‘Golden Compass’ depicts controversial fantasy world | TahoeDailyTribune.com

‘Golden Compass’ depicts controversial fantasy world

Howie Nave
New Line CinemaDakota Blue Richards stars in "The Golden Compass."

Nicole Kidman is no stranger to appearing in controversial films. She raised a few eyebrows when she starred in “Birth” (2004), eyeing the affections of a 10-year-old boy who claims to be the reincarnation of her dead husband. In “The Golden Compass,” at least the uproar is not centered on her specifically, but the entire movie and its message.

Based on the first volume in Philip Pullman’s award-winning “His Dark Materials” trilogy, “The Golden Compass” already is under fire from conservative Roman Catholics and some evangelicals. They say it “will hook children into Pullman’s books and a dark, individualistic world where all religion is evil.” They’re asking for a boycott of the film, which, of course, will just make more people want to see it.

I remember people criticizing Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” before even seeing the film! Then there are those zealots who never read one line from the Harry Potter books or saw the movies but think they’re evil because of the sorcery and weird, serpentine creatures. Don’t even get me started about some pushing their dogma as religion when it comes to movies. Guess what – do us both a favor and don’t watch the movie.

Directed by Chris Weitz (who actually toned the movie down a bit compared with the first book in the trilogy), “The Golden Compass” boasts a spectacular array of special effects.

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Along with Kidman, the movie stars Dakota Blue Richards as 12-year-old Lyra Belacqua. The special and gifted girl lives among the bright minds at Oxford’s Jordan College. She shares her adventures with her closest friend, Roger (Ben Walker), until they really escalate upon hearing hushed rumors of a particle known simply as Dust. The microscopic particle is evident only in the North and yet might be able to unite different worlds. But there are those who fear the particle and stop at nothing to destroy it. Her uncle, Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig) is embarking on a trip to the Arctic to investigate this mysterious entity, but there are those who would go to any lengths to stop him, even if it means shutting down the college.

Lyra unwittingly finds herself in the center of whispers of children mysteriously disappearing and being taken North, rumors that become all too real when Roger winds up missing. At about the same time, scientist Marisa Coulter (Kidman) appears at the college, setting in motion Lyra’s travels under the direction of a truth-telling device that resembles nothing more than a golden compass – if she is skilled enough to read and understand it, that is.

The movie for me was one of pure escapism, and the cast did a fine job interpreting Pullman’s writings. Let’s just see what the sequels will bring, depending on the success of this outing.

Oh, yeah: For the record, there are an equal number of religious theologians who have been praising the movie for its teachings, so once again it’s all a matter of interpretation, now isn’t it? To me, the movie was no more a fantasy than “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” which I suppose would tick off some who could read way into that movie as being too religious on the other end of the spectrum. Both are epic productions that children will love because of the fantasy aspect alone and the myriad creatures. The visuals here, though, were more stunning, but like I said, go check it out and then decide for yourself.

– Howie Nave is host/manager of The Improv comedy club inside Harveys and reviews films for seven radio stations throughout Northern California and Nevada, including Sirius Radio. He hosts “Howie’s Morning Rush” on Tahoe’s KRLT radio, and you can see his film reviews on RSN.

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