‘Compass’ pointing north in shining version of novel

Jenna Gerling

The Golden Compass

Starring Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Dakota Blude Richards

Directed by Chris Weitz

Distributed by New Line Cinema

Rated PG-13 Runtime 113 mins.

Stater rating (out of five): ***

The world that Philip Pullman created in his book “The Golden Compass,” the first of His Dark Materials’ trilogy, is something that truly inspires his readers. Daemons, Dust, witches, aeronauts, armored bears and parallel worlds. In a parallel universe, young Lyra Belacqua journeys to the far North to save her friend Roger and other kidnapped children from terrible experiments by an organization run by the corrupted Church. The story has so many deep, adult-like references behind the fantasy, it’s hard to stop reading.

Director Chris Weitz took this wonderful little adventure and followed it pretty closely. Stunning visuals helped set this parallel world away from reality. Only one problem: He diluted the scenes where tragedy should take place.

He, expecting criticism about the movie’s religious undertones, simply edited out any real mention of religion, and when it came time for their world’s Church to show their ugly side, Weitz cleaned it up. When Lyra is kidnapped and taken from the gypsies, for example, she should have been taken directly to Bolvanger, the clinic where the scientists perform the cruel experiment of removing the child’s soul. What the movie doesn’t show, is after the children are “tested for Dust,” and their daemon is cut from them, they simply die.

Okay, let’s just put this out in the open. I’m a big dork when it comes to children’s fantasy novels like the Harry Potter series and “The Golden Compass.” In “Compass,” you fly with witches, fight with armored bears, confide in your daemon (pronounced demon), conspire with the gypsies — and run from the Magisterium, this parallel world’s Church.

Going into this movie, I had heard nasty little rumors about how the children’s fantasy author, Philip Pullman, was trying to leak atheist messages through the main characters’ evil mission to strike down God and the Church. But honestly, it’s just that — a children’s fantasy story.

Overall, the movie was one which, generally, all could see. It’s fun, adventurous and something out of the ordinary. Just keep an open mind and leave the religious battles to the characters in the story.

Contact all correspondent Jenna Gerling at [email protected].