Critical Consensus: The Golden Compass Loses Its Way

Plus, Juno and Atonement are Certified Fresh.

This week at the movies, we've got the first installment of the His Dark Materials trilogy: The Golden Compass, starring Nicole Kidman, Dakota Blue Richards, and Daniel Craig. What do the critics have to say?

The highly-anticipated The Golden Compass is the first of Philip Pullman's novels to hit the screen. It has a veritable Murderer's Row of acting talent (Nicole Kidman, Sam Elliott, Eva Green, Daniel Craig, Ian McKellen, Tom Courtenay, Derek Jacobi, Ian McShane, Christopher Lee, and newcomer Dakota Blue Richards). And critics say it's got visual flash to spare. Unfortunately, they also largely feel Compass is a little too cold to work any kind of spell. The film tells the story of a 12-year-old girl attempting to save her friend from the strange, malevolent Gobblers, and finds herself in a realm of mystery and fantastical beings. Pundits say the wondrous production design and way-too-brisk plot overwhelms the characters, and delivers little of the intended sense of wonder. At 45 percent on the Tomatometer, The Golden Compass doesn't quite shine.
 


But does it know the way to San Jose?

Also opening this week in limited release: Mexican import The Violin, about three generations of musicians/guerillas, is at 100 percent on the Tomatometer; Juno, starring Ellen Page and Michael Cera in the comic tale of a sharp teen coping with an unplanned pregnancy, is Certified Fresh at 92 percent (read our Page interview here); Atonement, a period drama about star-crossed lovers starring Keira Knightley and James McAvoy, is Certified Fresh at 88 percent (read our McAvoy and director Joe Wright interviews here and here, respectively); Billy the Kid, a doc about a teen dealing with behavior issues in rural Maine, is at 82 percent; 'Tis Autumn -- the Search for Jackie Paris, a doc about an elusive, velvet-voiced jazz singer, is at 71 percent; Grace is Gone, starring John Cusack as a man who picks up the pieces after his wife is killed in Iraq, is at 69 percent; Man in the Chair, about the bond between an elderly film crew member and a young cinephile starring Christopher Plummer, is at 57 percent; Paul Schrader's The Walker, starring Woody Harrelson as a D.C. socialite in the midst of some criminal intrigue, is at 56 percent; The Amateurs, starring Jeff Bridges in the story of a group of suburbanites who make an adult film, is at 22 percent; Tony N' Tina's Wedding, based on the semi-improvisational off-Broadway comedy, is at 20 percent; and Guy Ritchie's Revolver, starring Jason Statham as an expert gambler who goes up against a crime boss, is at 15 percent.


"When I put headphones on my tummy, should I play Pavement or Archers of Loaf?"

Finally, we'd like to give props to Rocdahut for staying awake long enough to come closest to guessing Awake's 16 percent Tomatometer. I guess this gives you a good reason to, um, rock the hut, Rocdahut.


Recent Keira Knightly Movies:
--------------------------------------
8% -- Silk (2007)
46% -- Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007)
54% -- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006)
85% -- Pride and Prejudice (2005)
73% -- Pure (2005)

Comments

daycare

chris mark

The Golden Compass was not good it all. i see why the reviews are like they are. It is dam sure no Narnia.

Dec 6 - 03:37 PM

Ron_Burgundy

Ron Burgundy

And Narnia was terrible...yikes.

Dec 6 - 05:05 PM

daycare

chris mark

Narnia was not terrible, if it was i do not think it would have made 290 million nor got good reviews like it did. Now The golden Compass, that is terrible. not Eragon terrible but bad.

Dec 6 - 05:46 PM

CowboyMovieJunkie26

Jake Randa

It really didnt look that great anyways. Moving onto next week and I Am Legend. Thats going to be the high point of December now that all the Oscar stuff is being released. I don't feel like watching heavy movies when my cars buried under 14 inches of snow and my credit card is maxed out from Christmas shopping. Im depressed enough. I just want to be entertained. I Am Legend better not SUCK!!!

Dec 6 - 05:19 PM

kungfu_sage

Ian Turner

I think the problem with the Golden Compass is they took out all the story points that people felt were too controversial. I generally don't like people who trash religion, but that was basically the theme of this book, and it was a good book because of it, so they got rid of the theme and with it went the power of the story.

Dec 6 - 05:20 PM

daycare

chris mark

Narnia was not terrible, if it was i do not think it would have made 290 million nor got good reviews like it did. Now The golden Compass, that is terrible. not Eragon terrible but bad.

