Who ever would have thought one of the most controversial films of 2007 would be a family fantasy film? Let's set aside the politics and religion for the moment, though, and take a look at how director Chris Weitz (About a Boy) did at adapting the first book in Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. When I heard a year or so ago that a film adaptation of The Golden Compass was coming, my biggest concern was not the controversial aspects of the story, but the sheer breadth and depth of the information that would have to be compressed into two hours or so of film time. Much like the Harry Potter adaptations, an awful lot happens in the books, and you're not going to cover it all without crossing some chasms with big leaps and threading things together with substantial exposition. Nonetheless, Weitz does a fair job at piecing it all together -- at least, if you've read the books. If you're going into the film having never read the books, you might have to concentrate a little harder to follow along.

The orphaned Lyra (newcomer Dakota Blue Richards) lives at Jordan College, where she was placed by her Uncle, Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig). Lyra is a free spirit of a child, shunning more scholarly pursuits in favor of running wild with her best friend Roger (Ben Walker), the kitchen boy, waging games of pretend war against the gyptian children who come to town when their water-dwelling tribes' ships dock there for trade. All the children live in fear of the Gobblers, mysterious boogey-men said to steal children away -- poor children, mostly, servant kids, and the children of the gyptians (it seems that in Lyra's world, much as in our own, no one much cares if the poor kids on the fringe of society disappear).

categories Reviews, Cinematical