The Golden Compass

From the desk of The Movie Snob

The Golden Compass (C-). I am at least an auxiliary member of the Religious Right, and Catholic to boot, but once I saw that this movie is floundering at the box office (in the U.S. anyway), I decided to go ahead and see what the hullabaloo was about. (And, what a pleasant surprise, Nicole Kidman (Days of Thunder) turned out to be in it!) It’s a weird story about a weird alternate universe where people’s souls have physical manifestations—they are like animal sidekicks that can talk and change shape when you’re a kid, but they lose those powers when you grow up. A malevolent authority called the Magisterium is conducting experiments on children to try to separate them from their souls, apparently as a means to extinguish their free will and yield a citizenry of compliant, soulless zombies. The heroine, Lyra, has a golden compass that supposedly reveals the truth in any situation. Confusingly, it seems to speak only in an obscure symbolic fashion the first time she uses it, but then after that it seems to give her much clearer visions to reveal what’s going on. My reaction to this movie is much like my reaction to the Harry Potter films—for all the wondrous goings-on, it is surprisingly unmagical. I can’t recommend it.

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