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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Re-thinking Lyra (the movie)

I posted this on Child_lit and thought that it should be here as well. I don't want to prevent people from going to see the movie. So much of it is done right and beautifully. It will be a shame if it doesn't reach a large audience!

After almost a week -- I finally have to come to terms with my own
inability to judge this movie. I plan on seeing it again, putting
aside my pre-conceived notions on what the movie should have been and
just see it as it IS -- a movie based on a book... a book that I have
come to love and treasure more and more, the longer it lives in my

I have posted on my online journal the initial reactions from me and
the group of teens who went to the movie with me. And on Monday, I
had a chance to talk to a group of 6th graders who saw the movie over
the weekend. Here's the link of the school blog recording what they
had to say: http://blogs.dalton.org/thereadingnook/?p=320

What warms my heart is the level of intensity in the discussion over
this adaptation -- they have a LOT a LOT to say and they say with
conviction and passion -- they know ALL the details in the book and
they want the movie to convey every single important element in the
book -- and the elements they care about are not just action and plot.
They care about the rendition of the characters; the relationships
between the characters; the "hidden" messages; the importance of
minute moments; the pacing and story form; the struggle between the
light and the dark; and the ambiguity of the characters and their
actions. It is truly satisfying to hear these young readers take the
book so seriously and so much to heart. I think it is cause for

Now, if I don't have to read so many new books for my Notables duty,
I'll be re-reading the book! I'll do what Monica's been doing --
listening to it soon.

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Seen Lyra

Friday night, thirteen of us, two librarians, a college student, and 10 middle and high school fans of the book, went to see the 10:20 p.m. showing of The Golden Compass. It's an event that had been much anticipated and the excitement level couldn't be higher! We watched as the familiar story unfold on a huge screen with beautifully crafted backdrops and set designs telling a rearranged and much abbreviated story. We agreed wholeheartedly that Lyra and Mrs. Coulter couldn't have been cast better. Dakota Blue Richards is a perfect Lyra with a most fierce and sincere performance. Nicole Kidman is just right for this beautiful and brutal seductress role. The other characters are all adequate with the exception of Eva Green who just doesn't seem to embody her role as described in the book, and of course we absolutely adored the CG creatures: the Daemons and Iorek are superbly rendered. But, then, we got annoyed as well... since we loved the book to pieces, it's simply impossible to please us no matter who writes and produces the film. Here are some of our complaints:

We were really annoyed by the visual representation of Lyra's reading of the Alethiometer. Every time that same design of her going into a "visual" trance through the swirly golden dust to read the truth, you could almost hear us groan and moan. Not only that the special effects are not that impressive, they do not capture what Lyra does with the instrument at all. Lyra reads the Alethiometer with a lot of logical reasoning that has everything to do with interpreting symbols -- almost like using a different language. And yet, on the film, it looks as if she is looking into a crystal ball and seeing imagery with some kind of psychic power. If she can see how things "happen" with images, she wouldn't have taken Roger to the north to see her father at all. (And, of course, the studio decided to end the movie on a happy note where Roger is found, rescued, and going on the adventure with Lyra, rather than the actual ending featuring the ultimate betrayal from Lord Asriel.)

Having Iorek voiced by Ian McKellan is also a little difficult for us to bear since most of us are fans of the Lord of the Rings movies as well and we kept hearing Gandalf's voice. The moment when Lyra is crossing the narrow ice bridge and Iorek screamed, "Run"... looked and sounded so much like where Gandalf yelling at Frodo and the Fellowship when they came out of Moria, chased by the Balrog that we almost all burst out laughing.

We were also puzzled as to why the filmmakers chose to show "Dust like" images when the Daemons die in the movie -- since it is spelled out in the book that the people cannot see Dust and that Lord Asriel's ability to capture Dust on the hologram is incredibly rare. Why couldn't they come up with something different but equally eye-pleasing, conveying the deaths of the Daemons on the battlefield? (Imagine lines of blue smokes or something... There simply is way too much Golden Dust going on, including the swirling of psychic power when Lyra reads the Alethiometer, in this movie!)

We were dismayed by how unsophisticated the CG effects seems when it comes to the witches' flying and fight sequences (they look like from some old fashion Superman movie scenes.) We missed the emphasis of Cloud Pine as their flying transport, we don't think that Eva Green is right for Sarafina Pekkala, or at least the way her character is represented in the script,

Why do the characters have to repeat this information, "It's an Alethiometer. A Golden Compass." so many times in the movie? After the first or second time, the audience must have known that the thing is called an Alethiometer....

As mentioned above, the way the movie ended created the biggest outcry of protest from the group. Since the filmmaker decided that how the book ends is not ideal (not happy and a huge cliffhanger,) the movie ends when Roger is saved and going North with Lyra. Here, Lyra reads the Alethiometer and says that she's bringing something useful for her father. Readers of the book KNOW what that "useful thing" is and we felt terribly terribly saddened by this scene. Other audience, who have not read the book, would have been incredibly shocked if the filmmakers DO put the scene where Asriel betrays Lyra in the second movie. They would not have been prepared because Lord Asriel has not been successfully portrayed as an ambitious and morally ambiguous man (as he is presented in the book) and they would have not believed that Lyra was misinterpreting the Alethiometer because in this movie, Lyra could SEE what's going to happen (whereas in the book, it is always clear that she is just INTERPRETING the symbols and guessing).

Someone said that there should be THREE movies for this one book alone! Yes... we want nine movies out of this trilogy!!! And we want the scenes that show characters' human sides: we want to see how Lyra charms the Gyptians by being one of the crew (a montage of her working side-by-side with Ma Costa or Lord Faa, maybe? instead of long panned shots of the ship going down the big river?)

Here's the list of people from school who went to the movie together: Joe Quain, Roxanne Feldman, Josh Revesz, Daniel Liss, Celena Kopinski, Genevieve Oxman, Russell Meredith, Allison Flamberg, Parker Zhao, Max Weinreich, and Gabe Levine, Zack Pintchik.

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