Posts Tagged ‘movies’

The Golden Compass

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

goldencompass-offposter.jpgHave you ever seen a good movie adaption of a book you’ve read? I haven’t. So I’m doing this one backwards: movie first, then book.

The His Dark Materials series only came onto my radar when I saw the trailer for the movie last year. Josh suggested we check the film out on Sunday, and we headed to the cheapies in Bridgeville. (Sidenote for Pittsburghers: Screenworks 14 is well worth a short drive. $2 tickets!)

The Golden Compass is set in a world parallel to our own. One extraordinary difference is that each person’s soul resides outside their body, in the form of an animal totem called a daemon. When uncle Asriel leaves Lyra at Jordan College so he can travel North to investigate a mysterious substance called Dust, we follow this mischievous young girl as she is plucked from her charge by the suave Ms. Coulter. Lyra is gifted with a surprise birthright before she leaves with the woman: an alethiometer, the last compass of its kind that will lead to truth. All the others have been destroyed by the Magisterium, who Ms. Coulter happens to work for (uh oh!). Lyra discovers that Ms. Coulter is in charge of a project that is kidnapping children and when she tries to steal the alethiometer from Lyra, the girl runs away and her adventure North in search of her uncle and the missing kids — begins.

The tale that unfolds is unlike any other story I’ve experienced, especially on the big screen. There was lots of drama, action, emotion. Storywise, however, I couldn’t help thinking there were things missing. I know that it is inevitable to lose detail that you would get from reading the book, but I was left not caring for things I suspect I should have been more concerned about. For instance, the Dust that the Magisterium wants kept a secret? So much so that they would kill for it? I couldn’t really care. I know it’s supposed to be a mystery, but it would have taken a little more information to actually pique my interest. It is possible to keep certain details hidden from the audience and allow the viewers to still leave feeling satisfied.

With a couple exceptions, I thought the acting was excellent — Dakota Blue Richards does an exceptional job, especially considering the weight of such a strong leading role. The cast seemed to interact well with each other and, most surprisingly, the CGI. There were only a couple times when my mind did a little double-take and said “Aha, that monkey is totally not hugging Ms. Coulter!“.ioric_lyra1.jpg

Visually, it is stunning. The environments are beautiful and believable, the machinery was conceptually inventive, the costume design is great, and character design for the CG characters was good. My favorite CG character should probably be Pan, Lyra’s trusted daemon, since he’s all cute and squeaky and shape-shifting, etc… but my warm and fuzzy feelings are all over Iorek*, exiled prince of the armored bears. Wicked.

I have a couple beefs with The Golden Compass, but all in all it was an enjoyable flick. I would certainly recommend it if you are a fan of the genre, although it might be a little too deep-end fantasy for more casual fans. I personally look forward to the next installment. I’m also getting the soundtrack.

*This affection has nothing to do with the fact that The Sum of David has a butt-kicking polar bear, and that seeing Iorek deal out some awesome Bear Rambo justice on the big screen was all kinds of righteous. None at all.**

**Okay, maybe a little.

“We’re the Ones that Bump Back…”

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

There are a few things that I will go straight up fangirl over. Hellboy is one of them.

Hellboy movie posterJosh spent much of the weekend hibernating against our awesome 20-degree weather, so I popped in the Hellboy movie while he sawed logs on the couch. First off, let me say this: I know it’s not the perfect movie. The graphic version of Seed of Destruction is superior in several ways (the greatest of which is the fact that Sammael doesn’t resurrect fifteen times and we have to watch them battle him over and over. And over.) But it is so much fun. The casting is perfect. No one but Ron Perlman could play Hellboy — playing a giant red demon-man toting a giant stone hand and covered in runic symbols would be impossible for anyone else to pull off. Doug Jones and (the uncredited) David Hyde Pierce are an impeccable Abe Sapian. And even my reading brain didn’t translate Professor Trevor Bruttenholm as well as John Hurt did.

The thing that makes this movie enjoyable for me is the execution of taking the world and story from paper to live action. Hellboy’s creator, Mike Mignola, worked very closely with del Toro to make the creatures and environments rich and believable. I think they do a beautiful job of it — the set of Bruttenholm’s study and the Russian graveyard are especially beautiful in my opinion, and Kroenen and Sapien really are very fantastic. With three discs, the Hellboy special edition is also¬† one of the most extensive bonus features DVD I’ve ever encountered and offers HOURS of yummy documentation of what went into making the world come alive. (Rivaled in size and detail only by LOTR box sets — 7 discs. Yowza.)

Hellboy graphic novelMignola’s Hellboy is a fascinating character. While I am not usually a huge fan of horror in other fiction, I love it in Mignola’s dark, boxy style and the humor he injects into the stories is a nice balance between the gore. I generally love the ‘refusal of destiny’ arc in stories anyway, and throwing in the impending apocalypse via the hero is right up my alley. Combine it with lots of dark folklore, disturbing occult conspiracies, heaven vs. hell, and the whole what makes a man thing — I am one happy camper.

Visually, Mignola’s art is more than drool-worthy. He has an unmistakable style: heavy shadows that can cover an entire page but still insinuate there is so much going on; angular, sometimes abbreviated shapes that lose nothing from their incomplete execution; character designs that challenge your base knowledge of mythological figures (like the stone, iron-maiden goddess Hecate, anyone?); action and framing that is clear and dramatic. And his paintings make me cry tears of jealous, reverential JOY.

JOY!

“Look, Sammy, I’m not a very good shot… but the Samaritan here uses really big bullets.”