The Golden Compass [Blu-ray]
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Product Description

Studio: New Line Home Video Release Date: 04/29/2008 Rating: Pg13

A fantasy epic with more than a passing resemblance to the Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia film franchises, The Golden Compass takes place in an alternate universe where each human's soul is embodied in a companion animal called a daemon. Lyra (Dakota Blue Richards), an orphan who's lived most of her life among the scholars at Oxford, is intrigued when her uncle, Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig), announces his plans to travel north to investigate the source of some mysterious particles called Dust. Lyra has little hope of following her uncle until a mysterious woman named Mrs. Coulter (Nicole Kidman, at her most icily beautiful) asks Lyra to travel north as her personal assistant. All is not as it seems, however, and the disappearance of Lyra's friend Roger (Ben Walker) sets her on a dizzying adventure. She does have an alethiometer, or golden compass, that can help her see the truth, and a number of companions, including her shape-shifting daemon, Pantalaimion (voiced by Freddie Highmore of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), polar-bear warrior Iorek Byrnison (voiced by Ian McKellen), Texas aeronaut Lee Scoresby (Sam Elliott), and witch queen Serafina Pekkala (Craig's Casino Royale co-star, Eva Green). Even before its release, The Golden Compass was the subject of controversy over its perceived anti-religious themes. While it does involve an oppressive institution called the Magisterium, it's not overtly religious, particularly to a young viewer. The movie's PG-13 rating should be taken seriously, however. Suitable for an older audience than Narnia (though younger than The Lord of the Rings), it deals with complex concepts, violence (though largely bloodless) and implied death, children and animals in peril, and an unrelentingly ominous and unsettling mood.

Despite a few changes and rearrangements, the overall plot of the movie is remarkably faithful to its source material, the first installment of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. It doesn't finish the book, however, and--much like The Fellowship of the Ring did--leaves the viewer hanging in anticipation of the next film, The Subtle Knife, due in 2009. So even though The Golden Compass is impressive--especially with its spot-on cast and terrific visual effects--we probably won't know its full emotional impact until the story is complete. --David Horiuchi

Customer Reviews:

