I went to see the aforesaidmentioned film last night.
It was good.
But only good, not excellent. Sadly, the film didn’t pack the punch of the books, have the engrossing, loveable characters, or the careful explanation of the strange world in which the story takes place. Much was missed out from the books, corners were cut, and the plot often inanely advanced, in a film which did not need to do any of these things and which could easily have lasted another thirty or forty minutes.
That said, it was visually stunning. The gorgeous, gothic architecture of the alternative reality’s Oxford and London were thoughtfully, cleverly and beautifully created, and the special effects, not least in the daemons, bears and final battle sequence, looked impressive. Much of the scenery, such as in the Arctic, was great, and places like Trollesund and Bolvangar were just as I had imagined.
The acting, too, was (mostly) excellent, with the previously unknown actress behind the main character, Lyra, doing a good job. Nicole Kidman was also nothing less than perfect as the beautiful but sinister Mrs Coulter. There were many other famous faces and top-drawer actors in the book, but sadly we just didn’t get enough of their characters – Christopher Lee, for instance, appeared to have been hired to deliver one short line in one simple scene.
It’s a real shame that the film came out like this – one defence of trimming down the film, I suppose, was to make it more accessible to children. But then, as I wrote a few days ago, this is not a story for the young, and most teenagers should be able to cope with two and a half to three hours of cinema.
And it was not just the unflowing way in which the narrative jumped, it was the things that were missed out – such as a full description of the effect and influence of the aurora borealis; a full explanation of exactly why the Magsterium were doing what they did; the backgrounds of the witches, gyptians and bears; or more about Lyra’s importance to everyone’s destiny.
So while it was a perfectly enjoyable film, and will probably fit well within the context of the trilogy (once it is completed), the story (and viewer) was never given a chance to linger or be immersed in the strange, wonderful universe in which events unfolded. In short, the film was such a wasted opportunity.
Maybe my disappointment – and the lukewarm reviews – are down to the Tolkien factor: the Lord Of The Rings films were not only acclaimed adaptations, but simply among the best films ever made. For years to come, fantasy films will inevitably stand in the shadow of hobbits.
Or it could just be that the film illustrates the passable mediocrity you get when you take God out of the equation…