The Golden Compass (PG)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

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Review byMatthew Turner05/12/2007

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 120 mins

Hugely enjoyable, fast-paced fantasy adventure with terrific performances, a superb script and state of the art special effects.

What's it all about?
Based on Philip Pullman's Northern Lights, The Golden Compass stars newcomer Dakota Blue Richards as 12-year-old orphan Lyra Bellacqua, who lives in a world that's not too dissimilar to Earth, except that there are witches and ice bears and every human is accompanied by an animal spirit called a daemon. When Lyra's best friend Roger (Ben Walker) is kidnapped, she vows to go to the ends of the earth to rescue him, accompanied only by her shape-changing daemon Pantalaimon (voiced by Freddie Highmore) and a mysterious Golden Compass, given to her by the Master of Jordan College (Jack Shepherd).

When the world-travelling scientist Marisa Coulter (Nicole Kidman) offers to help find Roger, Lyra believes she's found an ally. However, she soon discovers that Mrs Coulter is in league with the all-powerful Magisterium, who will stop at nothing to possess the Golden Compass.

The Good
The film starts slowly, while it fills in the details of Pullman's fantasy world, but writer-director Chris Weitz soon gets things up to speed and maintains a decent pace throughout. The CGI effects are nothing short of astonishing, particularly when it comes to rendering the daemons and the ice bears – the ice bear fight is genuinely stunning and a definite highlight.

Dakota Blue Richards makes a terrific debut as Lyra and there's superb support from a splendid cast that includes Daniel Craig (as Lord Asriel), Sam Elliott (as Texas airman Lee Scoresby), Eva Green (as Serafina Pekkala) and Ian McKellen as the voice of ice bear warrior Iorek Byrnison.

The Great
Weitz's script is superb, bringing Pullman's complex world to life and allowing each character to shine. Fans of the book will inevitably complain a little (most controversially, the ending has been moved to the beginning of the second film) but that's par for the course.

Worth seeing?
In short, this is a hugely enjoyable, superbly acted and beautifully directed fantasy adventure that is genuinely exciting to watch. Bring on the sequel! Highly recommended.

Film Trailer

The Golden Compass (PG)
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Content updated: 22/10/2017 11:07

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