If the deadline for “Book to Movie challenge” was even a week later, this would have been my unhesitating choice.This seems to be the year of movies based on books. Considering the popularity of corresponding books, The Golden Compass (based on the novel by Phillip Pullman) is perhaps the most awaited after Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
Plot for those who haven’t read the book yet:
The story is set in a parallel universe, where the “souls” of humans stand next to them as their daemons (familiars). Lyra Belacqua is a young lady growing up in the most prestigious college in Oxford, Jordan College. Her parents were killed in an airship accident, and her uncle, Lord Asriel is a famous scholar in Jordan College and an explorer. Lyra is taught sporadically by Master and other scholars in the college, and is growing up to be rebellious, fearless (and almost barbarous) child. But there is trouble afoot, in the guise of “Gobblers” who are kidnapping children across England, one of them being Roger, Lyra’s best friend.
Lyra meets the charming Mrs. Coulter, who takes her up to London. Lyra is supposed to be Mrs. Coulter’s assistant, and accompany her on her trip to North (where Lyra hopes she will meet Lord Asriel). But Lyra starts finding out hidden depths in Mrs. Coulter. When Mrs. Coulter finds out that Lyra was entrusted with an alethiometer (known as “golden compass”, which is supposed to help you learn the “truth”) by the Master of Jordan College, her reaction forces Lyra and her daemon to run away.
Lyra is taken by gyptians who have been following her from Oxford, and learns that gyptians are gathering their forces to rescue the children kidnapped by Gobblers (who Lyra knows by now are connected to Magisterium). She goes to North with gyptians to help rescue her friend Roger. On the way to North, she meets the queen of witches, Serafina Pekkala, an airship captain called Lee Scoresby and Iorek Byrnison, an armoured bear. She also starts learning to use alethiometer, although nobody knows how exactly it works.
Lyra helps the exiled Iorek Byrnison gain his rightful place among the armoured bears, and gains his help for their cause. They go to rescue children held in a station, guarded by Bolvangar armymen with fox daemons. While fighting Lyra learns that Lord Asriel may be in mortal danger, and goes ahead with her companions to save him.
In the movie, Dakota Blue Richards is very good as the rebellious, fearless, devious and curious (over-curious?) Lyra. The only thing is that her look of fear does not suit her properly (it looked to me more coy than afraid). Daniel Craig as Lord Asriel does look like a powerful man, as a scholar and explorer with political connections. Nicole Kidman as Mrs. Coulter is also perfectly cast, charming and dangerous at the same time.
From what I have read of the book, the movie is not so different. The mention of “Dust” (the cosmic uncharged particles which “connect” different universes) may be slightly reduced from the book. Lyra makes the “discoveries” on her own, or gets information (about her parents, about gobblers etc.) from other sources than in the book. She does start using the alethiometer perfectly almost magically, not start understanding it slowly. Yes, the Magisterium (the church, or what stands for church) is corrupt and power-hungry, but the anti-theocratic message for which the books are “renowned” seems to be much muted (or at least, it seemed to me). But at least, the changes made will not raise the hackles of the readers, as they don’t take away much from the main storyline.
The universe does have zeppelins and ships working on “atomcrafts”, with old-school buildings of Jordan College and majestic “London” vistas, and magnificent stretches of ice on the North pole. All these are beautifully created. But don’t compare the movie to Lord of the Rings, at least not in battle scenes (Is it just me or did the Bolvangars look like computer animations?). As a fantasy tale, the movie is pretty good, easily understandable even if you haven’t read the books.
Before I finish, there really are circles (or spheres) in every scene, right?
P.S. I saw the trailer of “Inkheart” before the movie. Didn’t know this book was also coming out as a movie. Must move it up my list of to-be-reads.
Quote of The Day:
It’s an alethiometer. It tells the truth. You are meant to have it.
– The Master of Jordan College
– Also cross-posted on Desicritics