals, not taking their final shape until adulthood.
Lyra's Pan moved from bird to cat, to weasel to cat again with each
of her moods and the daemons, as they are called, are just amazing,
a triumph of special effects and one immediatly wants one. One can quite
see why the King of the Bears is desperate to own one.
The London, where Mrs Coulter resides, is again high Victorian and fascinating.
Mrs Coulter's daemon is a vicious monkey, quite in keeping with her
personality and desperate to get hold of the Golden Compass. Lyra seizes
her opportunity to escape and runs. Once freed from Mrs Coulter she
has no idea where to go,or whom to trust. Meanwhile it seems everyone
is out to get her.
Lyra is saved by the Gyptians as she runs from the Gobblers and taken
North by ship. Everything points north where the children have been
taken. Finally Lyra discovers how to use the compass and how it works
in mysterious ways using 'dust' and the special power she possesses.
After all, the witches know that she is a child of destiny, born, like
Jean D'Arc before her in another world to rid them of oppression. In
this case it is the dreadful, evil Majesterium (The Authority) who control
all thought and now wish to rid the world of daemons, so they will control
all lives. To that end there is the worlds sharpest knife waiting for
the children grabbed by the Gobblers.
It is this then
- Lyra has to save the children, find her friends and on her way save
the world. To help her she meets Gyptians, a massive talking armoured
bear Iorek Byrnison (albiet a drunk at first, voiced somewhat bombasticlly
by Sir Ian McKellan when it should have had a Danish accent) and Lee
Scoresby an American adventurer with a flying machine and pretty unique
hare as daemon. Captured once again and almost killed Lyra discovers
to her horror that Mrs Coulter is her mother. It is a terrible shock.
It is even more of an imperative to escape again, find her friend Roger
and reconnect with Iorek Brynison.
The wonderful machines,
the whole imagined world, is just so complete and the battles of the
bears and eventual fight between the wolfmen and the Gyptians on the
ice is violent, tough and would definitely terrify small children so
much they will want to see it again and again!
Mention must go
to the soundtrack that has a curious engineering rythmn to it (Mrs Coutler's
theme). Composed and conducted by Alexandre Desplat with an exit track
by Kate Bush (an irrelevance as you are already out of the door by the
time it comes on). The music is nervous with curious greek motifs running
through it and some interesting percussion moments but it is alive and
I was hugely upset
when the film ended, just as they were set to rescue her Uncle (Father)
Lord Asriel and hope, with all my heart that they film the rest of the
trilogy very soon. One cannot leave it there - literally up in the air.
Dakota Blue is a discovery, huge stories have to be played out and no
matter the names have been changed, we know who the Majesterium represent
and why the prophesy must come true. Roll on Subtle Knife.
© Sam North Dec 2007
*Box office take in Europe is almost twice that of the USA - which
I suspect reflects the esteem Philip Pullman is held in Europe rather
than inthe USA.
Worldwide Box Office - Feb 1st $250 million
Lee Scoresby's Hare
North is the author of Diamonds
- The Rush of 72 and Curse of
the Nibelung - A Sherlock Holmes Mystery and editor of Hackwriters.com
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