Thursday, February 08, 2007

We Can't Wait #9 His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass

Dakota Richards asks the compass a life-altering question: "Will I be as famous as Dakota Fanning?"

My friends are mostly voracious readers. Me, not so much. It sometimes takes me months to slog through a book. That's partially because I am easily distracted but mostly because I like pictures - pretty pretty pictures. Nevertheless I read through all three books in the pictureless His Dark Materials trilogy so fast I was breathless from the journey and shocked at my stamina. What's more there were some incredible pictures bursting in my mind's eye. Philip Pullman's fantasy epic is too difficult to summarize (good luck marketing team) but the extreme basic is this: In an alternate version of our world, A young girl Lyra (Dakota Blue Richards) who lives among academics in Oxford is torn between two extremely powerful and mysterious adults (Nicole Kidman & Daniel Craig) with no idea how to navigate the world's political/religious tensions. Lyra discovers she's in great danger. Unsure of who to trust she embarks on an incredible journey involving witches, child thieves, magical compasses, armored polar bears, witches, and gypsies.

It's an enormous fantasy trilogy both in theme, story, amount of characters and breadth of vision. Like Lord of the Rings, which became a phenomenon all over again six years back, these books almost seem too gargantuan for the screen. I wouldn't be surprised if the budget set new records. The Golden Compass is being directed by Chris Weitz (About a Boy) and is due in theaters everywhere on December 7th.

So I'm asking my blog friends the questions this time. Joe, the production crew for The Golden Compass includes Alexandre Desplat (Composer), Dennis Gassner (Art Direction) and Ruth Myers (Costumes) all of whom are completely capable of delivering the 'wow'. Will this be the best looking / sounding movie of 2007?

Joe: It’s in the running with Sweeney Todd (Darius Wolski, Dante Ferretti, Colleen Atwood, Sondheim) and There Will Be Blood (Jon Brion, Robert Elswit), but yes, this has got some stellar below-the-line talent.

Nathaniel: The book is famously anti-religion... or, at the very least, adamantly anti organized religion. This ain't Narnia. Discuss.

Lulu: I'm dying for some fantasy flick to do the hero thing w/o Jesus imagery (Narna, LotR, Pan's Labyrinth). But I's gots a funny feeling that this'll either bomb harder than we can fathom or go all cultural phenom on us. 'Twill be innersting.

Nathaniel: How the hell will they pull off an armored talking polar bear without making the audience erupt into giggles?

JA: I would've asked the same question about a walking and talking tree or an armored giant elephant or a tiny person fighting with an invisible tiny person on his back for a piece of jewelry pre- LoTR, and Peter Jackson managed those without inciting giggles, but rather awe (well, the invisible Gollum fight is a little silly still), so if Weitsz can manage to get Iorek's fearsomeness across, I think we'll be okay.

We need all the violence of that bear-on-bear battle intact, in other words.

Nathaniel: Finish this mathematical equation. Nicole Kidman + Daniel Craig =

Gabriel: Gabriel exploding with hormonal happiness

Nathaniel: Finally, this perplexes me. Why are all child actors named Dakota?

Joe: Because that generation of parents didn’t want their child to grow up with a name so drab and common that, say, they were the fifth “Joe” in their classroom and thus reduced to ridiculous additions of their last initial in order to maintain any semblance of identity. Uh...probably. And, because irony’s a bitch, now there are five Dakotas and six Austins per classroom now.

previously on "we can't wait"
#10 Grindhouse, #11 Bug, #12, Sunshine, #13 Southland Tales, #14 300, #15 Hot Fuzz, #16 Stardust, #17 The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, #18 Spider-Man 3, #19 Rendition, #20 The Bourne Ultimatum
Intro -films that didn't make the list

related articles for new readers
"reel diversons/reel despair" -my worries about religious pressures neutering the adaptation of His Dark Materials * Daniel Wroughton Craig -one of my favorite actors well before Casino Royale brought him a new legion of fans * "We Are All Nicole Kidman" -a quiz * Nicole Kidman She's (Almost) Back *

tags: Daniel Craig, Golden Compass, Nicole Kidman, movies, polar bears, Dakota Blue Richards, fantasy, books, trilogy


Glenn Dunks said...

Well, I don't really know anything about these books, but, er, it's got Nicole looking all divalicious (that gold dress!) and I suppose it'll be a big hit and get some technical Oscar nods at least (my god, I hope now that Desplat finally has his first nod that he is a regular like John Williams). But, yeah, Nicole and Daniel and the slight desire to see a child actor called Dakota get a role that the other Dakota could only dream about.

Imagine if Elle Fanning ever got way more famous than Dakota. Dakota would flip her shit all over the place, I bet.

Simon said...

Should be great.

Anonymous said...

why is everything on this list so genre? weird. can't say many of these have me too excited.

Anonymous said...

Eva Green! <3 What is Serafina Pekkala's role like?

Anonymous said...

Some journalists/bloggists were invited to the set last month, Rottentomatoes, CHUD, AICN, etc., have written up the impression they got of what they were shown and all have very good things to say about TGC. With the little scenes that they were shown, there was excellent words on the cast.

Here are some links with the set visit report:

An extra's comment:

Anonymous said...

every single one of those set visits keep saying how damn good Kidman is in a big scene that was shown. If its really good, I could see Kidman actually getting nominated ala Ian for LOTR.


Eva Green plays a witch (a flying witch) with a mysterious agenda. The witches are minor characters except for her. She's quite important and should have at least a couple of great scenes.

crucial characters are (in order of screentime unless they've changed a lot)

LYRA -dakota blue richards
& her constant companion Pantalaimon (CGI animal)

supporting but large roles
MRS. COULTER -Nicole Kidman
IOREK -(CGI polar bear ;)

should have a couple big scenes
DANIEL CRAIG -Lord Asriel (he's not in a ton of the book but I wouldn't be surprised if his part is beefed up)
EVA GREEN -Serafina
SAM ELLIOTT -Lee scoresby

2nd tier supporting...
Jim Carter as John Faa
Tom Courtenay as Farder Corum
Charlie Rowe & Clare Higgins as Billy & Ma Costa

at least this is how i remember the book. but i highly recommend you read it. It's one of those books that no matter how good the movie is, they'll have to leave a ton of it out.

Anonymous said...


Unknown said...

I also highly recommedn everyone read The Golden Compass. It's breathtaking.

And Nicole Kidman looks amazing. But, as I remember it, (and I only read the book three months ago), her character Mrs. Coulter has a very small part in the first book. Her presence is felt throughout as an ominous, far-reaching threat, but she actually appears very rarely...

Jason Adams said...

And with this series, like with the equally great The Dark Is Rising series that's being made into films, it'll be interesting to see how they approach the fact that the 2nd books jump into a completely different world without any characters we've seen in the previous incarnation, at least until late in the story.

I mean, Book 2 of His Dark Materials, The Subtle Knife, from what I remember is about the new character of Will in his own (our) world until what, halfway through? Maybe it's less than that, it's been awhile since I read it. But Lyra and her story doesn't show up for awhile again.


i imagine they'd merely shift the chronologies a bit or do some cross cutting. they'd never risk that bewilderment.