Rama’s Screen: Review of “The Golden Compass”

Welcome to our weekly column by YSN member and movie aficionado Rama Tampubolon. He runs the movie review and discussion blog, Rama’s Screen, and was featured in “United 300,” which won for “Best Spoof” at the 2007 MTV Movie Awards. He’ll discuss the latest hot topics and movie reviews every Thursday on Waste Time Wisely.

Here’s another one of those movies. Once in a while you come across a film that rocks the boat, causes a stir or however you want to put it. In this case, the Catholic Church or Christians in general have been actively telling their followers to boycott The Golden Compass. I’ve read their opinions, reasons and point of views and, as a movie buff first, I try to analyze a film based on its quality and then discuss any controversy that might surround it.

In a parallel universe, young Lyra (Dakota Blue Richards) must travel to the north to save her best friend and all the other children who have been kidnapped by the Magisterium. Her uncle Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig) is in a journey of his own to investigate the mysterious dust. Lyra gets help from various characters including an Ice Bear, but the golden compass, the alethiometer, will guide her way and she’s skilled enough to use it.

The Golden Compass is the first from Phil Pullman’s book trilogy called “His Dark Materials.” That title gives me the creeps… but first things first.

I saw an advanced screening of this movie last week and the place was packed with kids and parents. New Line Cinema has done well in marketing and promoting this movie as a children/family fantasy film.

Let me just get straight to business: in my opinion, the movie has visual effects that are overblown. Personally, I think they focus too much attention in the effects that you can easily spot scenes that used the help of green screen. Instead of getting into the movie and enjoying the ride, you start feeling overwhelmed by all these high-tech visuals and thinking, “Well that looks awfully unrealistic.” It’s the same response I had when I watched Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow a few years ago.

When I was watching the Ice Bears in The Golden Compass, all I could think of were those polar bears in Coca-Cola commercials… I kept expecting those bears to just suddenly stop in the middle of the movie and drink a soda. :)

To tell you the truth, there’s nothing extraordinary about the story. The fight against tyranny and the forces that want to take full control of everything has been portrayed in better fantasy movies than this. I wasn’t impressed. As a matter of fact, the story is a bit predictable and I didn’t even read the book.

I think all the actors did well, keeping in mind that they had to talk to things that weren’t actually there.

People who have read the book might feel disappointed, but the movie will successfully find an audience and make money off children and parents everywhere.

The Grade I give this film: 3 out of 5