Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Golden Compass: The Movie Review - pt. 2

This is part 2 of 3 in a series about the new movie "The Golden Compass" and the book series by Philip Pullman entitled "His Dark Materials." View part 1 or part 3.

Yes, that's right. The family and I went to see the movie. (Go ahead and gasp!) By that time, I had heard about the controversy and was pretty sure that most of what was objectionable would be in the following movies, the sequels. And besides, the Christian community has over-reacted before - it was probably the case again.

As for the entertainment value of the movie, it was okay. The CGI was evident in every scene making new worlds seem more real. I found a few elements quite intriguing and will discuss them later. Sam Elliot was pretty cool in his character Lee Scoresby and the other actors gave decent performances as well. At the same time, the movie kind of dragged. While there was some action, the plot was slow and slightly confusing at times. I was most annoyed by the ending - or lack thereof. Similar to my reaction to Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest, the movie just left you hanging waiting for a sequel. But in this case, I wasn't quite sure if I was inspired enough to come out see the next movie!

After a little research, I'm pretty sure the movie might have had more entertainment value if they had more closely followed the events in the book. It seems most of the elements are there, but there are a few tweaks. Most notably, New Line Cinema left out the ending of the book, apparently saving it for the beginning of the next movie. There is more to say on this, but I will leave that to my next post.

Finally, I did find a few things to comment on - both good and bad...

In the world of The Golden Compass, every person has an animal companion called a "daemon." Each person's daemon is actually the external expression of their soul. In many case, the form of a person's daemon represents something about their personality (i.e. a lion, a bird, a dog, a cat). In addition, children's daemons are not fixed - they change form depending on their mood. I found this concept quite interesting while I watched peoples' daemons interact at the same time the people interacted. For instance, when people would argue, their daemons would fight. While I was intrigued, I was also annoyed every time the word "daemon" was referenced. It is pronounced "dee-mahn" like the word "demon." And It wasn't until two thirds through the movie that I realized they weren't actually saying "demon." There is a difference between the two words: a daemon is Greek word depicting a half-God or an attendant spirit, but the two words are closely related.

One of my annoyances with the "Harry Potter" series is the use of traditionally "evil" imagery depicted as supposedly "good." Warlocks and witches are a good example. The Golden Compass does the same treatment with a number of images, but the witches are what stood out to me. The witches in The Golden Compass are supposedly "good," but they seem eerily similar to all the "evil" imagery we're used to - except for being ugly. It just made me uncomfortable, especially since there was no concession like in The Wizard Of Oz's the "Good Witch of the North."

In the story, we meet a polar bear known as Iorek Byrnison. (**slight spoiler here**) Taken out of context of the movie, I find his story a compelling tale redemption. Iorek was a great and mighty warrior - an armored bear who was to be king of the armored bears. He was to be king by means of a one-on-one battle with another bear, but before the battle he was poisoned. And he subsequently lost the battle because he was not at his full potential. Because of this, he was exiled from the bears. He was tricked by the townspeople, his armor was taken away, and he pretty much became a slave to the townspeople working only for whiskey. Through a series of events, when Iorek finds his armor, he remembers who he is - a great and mighty warrior and eventually becomes the rightful king of the armored bears. (**end of spoiler**)

We, too, sometimes feel disgrace and shame. Our armor is lost and we live a life less than the potential that God has destined for us. The truth is that we are deceived. We are poisoned into removing the armor that God has given us and end up living a meaningless existence wallowing in our guilt when all we really need to do is to humbly come before our God - and He will return our armor and purpose.

I am sure Golden Compass author Philip Pullman would be pretty upset to hear the spiritual insight that I've gleamed from his story, but more on that in my next post.