Feature

The Golden Compass

A girl and her talking polar bear are called upon to save the world.

The Golden CompassDirected by Chris Weitz (PG-13)

A girl and her talking polar bear are called upon to save the world.

**

The Golden Compass is a “children’s version of an adult’s book,” said Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle. The first of a projected series adapted from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, the film retreats from its controversial source and settles for being a run-of-the-mill Hollywood movie. Lyra (an impressive Dakota Blue Richards), a 12-year-old orphan, sets out to save a friend and eventually must save the world. During her quest, Lyra acquires a talking polar bear, finds a truth-telling device called the Golden Compass, and meets a charming vamp (Nicole Kidman) who plans to steal her powers. In Pullman’s books, the villains are part of an oppresive “ecclesiastical hierarchy that kidnaps and tortures children,” said Richard Corliss in Time. Called “the Magisterium,” it’s a thinly veiled indictment of the Roman Catholic Church. To avoid controversy and attract holiday audiences, director Chris Weitz has purged his film of most specific religious allusions. What’s left is a “secularized and sanitized” version of Pullman’s tale. If the film isn’t exactly true to the author’s theology, said Hanna Rosin in The Atlantic Monthly, it does present his actual story in an often-thrilling manner. The film “feels unfamiliar and familiar” and becomes “both family drama and epic fantasy.” Rich in imagination and psychological depth, the film proves The Golden Compass to be a myth with some meat.

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