There are many parallel universes, all connected by the mythical golden substance: dust. In one such universe, souls are separate from humans and walk beside them as animals. In this world, Lyra is given a Golden Compass, a device that can unveil truth and the true nature of things as they really are. Their power threatened by this compass, the evil Magisterium seeks to gain control of it.
This is a positively strange film. It is littered with beautiful pictures and delicous Jules-Verne-style retro-decorative elements, yet there’s no time to dwell on the pretty vistas. It is extremely well produced, starring big-name actors, yet it feels like they could have cast anyone and it would be all the same. It touches upon grand themes like what religion does to a childs mind, yet at the same time it all feels like I’ve seen this fantasy story a dozen times before. The entire film is told in a distinctly child-friendly way, yet there’s just enough violence that one starts to ponder who this film is made for. It’s has all the elements of a great fantasy story: good is good and evil is evil, yet I find the story rather hard to follow. Finally, it seems to me that spending $200M on the first film in a trilogy is a rather big gamble, when it can hardly stand on its own—should the second one not be made.
Make no mistake, this is a gorgeous movie, and feels just right for this time of the year. It’s also a good movie, that could have been great had it been paced differently with just a tad more character development. I want this movie to succeed, just to see what happens next. So here’s hoping the film makes enough that Lyras golden compass can point to the symbol that says “sequel”.