Dec 6 - 05:46 PM

JParry

Jason Perlman

The Golden Compass is excellent! Its only major problem is that it is too short, and the pacing is so fast that some non-readers may be confused. But it is visually stunning, amazingly acted, and non-stop exciting, as almost all reviewers acknowledge. Many reviewers seem to be reacting to the expectation that the film would be more controversial and anti-religious than it is - disappointed that Hollywood sold out again, they are savaging the film. The problem with this is that it's simply not true - there is very little explicit religious criticism in the section of the books that this film covers, and the filmmakers have retained the message of the book, albeit in more subtle form. There are many positive reviews, including among the cream of the crop, which has a 54% fresh rating, and the user reviews are very enthusiastic - over 60%, despite all the Christian fundamentalists who logged on months ahead of time to give it zero stars.

The movie doesn't open until tomorrow - to write up a "critical consensus" which writes off the movie before it has been seen by anyone other than critics and those who went to advance screenings is irresponsible, premature, and sensationalistic. The movie stands up very strongly against The Chronicles of Narnia, or against the Harry Potter movies - I would rather watch this any day of the week.

Dec 6 - 06:26 PM

Eshto

Ryan Long

Ugh, Narnia was freaking AWFUL. Stupid, stupid, stupid. It was touted as some Christian morality tale, and all they do is convince these little kids to fight in a war. Ah yes, bloodshed, so very ethical.

The analagous Jesus figure is portrayed as a king and military leader. Hmmm, that's funny, I always thought Jesus was a carpenter.

Oh and you could tell the good guys from the bad depending on their species, so with that little bit of thinly-veiled racism, you've got yourself some real traditional Christian "family values".

The only other "moral" lesson in the movie is that, when your little kid sister claims to have met a goat man in the closet, you should instantly believe her rather than wonder what she accidentally swallowed. Sick and twisted. And of course they include Lewis' preposterously illogical trilemma argument to punctuate the appeal to blind faith without reason. Fabulous.

The only thing I remotely liked was the performance of the Ice Queen.

And hey, I didn't protest Narnia before it came out - nor did I try to slam it by giving it terrible reviews before I even saw it.

Dec 6 - 07:34 PM

pulgasari

Jeffrey Carey

"Oh and you could tell the good guys from the bad depending on their species, so with that little bit of thinly-veiled racism, you've got yourself some real traditional Christian 'family values'."
So having the good guys and bad guys being different species is racism? By that logic, Lord Of the Rings is racist as hell.(No evil ents? Or good orks? Someone call the NAACP!)
Let's face it, having the bad guys look darker and more sinister than the good guys is a staple of fantasy. Granted, this tradition is deviated from every now and then,(Drizz't Do'Urden, a DARK elf, being a prominent example) but like robots in sci-fi or talking animals in CG kidde flicks, it is a part of what fantasy is.

Dec 7 - 01:35 PM

a_sad_un-sorry_hashbrown

Shawn Hasinger

The Golden Compass was a crushing disappointment. I saw the sneak preview screening on Saturday and I honestly had no idea what the hell was going on.

I am not kidding. The narrative was so broken that people who don't know anything about the series will be confused and pissed.

There's a lot of potential, I can give it that, but it starting off on the wrong foot and many people will abandon the entire series after seeing it because this is only the FIRST movie. There's supposed to be two more, and if people don't understand the first, there's less of a chance they'll watch the sequels.

I hate to say it, but the His Dark Materials film trilogy is already screwed.

Dec 6 - 08:05 PM

jondallas

Jonathan Dallas

JParry is right: there's a lot to be covered here, both plot- and character-wise. I'm sure (as are some far more astute critics than myself) that reading at least the first book will make the movie easier to grasp, as was the case with LOTR.

TGC, however, is profoundly NOT LOTR, nor was meant to be. P. Pullman has done something extraordinary -- create a new world, which J. K. Rawlings most certainly did not do. (Check the early graphic novels of Books of Magic for proof.)

He is a treasure.

All authors have philosophical axes to grind, unless they're not human. Pullman, tho', as befits a good author, does the grinding: the axe is in the shed -- present, but unwielded.

And what is with everyone? The reviews seems written by a bunch of fat slobs lazing couchwise, drooling 'Entertain me,' in between bites of Chuck-E-Cheese.

Is anyone capable of understanding a plot considerably less complicated than Cruise's Mission Impossible?

And as for a movie being good or bad based on the reviewer's personal morality, I can only despair. (And the Jews thought Jesus HAD come as a military leader, to whomever that was that entirely mistook large parts of the New Testament.)

Read something other than John Grisham and put Reader's Digest away.

Read Yeats. Read Hermann Hesse. Read Emanuel
Swendenborg. Read Michel Foucault. Something other than dreck. Read.

Read something that makes your brain churn.

It won't always be pleasant, nor can you control it, thank god.

Please.

Dec 6 - 09:07 PM

The_Duckling

John Smith

im boycotting the movie because hollywood took the part where they piss off the christian fundamentalists out. that was the best part of the whole book.

