Nicole Kidman and Dakota Blue Richards in The Golden Compass (2007)

In Need of Directions

In a parallel universe lives Lyra Belacqua (Dakota Blue Richards) whose only relative is Lord Asriel an objector of the ruling Magisterium (Daniel Craig) who are planning to end tolerance and free inquiry. It is why orphans and Gyptian children are disappearing thanks to a group called The Gobblers. Mrs. Coulter (Nicole Kidman) selects Lyra to go with her on a trip to the North where Lyra hopes to see the ice bears. But Lyra discovers Mrs. Coultier is not all she seems and ends up running away to find her friend Roger (Ben Walker) who is one of the missing children.

If I was a young child between the ages of 9 and 15 I would imagine, even hope that "The Golden Compass" would entertain as it has all the ingredients which when I was that age would have kept me glued to a movie. Unfortunately it has been a long time since I was that age and as I tried to watch "The Golden Compass" I found it hard work, very pretty but still hard work.

Daniel Craig in The Golden Compass (2007)

So what is right with "The Golden Compass" is that for young children it is a pretty movie with a great look; impressive school halls which look like they have been inspired by Hogwarts as well as amusing talking animals which are connected to Lyra. There is also the youthful cast of characters who are plucky in a "Harry Potter" sort of way along with some appealing grown up stars in Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman. Plus of course there is the adventure which Lyra finds herself going on with plenty of mystery. I mentioned "Harry Potter" a couple of times and "The Golden Compass" feels like it has been made in the same manner aiming at the same audience and whilst being familiar in style makes it feel a bit of a copycat it is what young audiences want.

But as I said it is a long time since I was the age of what I believe is the movies intended audience and found it incredibly hard work. That starts with the simple fact I hadn't got a clue what was going on and it feels like this was a movie made for those who had already read the book as without the knowledge things did not make sense. It also feels like a lot of the attention went on the movies look with one impressive looking scene with imaginative items after another from a peculiar bike to a giant airship to travel in. Yes it has a fantastic even magical look but it comes at the cost of story telling. As such I found myself struggling to get drawn in to what was going on and ended up all but giving up on trying to understand the intricacies of the story and watch it as a simple adventure movie with a young protagonist.

What this all boils down to is that "The Golden Compass" didn't do it for me and whilst I can appreciate that it is an impressive looking production which probably works for a younger audience the failure to make the story understandable lets it down. Maybe the book from which it is adapted was too big for one movie or maybe those behind the movie made the mistake of thinking the audience would already know the story prior to watching, which ever it is the failure of the story is what spoils it for me.