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His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass

Release Date: December 7, 2007
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Movie of the Day for Tuesday, October 12, 2004
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I'm not really old enough for makeup yet.

On the Big Board
Position Staff In Brief
19/33 John Seal Like many 'first chapters', a bit too complex
33/94 Shane Jenkins Pefectly serviceable. I bet if I'd read the book, I'd have hated it though.
118/214 Max Braden Everything here feels stolen from George Lucas or J.K. Rowling. At least polar bears are finally depicted as really intimidating.

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After conquering the world with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, New Line Cinema's next big book-to-cinema adaptation is somewhat more ambitious. While Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy is in fact considered to be a children's story, it is a dark, scientific and occasionally weighty theological work that is finding a devoted adult audience as well.

The series is comprised of three books - The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife and the Amber Spyglass. Each of the novels has its own distinct tone and theme, and the studio will start out by making a standalone film out of The Golden Compass. Depending on the success of that tale, they may venture into sequel territory for the two books that follow.

The first book, The Golden Compass, introduces us to the character that will be the focus of the entire trilogy. Lyra Belacqua is an orphan who runs wild in the halls of Oxford and is under the care of the elders there. Lyra's world is very much like ours, but also somehow different. Most noticeably, all of the humans who live in her Oxford have daemons, talking animals that can never stray far from their person's side, with the almost Jiminy Cricket-like role of playing conscience. The daemons of children can change their animal appearance at will, but once human and daemon reach a certain age, the form is set.

For Lyra's part, she is incredibly close to her daemon, Pantalaimon. The two of them are content to act almost as urchins in the halls of the esteemed school and in the streets of the city, but that suddenly changes when children start to vanish. The rumors surrounding these disappearances are alarming enough, and when Lyra's good friend Roger goes missing, it becomes even more terrifying. So it seems that it is Lyra's very good fortune to be taken in by the lovely and sophisticated Mrs. Coulter on the orders of our heroine's Uncle Asriel.

Things, aren't as they seem, though. Not only does Mrs. Coulter have an absolutely terrifying daemon, a vicious golden monkey, but it seems likely that this refined woman is actually involved in the kidnapping of the children herself. Lyra escapes and joins a family of gypsies in their search for a son that was snatched in hopes that she might be able to also help her friend Roger.

That is only the beginning of the adventure, though. Lyra will encounter many amazing creatures and people in her journeys, from a polar bear named Iorek Byrnison to angels to a boy that will become the most important person in her life. She continues on her journeys never really comprehending the pivotal role that she will play not only in her own world, but many parallel universes as well.

His Dark Materials, like the Tolkien trilogy, already has the benefit of a built-in fan base that will be rabidly awaiting its release. While not nearly as widely read as anything like The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter or the Chronicles of Narnia, it still is well-loved enough that it has already merited a BBC Radio production of the stories. In that enactment, Lord Asriel was portrayed by the inimitable Terence Stamp. Hopefully the movie cast will be equally impressive. (Kim Hollis/BOP)


Vital statistics for His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass
Main Cast Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Eva Green
Supporting Cast Dakota Blue Richards
Director Chris Weitz
Screenwriter Chris Weitz
Distributor New Line Cinema
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



Comparison films for His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass
Title
Date
Opening
Adjusted Opening
Screens
PSA
Adj PSA
Total BO
Adjusted Total
Mult
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone 11/16/0190.29 96.36 3672 24590.00 25242.8 317.56 338.93 3.52
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets 11/15/0288.36 91.86 3682 23997.00 23997.0 261.99 272.39 2.97
Lord of the Rings, The: The Return of the King 12/19/0372.62 72.62 3703 19614.00 19614.0 377.02 377.02 0.00
Lord of the Rings, The: The Two Towers 12/20/0261.50 63.94 3622 16980.00 16980.0 340.48 353.99 4.89
Lord of the Rings, The: The Fellowship of the Ring 12/21/0147.21 50.38 3359 14055.00 14428.1 313.84 334.96 6.06


     


 
 

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