Dec 6 - 09:10 PM

T45Red

Mitchell Nash

This just doesn't seem like it's going to be a good movie. Don't get me wrong, I'm pretty sure I'm still going to see it and make judgement afterwards, but it just seems like one of those movies I know I won't like. Yet again, I didn't like Narnia and some people are saying this is worse than that. I'll just wait until I see it. You know, something to watch before I Am Legend comes out. Now that looks like a good movie! :)

Dec 6 - 10:07 PM

Daniel Aaron

Daniel Gentry

welp it sucks ..go figure..thats what you get for trying to duplicate the feel of someone ele's story just to try to debunk what you know nothing about.

Dec 6 - 10:23 PM

Paralyzer

Thabang Phetla

i cant wait to see the movie today and make up my own mind.

Dec 6 - 10:25 PM

Paralyzer

Thabang Phetla

i cant wait to see the movie today and make up my own mind.

Dec 6 - 10:27 PM

CoUcH ToMaToE DoUgIe

Shawn Amoroso

besides i am legend and sweeny todd, and the coming apocalypse film (alvin

and the chipmunks)this year of movies is done for me. and please jparry i don't need

you defending this poor movie which is no matter your opinion is from the mind of a

man who hates christians, uhhh for some reason I don't think this movie deserves much

attention. PLUS, here's an undisputable POINT... its just a bad movie, folks:) it won't

get passed transformers territory and thats saying A WHOLE LOT when your film can't

outfresh a michael bay movie. and please, don't tell me critics are influenced on

what christian groups say because when have they ever taken their concerns to heart...

never. so, they are basing their judgement strictly on the movie's quality and sorry

jparry but the movie is bad, m'kay. so, please i'll save my limited resources to see

will smith run around in manhattan by himself and johhny depp making a trip to the

barber a frightening and musical experience. But, hey maybe i'll give this movie a

second chance if it comes to hbo or something but for now i'll read the books to render

my final opinion on this at this series that at the very least seems to dislike

christians and the church, hopefully its not an allout wish of hatred of christians

but hey who cares if it is? because, as a christian i am used to seeing my religion

taking unrelenting bashing with no loving support.

Dec 6 - 10:36 PM

a_sad_un-sorry_hashbrown

Shawn Hasinger

Alvin and the Chipmunks, Nominated for Best Picture

:D

Dec 6 - 11:05 PM

a_sad_un-sorry_hashbrown

Shawn Hasinger

Alvin and the Chipmunks, Nominated for Best Picture

:D

Dec 6 - 11:05 PM

JParry

Jason Perlman

CoUcH ToMaToE DoUgIe - You may wish to try punctuation, capitalization, and coherence in the future. They can do wonders.

I don't hate Christians - where are you getting that from? The fact that I like the books? There are many Christians who love these books and this film.

Clearly your "POINT" that the movie is horrible is far from "indisputable" - I strongly disagree, as do many critics and a majority of users. No one is making you see it. Did you even see it before rendering your indisputable judgment? I am glad, however, that you're reading the books.

I didn't say most reviewers are panning it because they don't like its message. A few are, but most either genuinely don't like the movie, or as I was trying to explain are reacting in disappointment that there is not MORE of a philosophical/theological message. The controversy cooked up by the Catholic League raised expectations that the film would actually merit all that controversy, when in fact even the Catholic League never claimed the movie would be objectionable. You, however, seem to be basing your judgment heavily on your perception of the movie's message, pulling out the "poor Christians we're always getting bashed and this movie is anti-Christian and Hollywood doesn't like us" card when it's completely irrelevant to the quality of the movie.

I think we can agree, though, that Sweeney Todd will be very worthwhile!

Dec 6 - 11:26 PM

CoUcH ToMaToE DoUgIe

Shawn Amoroso

jparry, i never meant you hate christians, i meant the author, pullman,

is an atheist who just happens to really hate christianity and does use a facsimile

of the church in the book as the villians and i do believe they do succeed in killing

a god or even a jesus like character. but like i said before this man is driven

by his beliefs and that is not atheism but more of a hatred of christians in my opinion.

and i am sorry if u don't see it but bashing christianity is a celebrated practice

in this country that is just as wrong and prejudice if done to any other religion. the

only difference is some sort of consequence or punishment when they bash some other

religion but not christians in this country. Now, hey I KNOW how bad it is for other

religions in other countries that FAR exceed how christians are sometimes made of

fun here. so i am not saying how christians deserve the most sympathy or need the

most help. I realize far worse evils are committed towards jews, muslims and other

faiths that far exceed what happens here. still, i believe no religion or creed or

race should be slaped around and abused, i just don't think thats right. and this

author is driven by at least a little bit of that hate. So in the end god bless all

faiths in this merry season, except for those who made that awful chipmunks movie they

deserve punishment;) and to other matters yes sweeny tood does look great jparry, i do

indeed concur your agreement with me on that.

