Compressed Dust

The Golden Compass

We saw The Golden Compass tonight. I’m a fan of the Philip Pullman books, and so was looking forward to this first instalment, but I knew it would have to be toned down somewhat and would be quite a challenge to bring to the screen, so I was also prepared to be disappointed.

In fact, I think they did rather a good job, and it would have been splendid but for one major problem: It should have been at least one and a half times as long. Everything, I felt, was exceedingly rushed. They had already simplified things for a younger audience — I really think the books are aimed more at adults — but an hour and three quarters was still too short for any detailed explanation of, or subtlety in, what was left. The Harry Potter films were given much more footage in which to develop infinitely inferior stories, and the second Pirates of the Caribbean was long enough for me to fall asleep at least twice.

Still, the effects here were impressive, the casting was good, and I certainly enjoyed it. Other young children will no doubt feel the same!

Perhaps the Lord of the Rings has spoiled me; Pullman is certainly no Tolkien, but New Line has shown what can be done with good stories if you have an extra hour or two to play with. In the end, I imagine, this was a more risky project, so the level of funding probably wasn’t the same, and there’s enough CGI that the costs must have been heavily dependent on the length.

But I hope they at least follow the LOTR model in producing a dramatically extended version for the DVD.

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© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser