Every now and then, two competing movie studios come out with movies that are remarkably similar in theme. My go-to example of this is always The Matrix and The Thirteenth Floor. Both are about people living inside of a computer world. They were released by rival movie studios (Warner Bros. and Columbia, respectively) and about two months apart (almost to the day). My guess is that Columbia got the scoop that Warner Bros. had this great idea in the pipe, and then scrambled to either find or make a script that had the same theme, to try and cash in on the other studio’s work. The reason I bring this up, is because it has been my experience that when two movies with similar themes come out, the first one to be released is the better of the two films.
Going into The Golden Compass I knew that as I watched the movie, I was going to compare it to Stardust; a movie that I loved. I tried really hard not to compare them, but they are both based on fantasy novels, had well known actors playing unexpected, yet remarkably similar roles (DeNiro as an air-pirate in Stardust, and Sam Elliott as an aeronaut in The Golden Compass; Michelle Pfeifer as a witch, and Nicole Kidman as … well … a “witch”), hell, they both had Ian McKellen in them. Not only that, but they both only had his voice. In Stardust, he was the narrator, and in The Golden Compass he was an animated bear.
I tried to like The Golden Compass. I really did. But it was bad. The direction was terrible; everyone gave a lackluster performance – even Sam Elliott, one of my favorite actors (I liked him in Ghost Rider…that is how much I like Sam Elliott). The whole film was bland and boring to look at; there was no color in the movie at all. I had absolutely nothing invested in any of the characters. It didn’t matter what happened to any of them, which meant that the moments that were probably supposed to be intense, or nerve-wracking were simply neither. Worst of all, I didn’t know it was part of a trilogy until it was too late. When the end credits rolled, I was left with the same feeling I had after seeing the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie (or what I like to call the first half of the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie).
Watching the movie, I couldn’t help but think that the book must be so much better. The problem is that the movie left such a bad taste in my mouth, I have no interest in the book. When the bear was explaining his back story, I got the impression that it was probably several chapters of the book, and they rushed through it in about two and a half minutes in the movie. The same goes for when they explained the “Dust” and the idea of Demons.
There were three good things about this movie (exactly the number of bad things about Stardust … coincidence?).
- The concept of Demons was really cool, but it also brought up consistency issues.
- The conclusion of the bear fight was AWESOME, but this movie is supposed to be for kids, and if I had any, I would be pissed that they saw that.
It was over quickly, or at least it seemed to end quickly. It was almost two hours long.
If you are thinking about going to see this movie, I have but one suggestion. Spend less money and rent Stardust. Well, two suggestions. The other? Spend a little more money and buy Stardust.