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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    The Golden Compass

    Films have long been considered as a means of escape from everyday life and never is that more possible than watching one of science fiction or fantasy. For almost a decade now Hollywood has been producing a number of series based on other-world novels; Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia, and the recent Stardust. This weekend’s The Golden Compass‘ source material is Northern Lights written by Philip Pullman.

    The very quick introduction claims there are a great many parallel worlds and of an important particle material called Dust. However, the Magisterium government has made it blasphemous to mention its existence. Every human soul is in an animal form called a Daemon. The pairs experience the same emotions and acts as a voice of intuition and advice. The human and Daemon are literally soul mates and if the connection is broken, death comes soon after.

    Dakota Blue Richards is Lyra, the headstrong and clever girl who is able to read the last surviving alethiometer or ‘golden compass’ answers of truth fulfilling a prophecy which leads to war. The golden compass itself is the most advanced Magic 8 Ball ever manufactured.

    Nicole Kidman gives a chilling yet graceful performance as Mrs. Coulter, a powerful woman of the government. Daniel Craig, as Lyra’s closest relative Lord Asriel, is an adventurous scientist seeking the knowledge and truth of Dust in the Arctic. He is both a help and threat to the government’s supremacy.

    Lyra’s team of support is an eclectic group of Gyptians, a Texas ‘aeronaut’ with a flying boat, Lorek the armored ice bear, and the witches of Lake Enara led by Serafina Pekkala. They all come to Lyra’s rescue at just the right times. Her enemies are rather institutions than individuals. She must disobey The Magisterium to find and save those she cares about. It is a battle between the deviants and the megalomaniacs.

    The Golden Compass is almost a parody or satire of fantasy epics. It is obvious who are the heroes and villains, the hero’s personality of independence and quick wit, a team to help the hero, and the hero’s mission of savior that is thwarted by the villain. In this case, it is a heroine versus villainess with a not-so-shocking revelation of what binds them. And of course the main themes are metaphysical for the real world.

    There has been some controversy centered on the film’s ‘non-Christian’ story that is based on the novel’s ‘non-religion’ allegory. But Hollywood had to make it palatable for audiences, especially since its release is just weeks before Christmas. Just as the books are deserving of intense study for its philosophy, the film will become one to be studied for its adaptation inclusions and absences.

    It seems odd at first why The Golden Compass received a PG-13 rating by the MPAA but there are many elements that younger audiences may not understand or relate to that older viewers would.

    There is more adult humor than expected and a slight King Kong-ish relationship between Lyra and Lorek, the polar bear. The one scene that exemplifies the MPAA’s description of ‘fantasy violence,’ though, is a fight between two ice bears with an ending that received unanimous applause at the film’s press screening.

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