Sunday, December 09, 2007

The golden compass, or how is it possible to make a bad movie from an excellent book

This morning I decided to kill two birds with one stone: I went to the cinema to see a movie in English for my own pleasure and completed my portfolio at the same time. One year ago I wrote my first blog contribution, which was about one of my favourite books: his Dark Materials (Philip Pullman). I told you it was fantastic and how it made me dream. I also mentioned a film adaptation (of the first book) to come and my impatience mingled with fear towards it. Well, this time has come: the movie came out this Wednesday: the Golden Compass.
I went to the cinema this morning and was bitterly disappointed. The screenplay writer Chris weitz really killed the soul of the books. He managed to produce a really bad movie while he had an excellent basis. The storyline has nothing to do with the book: everything is told from the beginning, instead of letting the spectator discover the many mysteries which are at the centre of the story. There is consequently no suspense anymore and the movie looks more like a Christmas film than to the political, philosophical and enchanting book it was at first. The producer gave me the last stroke when I realized that a happy ending was to come. I was really shocked since the book normally ends in an unpredicted and sad way. I was also very disappointed by the way this movie distinguishes the bad ones, the Magisterium and Mrs Coulter, from the good ones, Lord Astriel and his collaborators. The political side of the story is much more complicated in the books. There is moreover no blood at all and death is totally absent (this is quite shocking since death is one of the central themes of the book). These books were not meant to be read by children, but they apparently wanted to make a suitable movie for a very broad audience. The storyline is full of nonsense and makes me think they do not plan to produce the second and third movies, since the key elements for these opuses are not introduced at all. The only positive aspect is the cast; the actors really match the characters and were very good (Dakota Blue Richards was an excellent Lyra).

I could tell you all the incoherencies of the storyline, but I will avoid doing so in order to let some suspense to the ones who are planning to read the books. Hopefully I did not come to Brussels for nothing, since I found some interesting books at the fnac.

As a conclusion, I strongly do not advise you to see this movie. Follow my advice: READ THE BOOKS AND DON’T GO TO THE CINEMA.


pierre-yves said...

well well, what a surprise! I nearly went to see it myself this afternoon but then i remembered i had to see my parents from time to time so i went straight home after class...
I guess it's always the same bitter disappointment that awaits you when you're really fond of a book and that you see its movie adaptation afterwards, only in really rare cases can you enjoy both (i'm thinking of LOTR here).
I'm also quite fan of Philip Pullman's works in general, and particularly of his trilogy, so i guess i will avoid another letdown and follow your advice (that is, reread the books), no need to give them more money than they deserve!

Morgane said...

Yes, you're right it's always the same bitter disappointment. But I think it's one of the worst adaptation I've seen. I'm not very demanding and I'm not the kind of people who want the film to be exactly like the book. I know that this is quite impossible since the medium is different. However, what I'm waiting for is the same kind of atmosphere and suspense, which was not at all the case here and I think even without having read the book it is a bad movie as such.