Review: `Golden Compass’ Is Lackluster

January 5, 2008 at 11:11 am Leave a comment

Dakota Blue Richards

Dakota Blue Richards

Nicole Kidman’s presence in the elaborate fantasy flick “The Golden Compass” is emblematic of the movie itself: aesthetically lush but ultimately cold to the touch.

This adaptation of the first novel in British writer Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy has some fanciful moments but never achieves the sense of awe-inspiring wonder of the “Lord of the Rings” films, to which comparisons will be inevitable. It’s also probably too scary for a lot of kids, with its themes of totalitarianism and mind control; adults, meanwhile, may find it hard to take seriously, despite how seriously it takes itself.

Writer-director Chris Weitz (“About a Boy”) takes on the biggest project of his life with this CGI-filled spectacle, which he also had to cram with tons of exposition to set up a potential series. The visual highlight is supposed to be the battle between two powerful, armored polar bears, voiced with ire and gravitas by Ian McKellen and Ian McShane; since this is the film’s signature sequence and we know it’s coming, much of “The Golden Compass” feels like a waiting game until it arrives.

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