  • Fantasy for children
    I generally liked the beginning of this film that had a premise that all humans have their own "demons". Demons grow as the soul of their owners grows. They are also the opposite sex of their human counterparts (i.e. girl would have a male demon and vice versa) and take animal form. In the beggining young adults have spirit that is free and uncompromising; but the local "ministry" wants them to obey and conform unconditionally. So this is a universal battle of good and evil in its psychological form. There is also a metaphysical component of the movie where narrator mentions parallel universe and people form the parallel world that are connected by the universal "dust". I liked the fact that the main character of the film is a girl - that premise gives some hope to humanity of this little made up universe. Also the visual effects are great. Most "demons" are such fantastic animals full of personality and charm. cast is definitely superior, but by the middle of the film - story starts to fade and becomes boring. It is probably a moment where reading the book would be more interesting than watching this story unfold. I cannot tell you how this film ends because, unfortunately I fell asleep at the end of it. Younger audiences amy find it more difficult to follow since most actors (young and old) have very strong (australian) accents....more info
  • A Combination of Things
    I didn't want to be confused by learning what this movie was about by first reading other people's reviews. This movie is a combination of The Wizard of Oz; Narnia, the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; Invaders From Mars, and perhaps bits and pieces of others.
    The Magisterium is a group that wants to kidnap kiddies (and presumably everyone and anyone else), so as to make them have unquestioned obedience and become one of THEM. Our heroine Lyra is perhaps the only one who can keep the Magesteriun from conquering the world. She is given a Golden Compass, but she can use it only if she is THE CHOSEN ONE. (Where have we heard that before?)
    Speaking of the golden compass itself, it seems the further the movie goes along everybody-- the good guys, the bad guys, and everybody else in between-- loses interest and gets apathetic about the golden compass. Toward the end everybody knows she has the golden compass. A number of the evil adults could've just manhandled our heroine Lyra and grabbed it from her, but they treat it like it is just a mildly amusing topic of conversation-- such as, "Did you ride your bike today?" or, "Did you hug your dolly today?"
    There are a bunch of witches flying about, and one of them-- a beautiful woman whose name escapes me-- occasionally lands and talks with Lyra. But nobody seems to know if these witches are from the East or from the West. At one point Dorthy-- er, I mean Lyra-- asks the big ol' bear if they are good witches or bad witches, and even the big ol' bear says he doesn't know.
    Then we come to Nicole Kidman. I wish she could've dressed a little more sexy-- like a strapless & backless cocktail dress, with maybe slits up each side, but she dresses more conservatively than I would've liked.
    I read reviews in the paper where it was said that Nicole Kidman was largely absent in the movie, but I think she shows up about as much and as often as any of the other adults.
    At one point in the movie we get a fight to the finish between two big ol' bears for the right to be called Papa Bear of the North. There is a nice scene or two that leads up to it, such as when our just kidnapped Lyra finds herself presented to the bad ol' bear, and she engages in a verbal duel with it about how she would be more valuable to him alive than dead. It's the sort of thing James Bond would do if he were to suddenly find himself prisoner in front of his arch enemy. Okay, so the two bears have their fight, and the good one wins; and the bear army stands up on its hind legs, lift their heads up, and they all go, "Yaoooooooo...!" And then everybody seems to forget about the bear army.
    One thing I really liked about the movie is the fantastic photography, and I don't just mean the special effects. Just the little scenes where people are alone in an office are masterpieces of photography. This movie was one of those rare gems where it was done a little better than it had to be in a number of places. Movies like that are always a pleasant surprise for me.
    Except I didn't like the battle scene at the end of the movie, which takes place at midnight in the snow. I think it is unethical for a movie to skimp on the budget by making the battle scenes take place in the middle of the night.
    All in all it wasn't such a bad movie, and the movie is a fun movie to write a review about. But, in the sequel we really need Nicole Kidman to dress a little more sexy. It may be out of character and incomprehensible for Nicole to be dressed up as if she's ready for cocktails, or as if she's ready for her next photo shoot, but the movie is already incomprehensible, and some of us bigger boys could use a little something extra to occupy our minds as we sit through The Golden Compass, II....more info
  • 2.5 stars out of 4
    The Bottom Line:

    The Golden Compass is not a perfect film--it feels incomplete at times and some of the plotlines, like Daniel Craig's, are given the short shrift--but it's an entertaining and enjoyable enough fantasy film for those who don't find it ideologically offensive....more info
  • AMAZING.....
    .....Amazing how they managed to completely miss the point of the book. They took all the action from the book, but left out the important information that supports the action. The movie briefly mentions Dust at the beginning...and never goes anywhere with that idea. Never mentions anything about the religious beliefs behind Dust and its connection to children and their Daemons. I personally dont see how they can make the 2nd film....because thats what it most deals with...(atleast as far as I have read into it so far.)

    The movie as a movie was well a book to movie adaptation it is horrible. Read the book first, then see the movie! The book is WAY better. ...more info
  • One change would have made it much better.
    The Golden Compass was an imaginative and innovative book, inspiring novel viewpoints of personal spirituality, among other things. The plot and events are so complex that compressing it all into a single-sitting movie is ambitious. The elisions that the compression required make the action skip rather than flow. But it would be an entertaining watch, except for one flaw that can't be ignored: the unfortunate casting of the lead child actor. Nothing about her evokes the Lyra of the books. She is too pushy and aggressive. Her acting doesn't feel natural. Her appearance is also too pale and hard. It's not believable that she would inspire the loyalty and warmth and solicitude that the adult characters show in their reactions toward her.

    The special effects are a consolation, especially the architecture....more info
  • One of the best and most beautiful fantasy films in a long time!
    I absolutely loved this film! Between the narrow-minded religious righters, and the hardcore book fans, this movie was bound to get a lot of negative reviews. But it is smart, well acted, well written, and stunning to watch. Most of all, it is a wonderful and brilliantly thought out mythology. One of the most creative and thorough I have seen.

