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Golden Compass, The

The Golden Compass is a spectacular film featuring a world of talking bears, a world where witches and the evil Magisterium rule the skies. In this world, every person, also Lyra, a young orphan, has their own Daemon, an animal but also a physical representation of your soul that fits your personality and accompanies you, but is also linked to your own health.

Lyra lives in one of the most famous and oldest universities, Oxford’s Jordan College, when the greatest adventure of her life starts. The mysterious Gobblers are kidnapping children to take them North. It isn’t long before the best friend of Lyra, Roger, falls victim to the same unfortunate fate. Lyra calls on her uncle Asriel and the very charming but foreboding Miss Coulter to help her out, but she’ll soon find out that her magical golden compass and an armoured bear are probably the greatest help of them all to find Roger and free him from the horrible experiments that await him.

Sound and Vision:
If there’s one thing we can’t fault The Golden Compass on, then it’s its picture quality. Obviously a big-budget Hollywood movie, it not only benefits from very talented camera and huge amounts of CGI work, but also the 1080p transfer seems to be nigh on perfect. Image quality is of high contrast and because of that full of vibrant, bright and sharp colours. Grain is also absent, although that seems to come with the consequence that a bit of detail is lacking in the close-up scenes. All in all, this is one of the better looking Blu-rays in my collection, so even the most demanding viewers will be pleased overall.

Also the 5.1 DTS-HD sound doesn’t disappoint, with quite strong basses, roars and effects, and of course a very broad and crisp sound stage that uses the available speakers more than most movies. Voices could have stood out a bit more, but turn up the volume and nobody will be left wanting more. There’s also a Dutch and Flemish soundtrack (in 5.1), but not only the voices seem to have been done without much passion, I constantly had the feeling that the new voices jarred with the effects and soundtrack constantly. Useful for people with kids who can’t read yet, but otherwise not a valid replacement for the real actors.

Extras:
None

Conclusion:
After the fantastic success of the Harry Potter movies, this book-to-film translation can’t convince entirely. Although the novels from Pullman, on which the movie is based, are known not only for their fantastical setting and controversial views, both aspects didn’t sufficiently make it into the story that is told on screen. The movie toned down a lot of the complexity and focused on the adventure and CGI-effects instead, which after an impressive first half hour starts to get tiring as you feel removed from the story due to a lack of story detail and character depth.

Dakota Blue Richards makes for an interesting and well acting Lyra, and also Kidman impresses with an unusual role for her as an evil and mysterious lady. However, they can’t rescue the movie on their own, as the incoherent plot just gets more unbalanced, and worse and worse as the ending approaches.

In the end, the only reason I kept watching was to enjoy the excellent visuals and special effects, for which the picture won an Oscar. However, the moment the two bears start fighting towards the conclusion of the story, you feel like you’re watching a pointless, bad Saturday morning cartoon.

A new Lord of the Rings this is not. Only true fans of the books or special effects buffs will be able to sit through the two hours that The Golden Compass lasts. And that’s about one hour and a half too long.


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