I had mixed feelings going to see this film and I am afraid to say that they were borne out, first the good stuff.
The visual portrayal of the characters is excellent just as if they have come alive from the pages of Pullman’s book, the settings too are just as I had imagined and the compass itself along with the fly bugs and other fantasy items are first class. There is also nothing but praise from me about how they deal with the deamons, the special effects work well and in all this they have the makings of a classic film; however when it comes to the screenplay the whole thing falls apart.
Big, important, chunks of the story are either missed out or just referred to later on, meaning that the development of the characters, in particular Lyra (played by Dakota Blue Richards) is lacking; while Mrs Coulter (played by Nicole Kidman) is portrayed as a far less complex character; and Iorek Byrnison’s (voiced by Ian McKellar) story, for one, is far from complete, in fact it would appear from the film he had gone back to the wrong group of Ice Bears!
If you haven’t read the book am not sure if it would be a case of the film being better, for not knowing what was lacking, or just as bad as things that happened wouldn’t quite make sense.
We left the cinema feeling somewhat cheated, and deciding that it would have been better if BBC had got their hands on it and made it into a series for early Sunday evening. After all the production of ‘Ruby in the Smoke’ another of Pullman’s books last year was excellent.
The sad thing is that they managed the hard bits, and not only that but got them very right, if only they had got someone else to deal with the screen play, maybe someone who had read and enjoyed the books, rather than someone who was just trying to condense the story without having understood it.
Finally a word on the uproar this film has caused in certain religious circles. What are you afraid of? This film and even more so the book explores questions about life, it upholds courage and justice, it casts aside prejudice and race, it searches for the spiritual and allows people to question, to strive to grow in their understanding. Personally I would have rather Pullman hadn’t called the soul a daemon, but he did and in making identifiable he has pointed out in an accessible and understandable way how the health and well being of our soul is important to the health and well being of the whole of us. I for one don’t see it as an anti-religious book, an anti-establishment book yes, but some of the best books are.
What I would recommend, is that you read the book and don’t bother with the film, or watch the film and then read the book, but I fear that those of you, who like me, have already read the book might be a tad disappointed by the film.