    I find it funny that half the negative reviews say it moved too fast, and the other half say it was too boring. I thought it was just wonderful, and can hardly wait for the next movie!! PS. To the people who say this bombed, it has done EXTREMELY WELL in Europe! ...more info
  • Golden Compass
    I was disappointed compared to all the hype I heard before I watched this movie. Just another fantasy movie, nothing to jump up and down about. Good acting and special affects but that's all it has going for it....more info
  • Not as good as the books
    I really liked the movie before I read the book. I felt that the special effects were fantastic, and some of Pullman's concepts were showcased nicely. However, the narrative of the movie does not flow well. Sequencing is off, and some parts seem compressed. The ending does not leave the viewer wanting anything. I listened to the director's commentary, and he gave a decent reason. I don't want to spoil it for those who haven't seen. If you're a fan, then you almost have to see it, but you shouldn't expect it to be as good as the books. The cast and the effects are awesome, but the storytelling would've been better had it been more straight from the book with better pacing....more info
  • An outstanding movie. Not for snobs, violence junkies, or dumbasses
    Despite some of the whining from those who really must have a hard time deciding what a good movie consists of, this is a damn good movie. It has good acting, quickening plot, tons of action and top notch CGI. Yes, you have to suspend your disbelief, just like any other fantasy epic, but once you do you are treated to a very intricate story with subtle, thought provoking undertones that carry the author's intentions admirably to the screen. So, if you want to rub your nose in the stupid, violence for violence sake crap that dominates the industry and wins awards because those who vote are sadly as dumb as those who pay money to watch, then go sit in front of "no country for old men". If, however, you would care to exercise your mind and delight your eyes and ears then get this movie, relax, and watch an excellent adventure. ...more info
  • Not for us! Not a child's movie.
    Wow- I have to be honest and say this is the Worst movie I have seen to date. I had heard about the controversy about this movie & religion...and on a 13 hour flight from Australia back to LA- I thought it would be good to watch. I mean the cast alone- had to be decent. It also would give me a chance to watch it before I showed it to my 6 year old. WOW- was I glad I watched it first! First off- do not let you 6 year old watch this movie. IT IS NOT A SMALL CHILD'S MOVIE. A) It is scary. It has deamons in it - that are vicious. Not only that the kids are being kidnapped - stolen. Ok- what child ,and parent for that fact, would not be freaked out by that. Seriously - if I let my kids watch this movie- they would be sleeping with us for the next week. Trust me- not for elementary kids.
    B) It's dumb. The movie goes very fast- and apparently leaves out the majority of the information that a person who has NOT read the book needs in order to figure out what the heck is going on. If you have read the book- then you will get it. The rest of us- just still trying to figure all the weird scary stuff in the movie by reading reviews on Amazon;)
    Overall- the movie was VERY DISAPPOINTING. I am not even going to mention the entire controversy with the relgion aspect of the movie. That is another can of worms. Bottom Line - Save your precious time - and go rent Narnia. You'll be happy you did. I am still wishing I could get those 2 hours of my life back that I wasted watching this movie....more info
  • No Audio Output On Blu-Ray Version
    Warning to those with older Receivers. This Blu-Ray disk only has a DTS audio soundtrack in English. If you have a Receiver, like I do, that only decodes Dolby Digital 5.1, there is no audio output.

    The rest of this review is for the clueless producers of this Blu-Ray disk. Obviously they have learned nothing from the costly lost sales of the war with HD-DVD. People like me are not going to buy an expensive new Receiver just to play a particular movie on Blu-Ray. Especially with six audio formats to cover and perhaps more to come! I will rent this movie on DVD and wait for the audio wars to end. Since Blu-Ray has plenty of capacity, I do not see any reason why an English Dolby 5.1 soundtrack could not be included to ensure backwards compatibility. Particularly since Dolby 5.1 is already provided on this disk in other languages. From reading various blogs and reviews, I know I am not the only potential lost sale....more info
  • Amazing
    Pros: Excellent story, amazing animation, fast moving, realistic story given that it seems to be based on a re-mix of our own history.
    This is a replacement for Harry Potter since that story (movie sequence) seems to be wrapping up.

