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golden
Illustration by Evan Keeling

I read a lot of books when I was a young adult. My dad had a gigantic library of about 8 to 10 bookshelves packed floor to ceiling with tons of different tomes in various locations around the house. This didn’t even include all of the other books that were packed away in boxes in the basement*. And even though I constantly scoured it for new and interesting things to read, I completely missed out on The Golden Compass, and basically the entire Philip Pullman trilogy. I could tell you it was because I was too busy reading important trashy historical fiction novels like Aztec and Raptor**, but that would indicate I am younger than I actually am. In reality, I was a senior in high school when it came out, and much too busy polluting my brain with the demon marijuana to care about a coming of age fantasy novel about 13 year old girl. I was more interested in getting drunk and doing important things like watching my friend projectile vomit into 6 freshly made Bombay sapphire and tonics.

*No, not the Playboys. There were in a different place.

**Which I did discover in my Dad’s book collection when I was in 8th grade. One is about an Aztec who loses his virginity to his sister and contains graphic descriptions of cannibalism and human sacrifice. Raptor is about a hermaphrodite living in the dark ages who gets raped by a priest then kills people for a living. Both are by Gary Jennings.

Good thing, then, that I get to be exposed to this through the film version of the first novel in the Philip Pullman Trilogy, The Golden Compass. Well, I guess it’s good. The one thought that kept coming back to me during the film, was that I would have REALLY enjoyed this if one, I was in middle school, and two, I was actually reading the actual book, and could imagine all of this stuff on my own. Sometimes even good CGI doesn’t do as good a job as your own imagination. Unless you made Transmorphers, and then your imagination (and CGI expertise) far outweighs mine, my friend.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxt72D9E-X4

The Golden Compass is the story of a young girl, Lyra Belacqua (Dakota Blue Richards***), who is gifted with a magic alethiometer (i.e. compass) that lets her see the truth. She is the only person who can read it, and so is a very hot commodity among the groups(you know, witches, Egyptians, etc.) in the film. She is on a mission to find her missing friends who have been kidnapped and secreted off to a remote experimental lab in the arctic run by the government. Along the way, she is helped and hindered by various characters, including a cowboy played by Sam Elliott, a mysterious woman named Mrs. Coulter****(Nicole Kidman), and a giant talking bear who sounds exactly like how you would imagine talking bears to sound like: the dude who played Gandalf, or Ian McKellen.

***I totally want to smack this kid’s parents in their respective gonads. This is this first film she’s ever been in. How much do you want to bet that her name was Sally Jane Richards before she got the part?

****I wish her first name was Ann, because that would have been incredible. Especially when the whole improvised “John Edwards is a faggot” routine occurred, even though it seemed a little out of place in this movie.

The film, as previously mentioned, is the first part of a trilogy, which means it doesn’t really end in a very satisfying way. I felt like I just invested 2 hours of my life for something that will not have any resolution for me for another 4 or 5 years. I mean, I could read the books, but who really wants to read with all that good television on these days. The Big Bang Theory doesn’t exactly watch itself, you know.

Apart from that little sticking factor, the film is actually pretty enjoyable.Too bad, then, that it arrived just a little too late on the timeline in the “young adult fantasy trilogy adapted from a novel” genre. Lord of the Rings is to Motley Crue as The Golden Compass is to Cinderella. One of them is totally awesome. The other one is still OK, but just not as good, and never will be. Hollywood can’t seem to make any interesting movies without coming from another source these days. Even the best movie I’ve seen all year was adapted from a book. And let me give you a hint, that book wasn’t the Bible*****.

*****The Secret, obviously

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Speaking of the Bible, and religion in general, the best part of the story was the larger focus apart from Lyra trying to save her kidnapped friends. An Oppressive Government called the Magesterium (read: the Church) is trying to control information about a substance called dust. The Magesterium doesn’t want people to think for themselves, and are especially protective of this dust stuff. So much so, that when a scientist(Daniel Craig) tries to investigate dust, a Magesterium official tries to poison him. Hmmm…does this sound familiar to you? I don’t know about you but there’s a current group of people in power who seem to be only interested in science that supports their whacked out ideas. That’s right. Scientologists. Maybe they should get some of this dust stuff******, but exactly what it is or does, goes unexplained. I guess that’s for the second film, or possibly the third one. Or maybe it is never revealed what dust is. I don’t know. What I do know is that it won’t be explained to me for a long time now, and I don’t particularly care. There are plenty of other young adult novels I have to read before I get to this one. I still haven’t finished Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, and I think it’s high time I did.

******I couldn’t help but thinking that if it was really Dust, that maybe the Magesterium just didn’t want people to listen to Paul’s Boutique, but I digress.

Next Week: uhhh…Will Smith + Vampires + a Dog = I Am Legend. Til then, I’m going to go get my E-Meter reading. Stay positive, kids.

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