Having finally seen The Golden Compass, it’s easy to see why this film is likely to point anywhere but towards profit. The story revolves around street-scamp Lyra Belacqua coming into the possession of a fabled Golden Compass and setting off to rescue her friends from a laboratory in the frozen north run by some decidedly religious tyrants. In [Philip] Pullman’s books the bad guys are clearly presented as ”˜The Church’ through all ages and worlds. New Line Cinema has rather bizarrely acted to preserve its market share in the Christian heart-land of America by removing all mention of ”˜The Church’ and substituting the Roman Catholic term ”˜The Magesterium’. However the religious symbology remains, right down to one head quarters of the evil organization looking decidedly like an Orthodox church.
As a film The Golden Compass has significant problems. The script is unlikely to satisfy fans of the series or newcomers. Director and screenwriter Chris Weitz clearly lacked confidence in his audience, constantly feeling the need to repeat dialogue and hammer in plot points. Little effort has been made though to pair down the complexity of Pullman’s original tale so that paradoxically, while much is reiterated, other plot developments are skipped over so quickly that an understanding of the plot line before you see the film is about the only way you will follow what is happening. The result is a colour-by-numbers piece that will still leave people whispering to each other, “But I thought he was the bad guy”¦?”