    Cons: This story is going to span about 3 movies which is a good thing if you don't mind waiting for the remaining films.
    ...more info
  • skip the movie--read the book
    A Hollywood studio spent millions of dollars making a movie that sucks the life out of a fantastic book--what a surprise!

    This movie has a fine cast, lavish production values and great special effects. All it lacks is a soul.

    By all means, read the book, and the remainder of Pullman's wonderful trilogy. But don't waste your time on this pointless exercise.

    ...more info
  • Don't watch this if you'v ever read the book!!!
    For those who are familiar with Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials Trilogy will be greatly unsatisfied with the adaptation of the fist book in Pullman's trilogy. Much of the story is left told, some chapters along with characters and groups of character are completely cut out while others are rearranged or switched out, even rewritten. this gives the movie the feeling of being rushed and not fully completed before it hit the screen. Someone should have put more thought into this adaptation before trying to put it on the screen. There was only one thing about this movie that i did find pleasing and that was the casting of the characters. All the actors preformed the part wonderfully in spite of the over all uncompleted feeling the movie leaves you with. The actors are the only reason i am giving this movie 2 stars instead of one. ...more info
  • Not the worst fantasy movie, but certainly not the best.
    "The Golden Compass" made a decent fantasy movie. Most of the characters in it were very good (I found Lee Scoresby and Iorek Byrnison to be especially likeable). It also had a very unique environment that departed from the normal medieval-ish confines of the fantasy genre. Unfortunately, the story in it seemed quite predictable and uninspiring. I never found it terribly exciting. It held my interest the entire time, but I don't see myself standing in line to wait for the sequels. "The Golden Compass" is a good work to have in your fantasy collection, but there are many better works of fantasy out there....more info
  • At least it looked good...
    Mediocre telling of a popular book that I haven't read. After seeing pretty adaptations of other childrens books like 'Bridge to Terabithia' and 'Chronicles of Narnia', this one was a pretty big letdown. Everyone seemed like a stock character, and I never got involved with the by-the-numbers storylines. Looked good, though....more info
  • The Golden Compass
    I'm not going to go into detail here, there are plenty of other reviews that will give you a synopsis of the film. Let me just say that out of nine movies I rented this week this one stood out like a shining star. It's well done, enjoyable fantasy and I can't wait until the next installment. It's one of the best movies I've seen in a while....more info
  • Wonderful Fantasy Experience
    The movie itself is fantastic; the extra material on the 2nd disc add to the enjoyment. I'm very pleased with this purchase....more info
  • Well, *I* liked it
    I think this is another one of these situations where either you read the book and you hate the movie (because it wasn't exactly like the book) or you didn't read the book and you love the movie (because it was a good movie).

    I didn't read the book.
    I thought the movie was excellent.

    I rented this from Amazon Unbox out of sheer lack of anything better. I was expecting a cheesy kids movie, perhaps not unlike Narnia.

    What I got was a good story with fantastic special effects throughout and a whole lot more violence than I had anticipated. I'm honestly surprised that they got away with a PG-13 rating. No gore, but plenty of killings.

    All of the standard fantasy genre elements are there (strangely, this is why some people rated it poorly) -- you got your drunken warrior brought out of retirement to bring down a king and generally save the day; you got your evil-witch-type person, your good-witch-type person, your evil government workers, your easily fooled scholars and your mystical device that everyone wants in the hands of a girl.

