1 hour, 53 minutes
PG-13 Parents Strongly Cautioned.
for sequences of fantasy violence.
DVD Features: Closed Caption; Disc One: Widescreen feature with audio commentary by writer/director Chris Weitz;
Disc Two: Origins; The novel; The adaptation; Oxford; Behind the scenes -; Finding Lyra Belacqua; Costumes; Music; Production design; The launch; Lyra's World; Armoured bears; The alethiometer; Dśmons
Nicole Kidman ... Marisa Coulter
Daniel Craig ... Lord Asriel
Dakota Blue Richards ... Lyra Belacqua
Ben Walker ... Roger
Freddie Highmore ... Pantalaimon (voice)
Ian McKellen ... Iorek Byrnison (voice)
Eva Green ... Serafina Pekkala
Jim Carter ... John Faa
Tom Courtenay ... Farder Coram
Ian McShane ... Ragnar Sturlusson (voice)
Sam Elliott ... Lee Scoresby
Christopher Lee ... First High Councilor
Kristin Scott Thomas ... Stelmaria
Lyra (newcomer Dakota Blue Richards) is a precocious 12-year-old roaming the streets around Oxford University playing games with a group of boys who are her enemies and friends. Her best buddy is a "Gyptian" boy named Roger (Ben Walker "The Notorious Bettie Page"). In their world, magic is real (but computer generated), and often put to such humdrum uses as pulling horseless carriages. The carriages are horseless, because the animals in her world are all daemons, but each of the characters have their own personal daemons.
Soon after we meet them, Lyra and her daemon, an ever changing animal she calls Pant are launched into adventure, when her academic uncle Asriel (Daniel Craig "Casino Royale") who's researching mysterious particles called Dust, catches the attention of the Magesterium, which is doing experiments at the North Pole. When her buddy Roger is suddenly kidnapped, Lyra is taken to live with the evil Mrs. Coulter (Nicole Kidman "The Hours"), who though breathtakingly beautiful, is much too nice and obviously up to no good. Mrs. Coulter had a hand in kidnapping Roger and so Lyra, with the help of a conveniently introduced band of nomadic sea-faring Gyptians, takes off for the frozen north. And if she can figure out how to use the strange golden compass that she's been given, it will help her in her epic quest to save not only her world, but ours as well.
The story based on the first of Philip Pullman "His Dark Materials" trilogy, moves along at a brisk pace, although it sometimes gets bogged down in strangely named characters and elaborate plot elements. In the lead role, Dakota Blue Richards is spunky and engaging and Nicole Kidman in all her arch slinkiness becomes an intriguing presence. Daniel Craig is also able to add some badly needed earthy authenticity to the mix in his few scenes, but the most interesting roles are played by Eva Green (" Casino Royale"), as a very dramatic witch and Sam Elliot ("The Big Lebowski"), as a knowingly gruff cowboy balloonist.
Thereís far too much exposition and not enough explanation in "The Golden Compass," written and directed by Chris Weitz (the writer of "About a Boy"). It pummels the viewer with countless characters and plot deviations. The worst of these involves polar bears, known as ice bears, in a world wher they rule entire kingdoms and hold lifelong grudges. When Lyra inexplicably begins flirting with one of them, the film begins to lose its way.
If you havenít read the book, you'll have a difficult time figuring out whatís going on much of the time. Most of it comes off as convenient, lazily written coincidence. Youíll probably think this is one of those movies where things turn out the way they do simply because itís a movie, and not because thereís any rhyme or reason to whatís happened. Nevertheless, youíll possibly enjoy the film on some level, although it often feels rushed, and if you havenít read the books it's questionable of you'll be interested in seeing one of the follow-up sequels that will probably be popping up on your neighborhood screen in a year or two.