Better than the book?




Full disclosure: I am not a fan of Philip Pullman. I didn’t love His Dark Materials; it was undeniably clever, but too heavy-handed for me to ever fully relax my guard (I don’t like being told what to think – even when I agree). Further, I didn’t appreciate Pullman whaling on C.S. Lewis in interviews (C.S. Lewis had issues, but come on, one can read Narnia without being surreptitiously brainwashed. I did).

So I was not eagerly anticipating the trailer for The Golden Compass (the first book/film in the Dark Materials trilogy – scheduled for December 07). When it was released a few weeks ago I didn’t even bother to go look at it. But today I was thinking about clockworks, which made me wonder what the filmmakers had done with Lyra’s alethiometer, and I moseyed on over to watch it. I was just getting annoyed by the shameless exploitation of the Ring imagery (yeah, we know who you are, New Line), when it hooked me. Wow. Unholy wow.

If the film is as good as the trailer, I will like it much better than the book! The polished-steampunk aesthetic is mesmerizing. Dirigibles are landing in Oxford. I’m happy.

Perhaps because I don’t fully visualize while reading, I hadn’t appreciated what a huge cinematographic opportunity this would be for filmmakers – far larger than Harry Potter or Narnia, because The Golden Compass is not set in a traditional fantasy world. It’s a familiar world that’s ever so slightly off. And I mean that as the highest compliment.

If you’re intrigued, behind-the-scenes footage just released on YouTube.

On C.S. Lewis (and why I think Pullman’s out of line): Meghan O’Rourke at Slate, Adam Gopnik at the New Yorker

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2 Responses to Better than the book?

  1. Anytime someone is riding a polar bear, I’m pretty much sold, but I haven’t read the books, so I’ve no idea what to expect in the way of narrative juice. From the trailer it looks like it could be about as rich (read: not rich) as the Harry Potter movies.

  2. cicada says:

    If you haven’t read the book – trust me, this one’s way darker than Harry Potter. And they got Tom Stoppard to work on the screenplay. So I’m not really worried about the plot and dialogue (except for the usual compression/editing issues).

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