Combustible Celluloid
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With: Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Dakota Blue Richards, Ben Walker, Eva Green, Jim Carter, Tom Courtenay, Sam Elliott, Christopher Lee, Kristin Scott Thomas, Edward de Souza, Simon McBurney, Jack Shepherd, Magda Szubanski, Derek Jacobi, Freddie Highmore (voice), Ian McKellen (voice), Ian McShane (voice), Kathy Bates (voice)
Written by: Chris Weitz, based on a novel by Philip Pullman
Directed by: Chris Weitz
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of fantasy violence
Running Time: 113
Date: 11/27/2007

The Golden Compass (2007)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Going South

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I haven't read the beloved books by Philip Pullman upon which The Golden Compass is based, but I can say with a fair amount of certainty that the new movie is an attempt to create a new franchise in the form of The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia. It ends, like The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, with more story yet to be told, and more tickets to be sold. It contains at least one fresh idea: in this fantasy world, everyone comes equipped with a "daemon," or a spirit animal that accompanies you everywhere. Otherwise, it's the same old, tired story about a prophecy and a "chosen one." An evil force wishes to take over the universe by controlling the will of the people and taking away their "daemons." (There is also something having to do with "Dust," but only readers of the books will know what this means.) Nicole Kidman plays the seductive villainess Marisa Coulter, though she doesn't chew her lines with relish, as Tilda Swinton did in Narnia. Daniel Craig appears briefly as the heroic Lord Asriel, and Dakota Blue Richards takes the lead as the "savior" Lyra, who gets her hands on the mysterious and beautiful truth-telling compass of the title. Lots of other actors turn up, including Sam Elliot as a traditional cowpoke type, and poor Eva Green turns up as a witch with the movie's most awkward dialogue. Even Christopher Lee is here. Freddie Highmore, Kathy Bates, Ian McKellen and Ian McShane lend their voices to the animated "daemons." But as with The Chronicles of Narnia, the actors can hardly move among all the computer graphics, much less express any emotion or spontaneity; there's no sense of wonder. The director is Chris Weitz, who previously worked on glossy comedies like Down to Earth (2001) and About a Boy (2002) and seems largely unqualified for a high-tech production like this one. The Golden Compass

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