    It's a winning formula and made for an enjoyable movie. I give it 5-stars on the condition that they are making the next installment. I would have to deduct at least 1 star, maybe 2 if they simply let it end with this one, which was clearly the intro to an intended series.
    ...more info
  • The Golden Compass review
    I hadn't read the novel before the movie, so I enjoyed the condensed version on screen, but my teenaged son lamented that so many parts had been left out from the book. It's nearly impossible to capture the full spirit and flavor of a book, or include all the chapters and details in the movie version, but this tale has plenty of great fantasy fiction and I found it very entertaining. A young girl with a good heart has her determination fully tested when she attempts to rescue her kidnapped friends. It was left just a little 'opened-ended' to make room for a sequel, but not in a way that leaves the viewer frustrated.

    Chrissy K. McVay - Author...more info
  • masterfully done movie of a modern classic
    Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy (Golden Compass/Subtle Knife/Amber Spyglass) are some of my absolute favorite books in fantasy. I was extremely psyched when I heard that a movie would be made of the first book, but never got around to seeing it until it was out on DVD.

    Lyra is a young orphan girl (roughly 11 or 12) who has been raised by the scholars at Jordan College in Oxford (similar to England). Lyra's world is very like our own, except for one distinct difference: people's souls, or daemons, can be found externally in the form of various animals. Lyra accidentally overhears her uncle Asriel, some Jordan College scholars, and a representative of the Magisterium talking about Dust. Dust seems to be a hot topic in her world - Lord Asriel is trying to find a way to get to parallel worlds to learn more about Dust; the Magisterium, with the aid of the mysterious Mrs. Coulter, is trying to suppress Dust; and children are going missing in freaky experiments involving Dust. When Lyra's friends Billy and Roger are taken, she sets off on an epic adventure to save them.

    Overall, the movie stays very true to the original novel, and it's beautifully done. The special effects (flying witches, talking bears) are well done and not cheesy at all. The acting is superb and, in my opinion, the movie itself is excellent.

    Some things could have been confusing for viewers not familiar with Pullman's trilogy. Daemons are sort of explained in the beginning, but in addition to being part of someone's soul, they're also a physical manifest of someone's personality, so the animals of the adults are very telling about their character. That's also the reason why the children's daemons keep shifting; their "permanent" personalities are still being formed. They're also very personal entities, which is why it freaks a person out when their daemon is handled by another person (and there's an unspoken taboo about it in Lyra's world, too). I know they can't put all of that in a movie, but those little tidbits, found in the book, are extremely helpful to understanding the movie.

    I did wonder about the ending - they chose to end it on a hopeful note instead of the dark, dramatic one in the book. I had heard rumors that, depending on how well "Golden Compass" did, they weren't necessarily going to make the second movie, so the cliffhanger ending from the first book probably had to get shuffled aside. It certainly makes me curious about how they're going to handle it in a sequel.

    There was a lot of fuss when this movie was released because the books are, in tone, fairly anti-religious. These books (and movie) are pretty dark with some heavy philosophical questions. They aren't intended for children necessarily, even though the protagonist is a child. (Which always makes me wonder why they're shelved in the children's section?!) However, Pullman doesn't pull out the heavy anti-religious stuff until book three, and I have to wonder how the script writers are going to handle it, because you can't really tweak it without changing the entire story line. But we don't have to worry about that for right now, since movie two hasn't even been released yet.

    Overall, a great movie, beautifully done with a great cast. Definitely worth checking out, even if you've never read the books. If you're thinking of watching this with young children, definitely heed the PG-13 rating. ...more info
  • Okay adaptation of Pullman's fantasy opus
    This was a decent, if cursory, adaptation of "The Golden Compass," the first book in Philip Pullman's controversial "Dark Materials" trilogy. The original print version is both innovative and tendentious -- an absorbing fantasy world built as a means for the author to exercise his strong antipathy towards organized religion. The movie glosses over the anti-religious message, although not quite to the extent I'd imagined. The condensed plotline can be a bit jumpy, but on the whole this is an enjoyable action film, with the social commentary lurking just below the surface -- it's dumbed-down a little, but still basically the same as the book. Worth checking out. (Slipcue Film Reviews)...more info
  • The Golden Compass: A Great Movie! Can't wait for the sequel!
    The Golden Compass is a great film that is based upon a awesome book trilogy. This film stars Nicole Kidman, Sam Elliot, Ian McKellen, Dakota Blue Richards, Daniel Craig, Philip Pullman, and Ian McShane.

