Sunday, January 4, 2009

Review: The Golden Compass

The Golden Compass
Released: December 7, 2007 (US)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Scene: my sister and I went to the local pirates. We were panic-buying, absolutely positive that the holidays would leave us with a lot of idle time. She picked up a copy of The Golden Compass and even though I wasn’t exactly at-the-edge-of-my seat excited to watch it, there I was on New Year’s Day watching it.

Over-all, I was pleasantly surprised with the movie. I wasn’t expecting much but it turned out to be very interesting. The movie is set in a world that runs parallel with our own. In our world, our souls are inside our body. In their world, souls take the shape of animals called dæmons. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard this idea before but it was really amazing to see the people’s souls come to life in the form of tigers, cats, birds, monkeys and other animals.

The cast was equally interesting. Daniel Craig, in my opinion, is one the best James Bonds ever (possibly second only to Sean Connery) and since I’ve only seen him in Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, and Sylvia (Plath biopic), I was eager to see more of his acting range. He didn’t disappoint me. His character, Lord Asriel, wasn’t the focus of the movie but he stole the scene each time he was in the frame.

Nicole Kidman and I have a strange relationship. Yes, Moulin Rouge and The Stepford Wives are some of my favorite movies. I felt she was absolutely stunning as an objective voice amidst programmed housewives and a dying courtesan but then again there are some movies where she wasn’t exactly stunning. There was that mess The Human Stain and that hapless attempt at remaking Bewitched but the best example would probably be recent box-office bomb Australia. I haven’t seen it but so far the reviews have not been pretty. I’m not completely sold on her performance in The Golden Compass but there are scenes that I really like. As Marisa Coulter, she’s got the I’m-so-pretty-I’m-deranged act down pat and her performance was adequately convincing, making her pretty easy to hate.

But the real star of the movie was child actress Dakota Blue Richards. She reminds me of her namesake Dakota Fanning or a female Haley Joel Osment circa Pay It Forward. As Lyra Belacqua, she goes through a lot in this movie and the whole time my heart just went out to her each time the story brought her challenge after challenge after challenge. I hope to see more of this kid soon.

A nice little treat was Eva Green as Serafina Pekkala, the queen of the witches. James Bond fans will remember her as beautiful yet ultimately doomed Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale. As usual, her entire body acts with her. I first saw her in the Bertolucci’s The Dreamers. I swear, when she acts it seems like her eyes and her hair have their own silent dialogue. I’m forever amazed at this woman.

Over-all, it was an interesting story. It ends inconclusively and I’ll be sure to catch the next installment as soon as it comes out (and if they ever start making it).