When I read this book the first time, I was a little older than the protagonist’s age. I’ve reread the books twice since, in audiobook form last year, and yesterday before I saw the movie. I love the HDM trilogy because is an extremely well done fantasy series that is complex and layered. It’s definitely not just for kids and is rereadable for a variety of reasons including the questions and ideas it elicits.
The idea of a movie has been around for a long time, and I remember there had been some issues with the script and switching of directors. I am really glad it has been done. I enjoyed myself. It was great to see all the concepts in the books such as the daemons, and Iorek visualized. The special effects were some of the best things about the book. The casting is fantastic. I think everyone, including newcomer Dakota Blue Richards, did a fine job. I really want to the film to do well; this is actually the first time I’ve been in a movie theatre since May 2006. The success of this movie will determine whether New Line green lights the other two films. The ending is abrupt as a result which brings me to more in depth comments below.
Even though I’m really supportive of adaptations for this series, it really can not capture the spirit of the books. The movies are intended for general audiences, and the books get quite a bit darker toward the end. This is the least dark of the books, and they had to lighten quite a bit to make people understand it and less controversial (ancestors instead of “Adam and Eve”; the word “Church” is notably avoided). The pace of the books is slower and more reflective which isn’t suitable for film adaptations. You get the same sense from the movie that they tried to rush things to move faster than the book allowed. I don’t envy the filmmakers one bit even though I want them to continue this series just for the visuals. I still really want to see the other two movies, and I hope they do them at the same time because Dakota Blue Richards is going to grow up very quickly. They have to cast Will as well. I think with the ending of the books, both the actors will have to end up being around 16 rather than the 12 or 13 in the books. Their relationship in the books is complex as it is, and when they put it on screen, they’ll dumb it down by making the kids older I think.
The soundtrack was a bit lacking. Desplat’s scores were okay in parts, meh in others. The song they played during the credits was awful. It just kept repeating “Lyra” over and over. That was the most irritating thing from the film really.
I really did like the casting job. They had Derek Jacobi, Christopher Lee, and Ian McKellan as the voice of Iorek! I’m very glad Mr. Pullman got his first choice in Nicole Kidman as Mrs. Coulter. I hope the Coulter/Asriel scene they cut at the end of the first book (they ended three chapters early to avoid the movie ending on a sad note) is kept in all its sexy glory in the next movie. Not enough Daniel Craig in the film, but then again you can never have enough of him. Eva Green’s first scene at Serafina Pekkala felt a bit disjointed since they changed so much. Serafina and Lord Asriel never have a scene together in the books, but I secretly wish they would in the films because I loved their chemistry in Casino Royale. I really want to rewatch CR now.
I actually want to rewatch TCG too because there are a couple of cute moments even though the series is not exactly humorous. I’m pleased, but this adaptation is quite the case of “If you haven’t read the books, you’re missing out on a lot.”