Three by Three
Three things I liked about The Golden Compass
- The effects and design work. This felt very much like a parallel universe, with simple things like clothes, buildings, bric-a-brac being different but not wildly so. They really did a very good job of world-building, which is essential for a property like this
- Lyra - the actress was very good as Lyra, getting her stubborn willfulness and indignant morality just right. She also felt like a kid, not a small adult, which was very welcome.
- The bears. Seamless CGI and as dignified, strong, noble, and heroic as the book suggested. And Ian McKellan, of course, was perfect.
Three things I did not like about The Golden Compass.
- The length. There was simply too much story here and not enough space for it to breathe in. Part of what made the Lord of the Rings films so good was how epic they were, and how they refused to hurry the story to save time. And it's that time that let the stories breathe, that led the multitudes of characters and reams of exposition never get overwhelming. Here, we were continually being introduced to new concepts and characters (witches! airmen! bears! gyptians!) before we had absorbed the previous ones. So whereas the Rings films let us get used to the idea of hobbits, or elves, by letting us live within them for some screen time, here we got to minutes of one witch and then never saw them again to they came out of nowhere for the rescue.
- The ending - partly because of that length, the ending - with the Uncle's betrayal and escape to another dimension was left for the next film. But that left this one feeling very incomplete.
- The score - a bit too overly cheerful and Disneyfied for this film.