Thursday, December 13, 2007

I just finished re-reading The Golden Compass (AKA Northern Lights) by Philip Pullman.

Re-reading the book has lowered my opinion of the movie. Inevitably, a movie has to remove a lot of the complexity from a book, particularly complexity internal to a character, but in this case, I think the creators of the film over-simplified things. They also made a few odd choices, like changing the order of some events for no clear reason.

Probably the biggest mistake is the ending. When watching the movie, the ending felt vaguely un-satisfying but the overall movie had been enjoyable, so I brushed that feeling aside. After having re-read the book, it is clearly a huge mistake. The current ending of the movie leaves too many things un-resolved, particularly on an emotional level, and wouldn't have led well into the next film. The book's ending is much more powerful. Since the original ending was actually filmed, hopefully it will show up on the DVD version of the movie.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Over the weekend, I saw the movie version of The Golden Compass and finished Maelstrom by Peter Watts.

The Golden Compass is a good adaptation of the children's/young adult fantasy book Northern Lights by Philip Pullman. It is a good adaptation of the book but not up to the high standard set by the Lord of the Rings films. The book has been simplified in this adaptation, and a lot of the explicit religious references have been pulled out. What remains is the basic plot and a lot of colourful fantasy elements. I saw it with someone who had not read the book and she said afterwards that she could follow the plot, so it is not absolutely necessary to read the book before you see it but it is highly recommended.

Sadly, it looks like this movie won't come anywhere near earning back it's huge costs so the chances of seeing the rest of the trilogy in film is small. One odd thing is there there doesn't seem to be a movie version of the novel in the stores. This is such an obvious, and ubiquitous, cross marketing move that it's lack here is very strange and surprising. I was in a book store just after the movie ended and a number of people were looking for the book and there were not a lot available, and the ones that were were either part of an omnibus of the whole trilogy or were more expensive trade paperback versions. There was also some confusion because the movie says at the end that is is based on the book Northern Lights but doesn't point out that the in America, the book was renamed The Golden Compass. I'm also re-reading the book right now to compare it to the film but might not write about it here after I am done.

The book I finished was Maelstrom, the sequel to Starfish, by Peter Watts. Maelstrom is a direct sequel, continuing the action just after the end of Starfish, exploring the fallout of the ending of the first book and following a few of the characters as they move from the depths of the ocean to wandering around North America. Some of the scientific speculation is interesting but the relentless dystopian world Watts has created gets to be pretty tiring. I discussed Starfish here.

Amazon Links:


Northern Lights (AKA The Golden Compass)