Adventures in Reading

Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass: The Movie
January 11, 2008, 12:40 pm
Filed under: fiction, thoughtful

I gave in and went and saw The Golden Compass. I had pretty much decided that I was not going to bother, but when our local (i.e. not a chain or mega theatre) theatre decided to show it over the weekend I gave in to support local business and arts. In retrospect, I wish I had given them my $4 as a donation and spent the evening elsewhere. The Golden Compass film was terrible and butchered the book. I also left flabbergasted at why anyone would be so terrible upset with the movie. [1]

A while ago another blogger I read (and unfortunately cannot remember) posted about the film adaptations of books, and how – and this was specifically with the movie industry that has cropped up entirely dedicated to Jane Austen – the adaptation also includes the director’s, screen writer’s, actor’s, etc. interpretation. Thus, any adaptation you see has the possibility of being very different from your own or the author’s interpretation. (Which I suppose makes one wonder what Jane Austen would think about all of the films representing her novels?) Admittedly, some of my favorite film adaptations have very interesting interpretations such as Akira Kurosawa’s Ran an adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear.

Regardless, the movie was disappointing and I now have new reservations to see any more film adaptations of books I have enjoyed. Granted, the dæmons were lovely and it is always intriguing to see the visual or landscape representations. The film though quite distanced itself from the plot and made the film feel very cut up. A good number of the scenes also seemed directly pulled from Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. To cap it off, the song played over the credits was performed by one of my favorite artists (Kate Bush) and it was fairly terrible too.

[1] I realize that people are “concerned” that the movie will lead to the book being read. However, if I had never read the book and only seen the movie I would have to conclude that the book was rubbish and would not bother.


I’m not that excited about seeing the film either. It costs $4 to go to the movies where you live?! It costs $10+ where I live!

Comment by T Y

I was disappointed by the movie because it felt like it was a patchwork of the story missing a sense of continuity. It reminded me of one of those “previously in the series” moments in an overly complicated TV series where they spend the first 5 minutes reminding you of what happened because they can’t tell the story very well.

I think a lot of people have lifted Pullmans works higher than they deserve because he is “not-Rowling”. Which is a shame in a sense because they are not inherently bad books. Even more disappointing is that there is a far superior “anti-Rowling” in Terry Pratchett who is a great children’s writer and who’s ideas are much more stimulating than Pullman.

Hopefully after the TV version of Hogfather someone might bully Tim Burton or Terry Gillam into making a go of one of the Pratchet children novels. As long as it doesn’t get Disneyfied.

Comment by Martin Bentley

Hi, I just wandered over here from…somewhere. But I just wanted to say that from one bibliophile to another – I love your blog! :) I’d also like to add that I wasted $10 bucks to go see this at a sneak peak a week before it came out and I was ABSOLUTELY disgusted. I’d seen some bad film adaptations in my time, but that one took the cake.

But from what I could hear, the people in the audience who hadn’t read the book, saw how choppy it was, thought that major and good things had been left out and promised to read the book, which they figured was probably a lot better. In fact, when I went to buy the second book in the series just after I saw the movie, I saw a few of my fellow audience members picking up their copy of the first one.

I wanted to stop and tell them, “Trust me. The book is so must better. You won’t be disappointed.” Alas, I’m too shy for that.

Comment by J.S. Peyton

TY: Fortunately, very close to my house is a small, independent theatre and over the weekends they have a “Hollywood Blockbuster” film. Particularly considering my student financial situation I adore their $4 movies.

Martin: I am glad I am not the only one who felt the film was patchy. Even considering what they left out, the lack of fluidity was atrocious. I do agree that I think Pullman is getting a bit too much face time as his books are good and decent, but I doubt they would be getting near the amount of press if Pullman had not been atheist. For Pratchett: my fingers are still crossed that Good Omens will come out sooner rather than later.

J.S.: Thanks for the compliment! While my intention for this blog is purely selfish I love that others have been enjoying it. The book is definitely better than the film and I can understand how the film could pique someone’s interest just enough to talk them into spending a few bucks on the book. And for a word of advice, in my experience it is always okay to butt into a bookish conversation!

Comment by bookchronicle

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