matgb: (Review)
[personal profile] matgb
Last Friday night, we went to see The Golden Compass, adaptation of Pullman's Northern Lights. It's a book I'd started reading, then stopped as I was enjoying it but had many other books on the go at the same time and wanted to watch the film fresh--I find that if I've recently read a book, I watch the film in "compare" mode, and I've long held that films should be different from the book, else what's the actual point, films are a different medium and thus require different narrative devices to get the same characters and plot across. But in this case, I think my holding off was a waste of time. Jennie reviewed it Saturday, and while I'm not going to review it myself, this review from [ profile] absinthecity pretty much says what I would:
What this film is, is a series of 'set pieces' taken from the book - the fight scenes, the escape scenes, the meeting scenes - all stuck together with very little in the form of narrative 'glue'. As you'd imagine they are beautifully rendered, with some genuinely well-advised use of CGI, and the acting is first class. But the emotional element...was almost completely absent.
I'll now be putting the trilogy back on the pile, and if they do make films two and three, I'll likely go see, but not because I expect it to be any good. But just to, y'know, take in the scenery. Especially the Eva Miles shaped bits. As for protestations that the boycott worked? Bollox, it's failed at the box office because it's crap, not because the Catholic League decided to not like it.

Date: 2007-12-11 03:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I would have thought, if anything, that the Catholic League protests have boosted the takings.

Date: 2007-12-11 04:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Agreed. I don't think the advertising was done very well. New Line hasn't been well known for their advertising anyway. So you have this movie that not a lot of people know about, and know even less about the books, combined with douches like Donohue at the Catholic League crowing about it.

Totally agree that the movie's failure wasn't on part of the "boycott." It had all the makings of a great fantasy film and it failed because of plot evisceration.

Date: 2007-12-11 03:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think the books are crap, too, but I'm in a minority there. I feel that they're berating, hectoring, proselytising wish fulfilment crap.

Date: 2007-12-11 03:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The anti-religion proselytising becomes more obvious in the last book. I felt that Pullman thought he had such a 'good idea' that he didn't actually have to bother thinking about a plot, and while the writing style doesn't grate as much on me as Rowland's does, everytime his heroine or her sidekicks get into a bit of a fix, he invents a new bit of magic to get them out of it, and the trilogy has that deus ex narrativa in common with Harry Potter, and it irks me somewhat. There is no coherency or tightness to the plotting; it's as if Pullman thought it OK to pull plot lines and solutions out of a hat because it is fantasy, missing the point that what makes a good fantasy book is the presence of narrative tension due to internally consistent logic (see China Mieville references in my blog passim). The Golden Compass utterly utterly fails to have any of this narrative consistency or narrative tension and yet is hailed as a masterpiece simply because it proselytises atheism. That's cart before the horse stuff, to me.

Date: 2007-12-11 10:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I don't think they're preachy enough. He had a chance to *eviscerate* organised religion and as much historical ammunition as he could have wanted, and he fluffed it. It's like you said, a complete lack of coherency. I don't even think it's pro-atheist, it's got religion and mysticism all over the place, albeit mostly gnostic.

Apparently I too am in a minority on this.

Date: 2007-12-11 03:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I also want to know... why would anyone ever expect this film to gross as much as Narnia, LOTR, or other established literary classics?

The entire "Golden Compass" trilogy has only sold about 15M copies worldwide, with many of those being recent sales of the pre-movie editions. Compare that with The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, The Fellowship of the Ring, or Harry Potter and the Sourcerer's Stone, all of which have sold more than 100M copies worldwide.

The movie isn't a great one, granted... but it's not crap either. $26 million dollars is a perfectly acceptable, understandable opening weekend gross for such a film. Box Office Mojo is right when it said that the turnout "was about average for a live action fantasy." It did about 20% better than Eragon or Bridge to Terabithia, but it wasn't a blockbuster. That said, I expect it will make a considerable amount more over the holiday season, as many parents will want/need to take the kids out to the movies, but won't want to sit through a prolonged Chipmunk hell.

Is the boycott making a difference? I imagine is may be by a few million dollars, but the overall effect is kind of negligible, really. Ultimately, this is a movie that wasn't likely to gross over $35M for the opening weekend, even if it was flawless.

Meanwhile, it seems to be doing a very good job of helping make the series a widely-known classic anyway, so there's actually considerable potential growth for the longterm future of the literary franchise.

Date: 2007-12-11 04:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah i know what you mean about the book and the film should be different, i mean the book is the book, I like it when films esp multiple adaptations put there own spin on things, which can be either trite or interesting, I mean look at Dracula...

Date: 2007-12-11 04:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Totally agree. My commentary entry on it ( descended into much silliness.

I still stand by my On Notice! a la Stephen Colbert proclamation.

What I've come to determine is this is a result of my country's desire to make a quick buck instead of making anything really decent. I fear for the fantasy genre's future in movies because of Hollywood's kick on making trilogies - no matter how bad - and the lack of really putting out anything good other than a movie here or there that isn't really advertised very well ("No Country For Old Men" was FANTASTIC). This is just a personal surmising of mine, though.

Date: 2007-12-12 02:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Agreed. However, I don't want Hollywood killing the genre either to the point where no one will want to make fantasy movies anymore, you know?

Maybe I'm being too negative on this subject because I'm still sore over how disappointed I really am in "The Golden Compass."

Date: 2007-12-11 04:39 pm (UTC)
ext_27841: (Default)
From: [identity profile]
I'm re-reading the books just so I can rip the film to shreds, should I get the opportunity to see it. I've already been incensed enough by the trailers. Chances are I shall have to wait for the DVD though, unless anyone wants to babysit for us?!


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Mat Bowles

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