Finally found a spare moment to see The Goldman Compass.
Holy mother of everything.
It seems, these days, that an inordinate amount of my favourite books are becoming movies. Given the track record of how well this usually gets done, I went tonight expecting to enjoy myself, accepting the fact that I might be disappointed and hoping that I’d be pleasantly surprised.
I am not “pleasantly surprised.” Shock and awe, my dears. Shock and awe. It’s damn near everything I would’ve asked for, if i could have.
I’ll start with the same complaint I have of any book-cum-movie: the beginning moved incredibly fast, and there were elements of plot missing, or switched around – though it’s more of an observation than a complaint in this case. You can’t make a movie match a book word-for-word and frame-for-frame without making a four+ hour-long film. We all know this. Hence the term “adaptation.” In some movies, this makes a jumbled, senseless mess of a complex plot. This didn’t. There were scenes and moments missing, but they were things I could live without. There were minor details changed, but they helped the flow rather than hindered it. In short (and it’s already tot late for that, isn’t it?), it was beautifully adapted from the original novel. You get all the information you need, and you get it in a way that makes sense and is entertaining to watch.
It’s visually stunning. Pullman evoked Lyra’s Oxford in such a way that you could step right in and feel at home, and his vision is there on screen. The characters – and characterization – are amazing. Lee Scoresby and Hester in particular are so well done it makes me grin to think about it.
And the bears. OMGarmouredbearsIwantonecanIhaveonepleeeeeeease?? I couldn’t have asked for anything better out of the portrayal of Iorek. Ragnar (or Iofur…they’ve changed his name from the book, which I was actually very glad of…Iofur and Iorek, it was too close, I mixed them up if I read too fast…)..anyway, Ragnar was really rather horrifying and creepy. And the fighting! Yes! Armoured bear battles! Oh god, it was beautiful. I knew how it ended, but still there was tension and suspense – and when Ragnar’s jaw went flying, it somehow managed to be unexpected. Left me breathless and a bit shocked, like I’d been punched in the gut.
Same sort of seat-clawing, breathless horror when they try to cut Lyra’s daemon away. Dakota Blue Richards did such a good job with that scene. But that actually brings me to my second of three complaints: I wanted more of a big deal made about finding the daemon-less Billy Costa. In the book, it’s so macabre – the people of the town are terrified of him, all because he has no daemon. Lyra actually likens seeing someone walking around without a daemon to seeing someone walking around without a head. It just can’t be. Lyra and Iorek take Billy back towards the gyptian camp and all he talks about is Ratter, where’s my Ratter, while he’s holding this dried, salted fish, anything to feel like he’s not alone. It’s sad, and pathetic, and heartbreaking. In the book, he isn’t accepted immediately, or rushed right into mama’s arms – even his own people look askance for a moment. And in the book, he dies from the shock of what’s been done to him. I didn’t get half of this from the film; it was muted and downplayed – and so, thereby, was the unthinkableness of what they were really doing at Bolvangar. You don’t get the same sense of wrong.
Eva Green as Serrafina Pekkala? Total win. You don’t get a lot of them, but I love the witch action scenes. 🙂
Last complaint? The ending. They fly off, triumphant for the moment, into the sunset. Together again and off to grand adventure. No. It isn’t about that. I wanted that last scene, those last few chapters from the book when lord Asriel rips open the gate to the other worlds. I really, really wanted to end on the shock of that, and how it happens. I’m a sucker for a happy ending, but this wasn’t the time or place.
So there you have it, as coherent and free from fangirl squealing as I can make it. Subtle Knife now please? Pretty please? 🙂
Something else occurred to me tonight…
I had an illustrated version of Beauty and the Beast that saw an awful lot of reading when I was little girl; I fell in love with Beast over and over and over. Then there’s Iorek Byrnison, whom I also have an inordinate fondness for. And most recently, the White Bear from Edith Pattou’s East. Hmm. Fatal attraction to persecuted and tragically noble fictional characters, or anthropomorphised bear kink? There are some questions one just shouldn’t ask oneself. 😉