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:: The Golden Compass

This is the new movie version of Northern Lights, the first novel in Philip Pullman's “His Dark Materials” trilogy. The Golden Compass had much publicity centred on its release and was strongly endorsing Nicole Kidman's role as the featured star. Well, it is certainly an entertaining film, but does not “star” Nicole Kidman. Her supporting role could have been accomplished by a good British actress. The real star is 13-year-old Dakota Blue Richards. She has lots of charm and confidence in playing Lyra Belacqua, a pre-teen who has been raised as an orphan in an Oxford college under the sponsorship of her “uncle”, a scientist named Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig). From the master of the college, she takes ownership of a unique golden compass, a device that reveals the truth to anyone who can interpret its symbols.

Lyra is taken under the wing of Mrs Coulter (Kidman), a cruel agent of the Magisterium (a church-like organisation that dominates the world). Lyra is accompanied by her “daemon”, a talking cat that shapeshifts into other animals. The Magisterium wants to destroy such creatures that supposedly embeds sin into our lives.

After Lyra escapes Mrs Coulter's quest for the golden compass, she ventures north where she meets a group of critters and characters, most notably a cowboy-adventurer played by Sam Elliott, and an agressive polar bear called Iorek Byrnison (voiced by Sir Ian McKellen). Lyra's journey of discovery takes her into exotic cultures and seemingly rescued from any trouble by characters that come from nowhere.

There had been talk of this film being at odds with Christianity. The filmmakers have stated that they toned down the book's anti-religious sentiment and they don't use familiar terminology.

The effect of plunging the viewer straight into the action is interesting, yet alienating. The crowded imaginary universe of The Golden Compass might take getting used to, but it certainly looks terrific and colourful. It sets up great anticipation for succeeding episodes in the trilogy.