John on November 28, 2007 at 4:50 pm
Aw, such a shame. I hate it when atheist tracts for children don’t work out well:
I’ll cover the good things first, which is easy, because there were only two of them. One, the casting…Good thing number two: the daemons.
And now the bad things, which pretty much includes everything else. The screenplay is appalling: there’s so much plot to be gotten through that nobody has time for anything but exposition. It’s like somebody bent your arm behind your back and angrily frog-marched you through the novel. People are constantly popping up unexpectedly in convenient places for no reason, just because the filmmakers didn’t have time to explain how they got there.
That means the characters have no time to rest and be people, and the world has no time to feel real and rich. And it means compressing key scenes into movie-drivel shorthand — fans of the book will never stop cringing at the handling of Pullman’s best horror-moment, when we meet a child who’s been the victim of intercision. (He doesn’t even have his fish!) Everything becomes clichÃ© action-movie bombast. It’s not enough for Lyra to escape from Bolvangar, she has to destroy the Oblation Board’s evil machinery in a hilarious Bond-via-Austin Powers explosion. It doesn’t help that Weitz — who did great, tender, funny work adapting Nick Hornby’s About a Boy — has no gift for filming action…
So to sum up: there were some nice things, but mostly I thought it was fairly terrible. I haven’t even gotten into the very worst part, which is the ending, which I won’t mention partly to avoid spoilers, but partly because it’s so bad it’s literally unmentionable. My chief worry going into the movie was that they would soft-pedal the anti-church aspects of the novel. Which they did, but quite tastefully — that didn’t bother me at all.
Remember, this review is by someone who is a fan of the books and was worried they wouldn’t be anti-Christian enough. In other words, this is a friendly take.
It’ll still make $65 million opening weekend because, hey, those bears look cool and they spent a wad of cash making sure they did. But I predict a steep drop off after that.
What a shame.