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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Golden Compass packs political mysticism, bears

By Lara Avery

If you’re not going to read this review, at least know that in this movie a bear rips off the jaw of another bear. That is all.The cosmic forces have granted all of us one of those days. We get papers back covered in red scribbles, our make-out buddies do not pick up the phone, and when we emerge from our holes, the Minnesota winter kicks us in the face with its frozen, steel-toed boots. Why me, we ask, wishing (but only wishing) to climb the heavenly stairs and give whoever is up there a good beating. That’s right; revenge! Give the Big Man the old one-two in the gut, maybe finish him off forever so we can be in peace. Friends, we are in luck. New Line Cinema now presents that possibility in cinematic form. But don’t tell them that.

Operating on a meager $180 million, director Chris Weitz brought Phillip Pullman’s fantasy novel, “The Golden Compass,” to the screen on Dec. 5. The film premiered to the proverbial feces-storm, not only from nerds like myself who question Weitz’s loyalty to the novel, but also from the Catholic League, who has publicly stated that they “want Christians to stay away from this movie.” What could His Dark Materials, the fantasy trilogy of which “The Golden Compass” is the first book, possibly have to do with Jesus’ dad and his sacred quilting club? Replies Pullman for Wired magazine, “My books are about killing God.”

“The Golden Compass” unfolds in a parallel universe, where the ‘Magisterium,’ seeks to rid the world of ‘Dust’-glittering particles that materialize the corruptive knowledge of sexual and scientific discovery. A fiercely charismatic young girl, Lyra, roams the rooftops of Jordan College with the animal embodiment of her soul called a ‘daemon,’ a concept that accompanies all humans of this universe. Because of her curiosity about Dust, Lyra finds herself in possession of the golden, compass-like ‘alethiometer,’ literally meaning ‘truth measure’ controlled by the devil substance. She journeys to the far North led by her exclusive ability to read the instrument in order to stop the Magisterium from performing ‘intercision.’ Their laboratory aims to cut the spiritual connection between children and their daemons, preventing the pubescent process of getting in touch with the true nature of their soul animal, and repelling Dust from their bodies forever.

Recalling their production of the Passion fueled by our favorite blue-eyed Catholic, New Line thought (minus the gold sparkles) the mission of the Magisterium sounded all too familiar. Needless to say, they were relieved at Weitz’s adaptation of the thinly veiled organization as a seemingly political force. Pullman doesn’t mind that the film leans a tad away from his novel’s blatantly anti-religious message. In Wired he says, “It’s tyranny that’s the bad thing. Totalitarian ways of thought are just as bad when they’re inspired by religion as by some other body of doctrine.”

Though Weitz wielded the obligatory political diaper in lieu of New Line’s pissy-fest, his Catholic-themed choices regarding the portrayal of the Magisterium are no mistake: adorned robes for the governmental officials, as well the cathedral-like high ceilings and gilded, iconic features on the buildings. This is weighty symbolism for targeted PG-13ers, but it takes a back seat to the magic of Pullman’s parallel universe on film, heightened by sweeping, Peter Jackson-esque landscape shots and the characters’ use of old fashioned yet futuristic technology, mirroring the classy bronze finish and non-digital ingenuity of the industrial revolution. Equally riveting are the giant armored polar bears who speak English and engage in mortal combat.

In sync with UK fantasy tradition, the noblest and most powerful of the bears, Iorek Byrnison, is voiced by Gandalf, aka Ian McKellen. The film also features Nicole Kidman as the Magisterium’s seductive pied piper, Mrs. Coulter, and “007’s” Daniel Craig as Lord Asriel, ex-lover of Mrs. Coulter and challenger of ‘the Authority.’ No, you read correctly. James Bond kills God. (Note: this does not happen until the sequels.)

I know what you’re thinking. James Bond? Nicole Kidman? Fighting bears? Truth? This is too good. Something has to go wrong. I had similar doubts when I first watched the film and began to look down so I could stuff Reese’s Pieces in my mouth, prematurely cursing $8.00 and all my hopes down the drain. Then I heard it. No, it can’t be, I thought. Is that Sam Elliott? As I turned my eyes upward and beheld “the-Dude-abides” man himself as ‘aeronaut’ Lee Scoresby in a cowboy hat, I knew everything would be alright. And it was. Heck, even if it isn’t alright and perhaps you’re having one of those days, you’ll find solace in the fantastical world of The Golden Compass. Remember, a bear rips another bear’s jaw off.

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  • D

    David BaileySep 11, 2019 at 11:35 am

    Real informative and good anatomical structure of content, now that’s user genial (:.

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