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THE GOLDEN COMPASS 2-Disc Platinum Series plus Best Buy bonus disc
DVD Review by David Blackwell
DETAILS:  113 minutes, 2 disc SE, Best Buy Bonus disc, audio commentary, theatrical trailers, photo galleries, 11 featurettes (on disc 2), 3 featurettes (on Best Buy bonus disc)
VIDEO:  2.35:1 (Anamorphic Widescreen)
AUDIO:  English 5.1 Dolby Surround EX, 2.0 Stereo Surround, 6.1 DTS-ES
Subtitles:  English, Spanish (audio commentary has no subtitle option)
STUDIO:  New Line Cinema/ Ingenious Film Partners/ Scholastic/ Depth Of Field
RELEASE DATE:  4-29-2008

PLOT SYNOPSIS: In a parallel universe, young Lyra Belacqua (of Jordan College in Oxford) journeys to the far North to save her best friend and other kidnapped children from terrible experiments by a sinister religious organization known as the Magesterium. She receives helps from a cowboy airman, gypsies, witches, and a talking armored Polar Bear. A truth telling instrument called The Golden Compass helps guide her journey.

ANALYSIS: THE GOLDEN COMPASS is a misfire. It has great casting, but character development is sometimes skipped over and vital scenes from the book are missing. The film feels a little rushed. The plot isn't developed enough and people who haven't read the novel will feel confused. I loved the novel (known as THE GOLDEN COMPASS in the USA).

Then the movie ends at the wrong point. The studio (and director)  wanted to end the film on an up note and that meant the downbeat climax was removed during editing. If the sequel (based on The Subtle Knife) gets made, the ending will be the start of the sequel). By doing that, the film adaptation of the first book ends weakly. THE GOLDEN COMPASS is a hollow viewing experience only held up by a greatly imagined world (enhanced by CGI) and fantastic casting (Derek Jacobi and Christopher Lee play small parts as council members of the Magesterium). I just hope an extended cut will appear on DVD and that it helps turn the film into a good adaptation instead of just an OK one with a few problems.  I did warm up to the film more on a second viewing and it's not a bad ride despite the flaws in the adaptation.

DISC 1-  writer/ Director Chris Weitz explains why he left out the book's final three chapters in the audio commentary track.

11 featurettes (about 2 hours and 49 minutes total):
THE NOVEL-  Phillip Pullman talks about how he came up with The Golden Compass, his other novels, and his interets.  Actors, producers, the director, fans, and others talk about the impact of The Golden Compass made on them
THE ADAPTATION-  How Chris Weitz came to write and direct the film
FINDING LYRA BELACQUA-  a behind-the-scenes look at the open casting call that ended up with Dakota Blue Richards as Lyra (see bits of her audition tapes).
PRODUCTION DESIGN-  a look at the set design, vehicles, and props.  Phillip Pullman would have loved to made props for films and Sam Elliot points out his character needs cowboy guns (and not fancy guns).
MUSIC-  Compser talks about the temes for characters and places, and using a 120 piece orchestra for the film's score
COSTUMES-  The costume designer and actors talk about the costumes
DAEMONS-  the creation of the CGI daemons and how they got the cast to interact with them via green dots and taxidermy animals.  also a look at the voice recording sessions of the daemons.
THE ALETHIOMETER-  the design and creation of six alethiometers for the film using rapid prototyping and casting.  One alethiometer had programmed motions on a chip.
ARMOURED BEARS-  the design and creation of armor bears.  voice recording sessions of Ian McShane and Ian McKellan.  why they changed the name of Irorek's evil bear brother.
THE LAUNCH-  Dakota Blue Richards taking on the promotion of the film at Cannes and the month it came out (lots of interviews and picture taking).

Seven photo galleries (three are production design galleries) and an interactive gallery are included in addition to the theatrical teaser and two theatrical trailers which show bits of the original climax cut from the film.

3 featurettes toalling over 45 minutes:
MEET THE CAST-  12 actors of the cast are interviewed in brief two minute segments.  Half of the cast (including Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Jim Carter, Derek Jacobi)have read and loved the books.   Jim Carter's daughter was thrilled to have her father play John Faa and while the guy who plays Farder Coram wishes he could have played Lyra (due to the range of material).
STUNTS-  a look at rehearsals and shooring for various stunt work including Lyra's stunt double and Eva Green flying around on wires.
LOCATIONS-  the various locations used in the film and the use of CGI for various scenes by using on location photography.  The part on filming on a glacier in Switzerland is very interesting.

FINAL ANALYSIS:  THE GOLDEN COMPASS is an interesting and yet flawed adaptation of the book.  The extras give a very detailed and fascinating look at the making of the film.

this DVD review is (c)5-5-2008 David Blackwell and cannot be reprinted without permission.  send all comments to lord_pragmagtic@hotmail.com

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