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Passes the muster

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GOOD SHOW: Nicole Kidman in the film ‘The Golden Compass’.
GOOD SHOW: Nicole Kidman in the film ‘The Golden Compass’.

Movie: The Golden Compass

Cast: Dakota Richards, Nicole Kidman

Director: Chris Weitz

Post Christmas and New Year celebrations, cinemagoers are not easily pleased. Films like “Ishq Hai Tumse” have bit the dust at the box office. Bollywood has reason to fear the New Year; the first Friday in any case. So, we have a field clear for Hollywood worthies. And truth to share, both “Balls of Fury” and “The Golden Compass”, released in a low-key fashion week, deserve a fair run. The films are not so beautiful as to be distracting, yes despite Nicole Kidman having a run in “The Golden Compass”, but they would pass muster.

Based on Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials”, director Chris Weitz’s “The Golden Compass” is the sort of film you need time to warm up to, the sort of film that is easily ignored in the first few frames. However, once you make the necessary concessions – the film talks of everybody having his or her demons who walk alongside unseen – the film keeps you hooked to the proceedings. Then in the finale, comes the most rousing moment of them all as polar bears take on each other in a combat, the sort of which is probably never seen on the big screen in recent times.

So, is the film worth every minute? Well, no. This epic fantasy relating the story of a world where witches rule, and ice bears are the bravest of warriors, has some spectacular cinematography, and some quite intriguing action. In between there are several moments of lull, even tedium as the director takes a long time in coming to grips with his story of a world dominated by magisterium that seeks to control humanity. The path is defied by one girl – debutante Dakota Richards as Lyra – who possesses the golden compass that is actually like a truth meter. Anything of the past, or the future, the compass can tell the little girl, whose job it is to protect it from others, her passport to safety. Her ally? A polar bear who pledges to serve her in the war of all wars.

Talking of a parallel universe, invisible, intangible and inaccessible but people by demons, the director has a fine idea, but, needs some liberty from the viewers. The visuals of an animal walking alongside men, each individual having his demon in an animal, do tend to detract from the merits of the story. Some of the seriousness tends to get spoiled. And the initial pace is lethargic.

However, all ends well, there is an exhilarating finish, some spectacular action, some guile and lots of guts. Kidman, as a scientist, is not quite given the platform she deserves. But little Dakota is pleasantly poised and polished. The film? Worth a visit if you have an open mind and a heart that is receptive to fresh ideas.

ZIYA US SALAM


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