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PCR #402 (Vol. 8, No. 49) This edition is for the week of December 3--9, 2007.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"The Golden Compass"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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Starring: Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig and Dakota Blue Richards
Directed by: Chris Weitz
Rated: PG 13
Running Time: 1 hour 53 mins

This is going to be a very strange review. As you read this, you may think I didn’t enjoy “The Golden Compass,” only to be surprised by my recommending it. The story in a nutshell:

There are two kinds of worlds. Our world (meaning right here on Earth) is populated with people. Each person has a soul, though we never get to see it. The other world is also populated with people. But these people have their soul as a companion. Here they are called Daemons. They take the form of various animals. Children have cute daemons (bunnies, ferrets, dogs) that constantly change. It is not until they become adults that their daemon settles on one kind of animal. At Jordan College, Lyra (Richards), a young girl sent to the school by her uncle Asriel (Craig) smuggles herself into a closet and overhears a tale about life, dust and an Alethiometer, better known as a golden compass. The local ruling body, known as the Magisteria, are worried that Asriel, on an adventure funded by the college, will find evidence that denounces their practices. There is also a matter of many of the young children at the school disappearing, taken by a shadowy gang known as Gobblers. After Asriel leaves, Lyra is put in the custody of Mrs. Coulter (Kidman), a woman who appears friendly on the surface but has her own plot brewing underneath. Add to this concoction battling bears, zeppelins and enough CGI animals to start your own petting zoo and you pretty much have “The Golden Compass.”

For the record, here’s what I didn’t like: a story that actually seems to be a mash up of “Star Wars” (Episodes 1,4 and 5), “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” and “Annie” among others. In fact, when asked for a quote after the screening I replied “Temple of Doom with Bears.” The story kept jumping from one fantastic place to another only to get bogged down each time a new character showed up. And I’ll have to tell you, I still haven’t figured out what in the heck Sam Elliot (he’s the Han Solo character here) was doing dressed like he just came off the set of the latest Louis L'Amour western. There is even a Christopher Lee cameo, mostly to remind us he was in the later “Star Wars” films as well as “Lord of the Rings.” Thank goodness Peter Cushing is dead or I’m almost sure he would have shown up in a battle scene and said, “Evacuate? In our moment of triumph?” And why in the world did Lyra’s hair color keep changing, going from red to blonde to dark back to red again?

What I did like was the seriousness of which each actor took his or her role. It is so easy in a film of this magnitude to rely on the special effects to carry the story. But here the cast is deadly serious, bringing each character to life and giving the audience a reason to cheer or boo them and their actions. The special effects and CGI work is dazzling. I can see this film easily walking away with some technical Academy Awards.

There has been some flack in the media recently concerning this film and it’s supposed “pro-Atheistic” agenda. Though I can see where the whole “soul” storyline may upset some people, the closest religious thing I could associate in this film was that the Magisteria was this period’s Inquisition. Other then that, I found nothing offensive in the story line. The film is rated PG 13, mostly for some very intense battles that take place. While there is plenty of sword play and gun shots, the action is bloodless. On a scale of zero to four stars, I give “The Golden Compass”

This week's movie review of "The Golden Compass" is ©2007 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2007, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2007 by Nolan B. Canova.