The Golden Compass: Two-Disc Platinum Series (Alliance, 2007) D: Chris Weitz, w/ Dakota Blue Richards, Nicole Kidman. Rating: NNN; DVD package: NNNN
People who know the book complain about the movie leaving out the last two chapters. Don’t listen to them – this is a perfectly good children’s fantasy about a young girl in a parallel universe who must rescue kidnapped children in the far north. It plays well and works fine as a stand-alone even as it points to the inevitable sequel.
My friend Jason, who loves the books and knows about computers, complains about tonal inconsistencies in the CG. Don’t listen to him either. Except for the face on the golden monkey and the odd shape of the warrior bear’s upper lip, nothing looks amiss on the small screen. The Golden Compass creates a handsome, plausible world that mixes the familiar with the strange and presents it all in a matter-of-fact way.
If anything, director Chris Weitz might have put a little more effort into showing off his wonders and marvels. He’s so focused on his story and characters that he lets the spectacle slip by.
Newcomer Dakota Blue Richards is hard-eyed and tricky, not what you’d expect in an 11-year-old actor but perfect for our heroine, Lyra. She easily holds her own against Nicole Kidman, who’s having big fun as seductive power player Marisa Coulter. They’re surrounded by the likes of Ian McKellen, Sam Elliott and Tom Courtenay, all on their best game.
The generous extras package details the joys and sorrows of production, giving ample time to source novelist Philip Pullman and providing an outstanding close-up look at the creation of a key prop, the Alethiometer. Hand-forged and -painted by a veteran miniaturist, the device is lovely testament to the artistry and resourcefulness of film craft workers.
Weitz delivers a good commentary, but he’s more fun in the making-of docs, where self-deprecating humour and itchy body language make him a man who’s found a way to be comfortable with being profoundly ill at ease.
EXTRAS Disc one: Director commentary. Widescreen. English, French audio and subtitles. Disc two: 11 making-of docs, nine galleries. Widescreen. English, Spanish subtitles.