Dec 7 - 01:22 AM

TowerDragon

Jacob Bessey

Give it a rest CoUcH ToMaToE DoUgIe there are alot of christians who love this story. i'm one of them the author does not hate Chirstanity he hate how people can follow faith so blindly that it interferrs with the judgment. if you don't agree with the message don't see it that simple.

Dec 7 - 02:14 AM

CoUcH ToMaToE DoUgIe

Shawn Amoroso

TowerDragon, hey i'm sorry i am bothering you but i just had to say

how i didn't mean to imply Jparry hated christians. thats a strong statement that

i never meant for jparry to think i said such an insult to him. i know i can be

bothersome at times and no i am not blinded by my faith not to keep an open mind

and i do plan on reading the books to get a better understanding. trust me i am

the last person to be a close minded idiot, but for the moment i still feel the

author may harbor some ill will towards my faith. I am hoping by reading his work i

will be proven wrong.... and then i will give myelf a rest, rt bloggers.

Dec 7 - 12:49 PM

TowerDragon

Jacob Bessey

I really enjoyed The Golden Compass and I really do argree with Jparry that it really does stand up to Narnia and Harry Potter and I think that The Golden Compass is better then Narnia and Harry Potter's first attempt in cinema. The acting is the movie strong point all the performances are great, are 100% true to the book and the movie follows the books extermely well. it just needed to slow down just a bit for people to full enjoy it but overall not a horrible movie (fairly decent) and enjoyable holiday film.

Dec 6 - 11:27 PM

CoUcH ToMaToE DoUgIe

Shawn Amoroso

jparry, i never meant you hate christians, i meant the author, pullman,

is an atheist who just happens to really hate christianity and does use a facsimile

of the church in the book as the villians and i do believe they do succeed in killing

a god or even a jesus like character. but like i said before this man is driven

by his beliefs and that is not atheism but more of a hatred of christians in my opinion.

and i am sorry if u don't see it but bashing christianity is a celebrated practice

in this country that is just as wrong and prejudice if done to any other religion. the

only difference is some sort of consequence or punishment when they bash some other

religion but not christians in this country. Now, hey I KNOW how bad it is for other

religions in other countries that FAR exceed how christians are sometimes made of

fun here. so i am not saying how christians deserve the most sympathy or need the

most help. I realize far worse evils are committed towards jews, muslims and other

faiths that far exceed what happens here. still, i believe no religion or creed or

race should be slaped around and abused, i just don't think thats right. and this

author is driven by at least a little bit of that hate. So in the end god bless all

faiths in this merry season, except for those who made that awful chipmunks movie they

deserve punishment;) and to other matters yes sweeny tood does look great jparry, i do

indeed concur your agreement with me on that.

Dec 7 - 01:22 AM

TowerDragon

Jacob Bessey

Give it a rest CoUcH ToMaToE DoUgIe there are alot of christians who love this story. i'm one of them the author does not hate Chirstanity he hate how people can follow faith so blindly that it interferrs with the judgment. if you don't agree with the message don't see it that simple.

Dec 7 - 02:14 AM

CoUcH ToMaToE DoUgIe

Shawn Amoroso

TowerDragon, hey i'm sorry i am bothering you but i just had to say

how i didn't mean to imply Jparry hated christians. thats a strong statement that

i never meant for jparry to think i said such an insult to him. i know i can be

bothersome at times and no i am not blinded by my faith not to keep an open mind

and i do plan on reading the books to get a better understanding. trust me i am

the last person to be a close minded idiot, but for the moment i still feel the

author may harbor some ill will towards my faith. I am hoping by reading his work i

will be proven wrong.... and then i will give myelf a rest, rt bloggers.

Dec 7 - 12:49 PM

TowerDragon

Jacob Bessey

Give it a rest CoUcH ToMaToE DoUgIe there are alot of christians who love this story. i'm one of them the author does not hate Chirstanity he hate how people can follow faith so blindly that it interferrs with the judgment. if you don't agree with the message don't see it that simple.

Dec 7 - 02:14 AM

CoUcH ToMaToE DoUgIe

Shawn Amoroso

TowerDragon, hey i'm sorry i am bothering you but i just had to say

how i didn't mean to imply Jparry hated christians. thats a strong statement that

i never meant for jparry to think i said such an insult to him. i know i can be

bothersome at times and no i am not blinded by my faith not to keep an open mind

and i do plan on reading the books to get a better understanding. trust me i am

the last person to be a close minded idiot, but for the moment i still feel the

author may harbor some ill will towards my faith. I am hoping by reading his work i

will be proven wrong.... and then i will give myelf a rest, rt bloggers.

Dec 7 - 12:49 PM

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