Now rolling in New Moon millions, Chris Weitz is being more open about his troubles with New Line and The Golden Compass, a film that sank one studio and sent him into a tailspin. Rumors abounded as to what went wrong on that film, and as recently as last week, New York's Page Six was claiming that residual stress was causing him to leave the industry.

Weitz denied any such thing to Variety, and announced he was leaving the world of the supernatural behind with his next film, The Gardener. The film centers around a hard working Mexican gardener and his efforts to protect his son, and Weitz will be making it alongside his new best friends forever, Summit Entertainment. His new friendship enabled him to take a parting shot at New Line. Weitz praises Summit and Stephenie Meyer for trusting him with New Moon, an experience that was the polar opposite of the debacle that was The Golden Compass.

Weitz claims that New Line didn't trust him to handle the content of the book, that the film was taken from him in editing. Heavy-handed hacking resulted in losing nearly 30 minutes of footage from the film, and neatly exercised the edgy thrust of Phillip Pullman's book. "It was an utter violation of my status as a director and the worst thing that has happened to me professionally ... I was treated badly, it was almost like they never read the books. They seemed frightened of offending the right." Out of loyalty to the cast and crew, Weitz said he "bit through my tongue" when Compass was released.

As a fan of Pullman's His Dark Materials series, I'd love to see all that missing footage to see if it could salvage Weitz's film, and if New Line really neutered it.

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My gut watching it was no one involved, not even Weitz, seemed to understand the so-called "touchy" content, and that more emphasis had been put on the glittery steampunk effects than the script. I remember I described it to other Pullman fans as "they took the book, threw darts at it, and adapted the pages with holes in them" because it was so far removed from anything in the book. But hey, that could have simply been a hack editing job, though I am skeptical 30 minutes could restore every plot hole.

Some of the blame has to be put on Weitz. The sets were beautiful, but nothing was particularly convincing, and none of it felt like a world you could live in. Nothing from the daemons to the character descriptions seemed to match the descriptions of the book -- a fannish nitpick to be sure, but if there's one thing Lord of the Rings proved in spades, it's that you can honor the fine points without losing the scope. Many of the actors were miscast (Eva Green and Sam Elliott being notable exceptions) or misdirected. The latter is an excuse I'd like to give the young Dakota Blue, who was so bland and empty as Lyra that it rendered the spunky heroine into empty exposition. Again, poor performances can be a creation of bad editing, but I believe that there would be a scene or two of hope if that was the case.

The whole product felt like it was by a team that didn't care about the text at all. It was a job, an Insta-Trilogy that a studio and a filmmaker latched onto because they could see a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. I'd love to believe that Weitz was truly railroaded on the film, but nothing I saw of the finished product suggested there was much to ruin. What do other Pullman fans think? Could The Golden Compass have been salvaged in editing, or do you think more was rotten in the college of Oxford than Weitz would have us believe?
categories Movies, Cinematical