The Golden Compass
Screen Time: 95%
Role: Lyra Belacqua
Age: 12 years old
The Golden Compass
Directed: Chris Weitz
Country: USA, UK
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy
It was no ordinary life for a young girl: living among scholars in the hallowed halls of Jordan College and tearing unsupervised through Oxford's motley streets on mad quests for adventure. But Lyra's greatest adventure would begin closer to home, the day she heard hushed talk of an extraordinary particle. Microscopic in size, the magical dust- found only in the vast Artic expanse of the North -was rumored to possess profound properties that could unite whole universes.
But there were those who feared the particle and would stop at nothing to destroy it. Catapulted into the heart of a terrible struggle, Lyra was forced to seek aid from clans, gyptians, and formidable armored bears. And as she journeyed into unbelievable danger, she had not the faintest clue that she alone was destined to win, or to lose, this more-than-mortal battle...
Movie ReviewsThe familiar fantasy character of the feisty tomboy heroine gets an upgrade in The Golden Compass. This smart, streamlined adaptation of the first novel in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy unfolds in a world similar to but vastly different from our own in a time that's like a blend of our 19th and 20th centuries. The movie goes by quickly -- maybe too quickly.
You want the film to slow down so you can savor the alternate-universe England that writer-director Chris Weitz and production designer Dennis Gassner conjure from a millennium's worth of public monuments, as well as a mix-and-match of Victorian and Edwardian architecture and industry. We move from the brushed stones of Oxford to an art deco London without losing our bearings, so cunningly have the filmmakers filled out their vision with burnished wood and coruscating metal and glass. As the movie whizzes along, you wish you could learn more about this bizarre version of Earth in which combat results not in gore, but in sparkling clouds, and each character has a companion known as a daemon -- an animal spirit who embodies a human mate's soul.
Luckily, Weitz has anchored the whirling plot in Dakota Blue Richards' rough-edged 12-year-old Lyra. From her fresh, sharp perspective, you see an alternate world in an exploding nutshell. The movie starts with Lyra witnessing an attempted poisoning in the peaceful halls of Jordan College at Oxford, where she lives as a ward of the university. Soon she overhears a scholastic briefing on the existence of a trail of Dust: glittering particles of the human spirit.
With its tale of an oppressive regime known as the Magisterium and the free thinkers and wandering warriors who rise up against it, nothing in this film is as it seems, and few of the characters in it reveal themselves immediately. It's not the most transcendent or passionate of sagas, but The Golden Compass embeds Pullman's themes in its brisk, confident storytelling: the need to develop critical thinking as an individual and create, with other creatures, sturdy bonds of understanding and feeling. Weitz deletes the word "church" from Pullman's bracing attack on dogmatism and the arbitrary uses of authority. Otherwise he pulls no punches.