Urban Cinefile
"I'll keep doing it for a while but I've got other interests and one day I may just say to hell with it. Then again I may not - "  -Clint Eastwood at 70
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Sunday July 12, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



Lyra Belacqua (Dakota Blue Richards) is a 12 year old orphan raised at Oxford's Jordan College. Living in a world of parallel universes, Lyra is accompanied everywhere by Pantalaimon (Freddie Highmore), her daemon, a small, ever-changing animal. When Lyra's best friend Roger (Ben Walker) is abducted, she wants to go to the ends of the world to find him. Her explorer uncle Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig), who is setting out on a journey to the Arctic Circle to find the connection between dust and the parallel worlds, will not take her with him, but glamorous world traveller Mrs Coulter (Nicole Kidman) promises to do so. Before she leaves, Lyra is given an alethiometer, or golden compass, which enables her to find the answer to any question.

Review by Louise Keller:
Patchy and strangely unengaging, The Golden Compass is impressive in scale but disappoints by its cluttered storytelling and lack of heart. That's not to say this film fantasy adaptation does not deliver any of its promises, but the compass hands fail to point to a golden experience akin to The Chronicles of Narnia or the miraculous Lord of the Rings.

The difficulty screenwriter and director Chris Weitz encounters in adapting the first of Philip Pullman's successful novels about worlds with parallel universes and characters with external souls called daemons, is the complicated nature of the plot. There's plenty to explain and there are too many characters to properly introduce in order for them to have any meaning.

The film looks great, thanks to Henry Braham's splendid cinematography, Dennis Gassner's wondrous production design and the visual effects team that materialises Pullman's fantasy world. The snowy vistas are especially impressive and for me the highlight is the one-on-one (CGI) fight between the two polar bears, wearing full armour and surrounded by an attentive audience of their polar peers. It follows Lyra's (Dakota Blue Richards) journey over the ice and snow clinging to the back of the bear (voiced by Ian McKellen), but there is none of the magic we felt when Falcor flew in the skies in The Never Ending Story.

Twelve year old Dakota Blue Richards is the best thing in the film - her Lyra is a street-wise kid with steely determination. She is plucky, yet vulnerable and Richards has oodles of charisma. This must be Nicole Kidman at her least charismatic - her brittle Mrs Coulter is as plastic as her long nails. I would have liked to have seen more of Daniel Craig, whose Lord Asriel gets little more than a cameo, and I enjoyed Sam Elliott's wise aeronaut Lee Scoresby, whose thick, unruly silver hair complements the polar bears.

Youngsters and adults will be restless in this ambitious fantasy adventure that is full of promises, but fails to deliver.

Email this article

Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 0

(USA/UK, 2007)

CAST: 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, Magda Szubanski, Derek Jacobi,

VOICES: Ian McKellen, Freddie Highmore, Kathy Bates, Ian McShane,

PRODUCER: Bill Carraro, Deborah Forte,

DIRECTOR: Chris Weitz

SCRIPT: Chris Weitz (novel by Philip Pullman)


EDITOR: Anne V. Coates, Peter Honess, Kevin Tent

MUSIC: Alexander Desplat


RUNNING TIME: 113 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 26, 2007

Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020