Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Golden Compass

The Golden Compass (2007) has a real epic feel to it, from the golden look of its lavish sets to the range of its story. If there's a problem at all, it's that it leaves you short of a satisfying conclusion at the end.

Lyra Belacqua (Dakota Blue Richards) is an orphan girl who lives in an alternate world that is similar to ours, but where people's souls exist outside their bodies in the shape of animals (daemons). The people are ruled by an oppressive council known as the Magisterium, and the mysterious Mrs. Coulter (Nicole Kidman) appears to be working for them. The Magisterium and Mrs. Coulter are adamant that Lyra and her uncle, Asriel (Daniel Craig) find out nothing about Dust, which exists in our universe but not in theirs.

Oh, my. My fingers are hurting already from typing that, and I'm not nearly finished with the story. Simply put, it's good vs. evil. But, as you can see, the story isn't simple at all, but includes races you've never heard of, and when you're introduced to them, you wonder if they're on the good side or the bad side. Mostly those questions are answered quickly enough, and you can go back to enjoying the story, at least for another minute or two when we meet someone else.

The whole story, and our comfort with it, rests on the very capable young shoulders of Dakota Blue Richards, who is stunning in this role of a feisty young girl who can definitely recognize good and evil. Nicole Kidman is also a very formidable foe. Those gorgeous gowns she wears from time to time are really something. She's no dowdy enemy, that's for sure.

The effects are just stupendous in this film, and add much to the storytelling instead of the usual fx taking away from it. The daemons accompanying each of their humans, as you can imagine, were no small feat to create, but the most stunning effect is the armored bears. Our favorite is voiced ferociously by Sir Ian McKellen, and his name is Iorek Byrnison, and he's urged by young Lyra to join her cause. There were several effects, over and over, which took my breath away.

The abrupt end, I guess, is a good clue that we have part 2 coming at us sometime in the not-so-near future. I, for one, will want to continue the story. It's a compelling story told by an excellent cast.

Thumb's up.

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