    While some of you may disagree with me, I liked this movie better than Narnia. There is supposed to be a sequel coming out 2009 and I can't wait to see it! Though there is some protests against a sequel (mainly the people of the Catholic Church), but I doubt that those "highly" religious people will stop the making of the sequel.

    With a great story, special effects, and actors & actresses, The Golden Compass will eventually become an instant classic. I suggest anyone who wants to be entertained to buy this DVD. It's affordable and entertaining.

    Either way, you always get your moneys worth in the end.

    ...more info
  • Terrible!
    This was a really bad movie. Maybe it was a better book. The Harry Potter, and Narnia movies were so much better. I can see why there will probably not be a followup movie....more info
  • In The Not-Too-Distant Future...
    Once upon a time, there was a show called Mystery Science Theater 3000. The premise of this show was to take bad movies from bygone days and riff snarky comedy off of them.

    Watching MST3k (as it was known by its fans, the MSTies), I was always led to wonder about the original films. For most of them, presumably, there was a day when the movie was taken kind of seriously. I mean, maybe not Manos, but some of those others -- they had writers, directors, and actors who wanted to produce a decent, money-making product (not to mention the investors/producers!). I also bet that a number of the movies spoofed by Joel, Mike & the bots had fans at one point. That they were not complete flops at the theater, or in the minds of the theater-goers.

    In many respects, cinema has changed from then to now. Budgets are up all-around, and standards have changed so that we're not likely to see the zippers on monsters anymore. But, as the expression goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Bad writing is still bad writing. Zippers on costumes have been replaced with bad CG effects. And high-budget schlock is arguably worse than the low-budget variety. I expect that 30 years from now, we'll again be able to support an MST3k-type venture. If so, certainly there are movies from our age that they could slam with justice.

    I submit to you that The Golden Compass is one of those movies.

    Reading Philip Pullman's novel was a decent experience. I enjoyed it. After having read the following two novels in his trilogy, I eventually decided that (sadly) Pullman doesn't really know what he was doing, and that The Golden Compass was more the exception than the rule.

    Watching this film, where all of the main plot events are presented at a break-neck, frenetic pace, it made me feel foolish for ever having liked the first novel to begin with. The characters are cardboard (what acting talent went to waste, here!), the plot events are unbelievable (even given the grand latitude I cut children's fantasy), and whatever thematic material there is, is convoluted and obscure.

    This isn't a good movie. It stuffs a mess of exposition into an opening voice over then runs from event to event without time to enjoy anything. I remember in reading the novel that there was some time at the beginning to get to know Lyra before she set out with Mrs. Coulter; here, it happens in the space of about 15 minutes. Seeing the characters come to life points out their basic absurdity, like Lee Scorsby who I could take somewhat seriously in the novel, but not at all here -- he becomes a Texan caricature. Even with its CG world and creatures, this movie never achieves the sense of wonder of, say, a Neverending Story; it has no time for a sense of wonder, and Iorek and Serafina Pekkala are cold substitutes for the likes of Falkor.

    At the least, the movie tries to address some of the shortcomings of Pullman's book, in reorganizing the final events to end on the main plot's climax, and small things like making Lyra's the only extant alethiometer. But those (good) changes can't overcome the central weaknesses of the story which are only heightened by seeing it try to come to life on the screen.

    His Dark Materials is often compared (grossly unfairly) with The Lord of the Rings. They are similar, however, in that I'd imagine it would be hard to make either into good films, given the amount of action and detail in them. The Lord of the Rings was given the running time and the care to pull it off in glorious fashion. The Golden Compass, however much money was put into it, was a failure. It disappoints its source material which, in the final analysis, was never all that great. The only good thing to really come out of this film is that, it did so poorly both financially and critically, that the sequels will almost certainly not get made.

    Another good can be made from this film: fodder for a future version of Mystery Science Theater 3000. What do you think, sirs?...more info