May 10, 2008

The Golden Compass - $3

The Golden Compass is one of the most poorly executed book-to-movie adaptations I've ever seen. To bring it to the big screen major changes were made to the characters and situations in this story, unfortunately none of these changes were improvements.

The Golden Compass has a completely different ending than the book it is based on and omits enormous amounts of the story. The order of circumstances is changed and the screenplay writing is simplistic and awful.

The book is a wonderfully told story which reveals the mysteries of this fantasy world slowly whereas the movie does not allow the audience to figure anything out but rather has characters explain things as if to assume the audience is too dumb to follow along. The movie even has the audacity to open up with narration which explains major parts of the plot which are not revealed until the end of the book.

At this point you may be asking why I am giving a rating of $3 to a movie I have nothing but negative things to say about. The answer is simply that as a movie, judged apart from the far superior book it is based on, it's not terrible. Leaving aside the truly horrible screenplay, The Golden Compass contains brilliant visuals, pretty good acting and almost perfect casting, including the incomparable Sam Elliott.

This is definitely on my 'Don't Watch It' list though and I give The Golden Compass a value of $3. If you've read the book don't bother with this movie, but if you like fantasy movies and don't mind bad writing you may want to give it a shot.


Trev said...

Was this a "book" review or a "movie" review?

Honestly, how often do movies ever present an accurate book adaptation?

I took it for what it was; a children's movie. Just another flick capitalizing on the "Harry Potter" crowd.

But I agree, despite good CG and a decent cast, the movie was still pretty hard to sit through.

Tony Tanti said...

When I've read a book (and enjoyed it) that a movie is based on it's impossible to seperate the movie experience.

I would say that Harry Potter is actually a great example of a good book adaptation. Lord of the Rings as well. Both of these made changes to facilitate the telling of the story on screen but I can't remember the last adaptation that made as many needles changes as the Golden Compass did. And the dialogue in the screenplay is so awful that it makes me wonder why they didn't just use the dialogue from the book.

Some good scenes though, the bears were done well and the fight at Bolvanger saved the movie from a $0 or $1 rating from me.

Trev said...

Fair enough. I didn't find it hard to seperate LOTR from the books, however like you said, they made nothing but neccessary changes and that probably made it easier to take in.

You're right, the battle was great, they spared no expense on that one.

What annoyed me the most was the ending, did they at least try and wrap things up in the book? I know it's part of a series, but come on....X-files had more conclusive endings than that!

Tony Tanti said...

Oh the ending... yes, that was the biggest travesty of all in the movie. The book ends with a huge revelation about Lord Asriel and a major character dying and a MASSIVE cliffhanger. The movie ending bordered on ridiculous and idiotic in comparison.

jon said...

whether you've read the book or not, bad writing is bad writing. i think when you've read the book the bad writing in the adaptation only stands out even more. thanks tanti for sounding the alarm bells for the rest of us. i can definitely say i'm never going to see this movie, especially if CGI and Sam Elliot are almost the only things going for it. I hate most CGI, and am indifferent (at best) on Sam Elliot.

Speaking of book adaptations. is the author of this site looking forward to Prince Caspian? I know you thought Wardrobe was good. I found it revolting once they left the beaver's house. And since Caspian is easily my least favourite of the 7-book series, I am finding it difficult to imagine sitting through another one of Disney's banal trivializations of some of the best literature of the last century.

Tony Tanti said...

I don't remember much of the Caspian book, I am looking forward to the movie though. It will be a rental for sure.

How can you not be a Sam Elliott fan?

jon said...

okay, forgive my ignorance, but isn't sam elliot the dude from jurassic park?

Tony Tanti said...

Sam Elliot = narrator of Big Lebowski and one of the best cowboys in movie history

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joen05 said...

I enjoyed this movie, but that was probably because I didn't read the book. You are probably exactly right on this case. Keep up the good work here, fellow LAMB!

Anonymous said...

The pluarlism of worlds combined with the post-modern critique of institutionalized religion in the book is so captivating that it makes Northern Lights (original book title) one of my favourite Fantasy reads ever. That beign said, I enjoyed the movie on a different level. My imagination could not comprehend the relationsip between human and daemon or even what anbaric lights might look like. If you watched the movie without the narration or dialogue it would be a nice inroduction to the book.