I could barely contain my excitement this week when a special, magic envelope arrived at the store bearing passes to an advance screening of The Golden Compass next Monday! HOOOOOOOOOOORAY!!!
I normally grit my teeth with nervous reserve toward film adaptations of my favorite books. In this case, though, the visual effects look so tremendous and the characters so seemingly well cast that I am VERY much looking forward to seeing the end results. Having seen the London stage adaptation a few years ago, too, I also feel like I’ve already been properly initiated into the world of abridged, streamlined renditions of His Dark Materials.
Whatever the case, this film looks like it will be a fun ride—much more fun, I’d wager, than the Beowulf movie, which Gareth and I saw last weekend in 3D on an IMAX screen. We both had relatively low expectations for the film but figured it would at least be entertaining. Which it was. In the WORST possible way. As we left the theater laughing at how bad it was, we overheard snippets of other filmgoers’ conversations as they too poked fun at its weakest moments, laughing uproariously. Yep, it was THAT bad.
My chief complaint is that all subtlety was stripped from both the story and the acting. It would seem that CG doesn’t lend itself to any small movements on the part of its characters, as every human gesture or supposedly quick glance appeared overdone and painfully obvious. This made very talented actors look and sound like complete buffoons. I’ve never been so unimpressed with a performance by John Malkovich. Or Robin Wright Penn. Or Anthony Hopkins, for that matter! Give me the real actors, please! In this case they looked about as real as the characters that populate the Shrek films, which is to say they looked very cartoony. Ironically, it’s the most fantastic character (the dragon) that looked the most real to me and delivered the best, most entertaining moments of the whole film.
As for the storyline of Beowulf and the way it’s newly interpreted here… Ugh. I understand that Hollywood has this obsession with sexing things up a bit and will give them credit for being creative about their way of doing it (making Grendel’s mother out to be a seductress who lures strong men to her bed, and later gives birth to monsters of their own making), but this variation of the story is told with too many inconsistencies and unanswered questions for my taste. In all I thought it felt overblown, terribly clichéd, and surprisingly sloppy.
One thing related to the Beowulf movie that I *did* love, though, was a typo (I think…) that I happened to catch in the Boston Globe, in their info. about the rating of the film. They explain that the film has a PG-13 rating "for intense sequences of violence including disturbing images, some sexual mater." Yes, it says sexual MATER. And "mater" is the Latin word for what? Mother. So, is "sexual mater" a Freudian slip or some copywriter’s very clever joke about Angelina Jolie?
Whatever the case I looked at the rating info. for The Golden Compass, but it’s reportedly PG-13 only "for sequences of fantasy violence." Too bad they left out the "sexual mater" bit there, because I think Nicole Kidman in the role Mrs. Coulter is guaranteed to qualify.