Review: ‘The Golden Compass’

Paul W.S. Anderson

Despite aversion from U.S. audiences, New Line's "The Golden Compass" picked up the right trail overseas for $300 million in foreign coin this past winter.

Despite aversion from U.S. audiences, New Line’s “The Golden Compass” picked up the right trail overseas for $300 million in foreign coin this past winter. Now the Chris Weitz-helmed fantasy pic is getting a two-disc platinum release, which should prove tempting to American viewers as well as foreign buyers. There’s two-and-a-half hours of special features, including an intricate behind-the-scenes look at the film’s award-winning production design team; stars Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman, however, are notably absent.

The pre-production docs are top notch here, beginning with “The Alitheometer,” a meticulous portrait of the prop team’s research and assemblage of the Golden Compass or “truth measurer” in four weeks’ time.

Another bright spot is “Armoured Bears,” a fascinating breakdown of the panserbjorne fight sequence, which took animators a grueling six months to create, starting with a “hokey” reenactment using paper miniatures, a foamcore arena and a lipstick cam.

Newcomer Dakota Blue Richards shines as ‘Lyra’ in the pic and is effortlessly cute in the casting segment ‘Finding Lyra’ as well as the ‘Launch’ scenes at the Cannes Film Festival.

Otherwise, New Line tries a little too hard to create a Cinderella story with moments like “The Adaptation,” which features Chris Weitz being appointed director and writer. Weitz, who’s come a long way since “American Pie,” admits in the segment that he had difficulty condensing author Phillip Pullman’s epic novel into a screenplay and quits the director gig after months of pre-production.

After a year off (and the admission that New Line “scraped the bottom of the barrel” for him), the director eventually reassumes the “Compass” gig. Still, Weitz never really appears to transcend the risky nature of the project; at one point, he looks awfully intimidated to be a part of the “magical” experience of making movies.

The Golden Compass

$34.99; Release date: April 29, 2008.


New Line Home Video


AC-3, Dolby, subtitled, widescreen. Running Time: 113 Minutes.


Dakota Blue Richards, Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig
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