Chris Weitz first foray into the fantasy realm is one that is inspiring, and is almost something great, but I can’t help like feeling there was so much more to know. The film looks fantastic, with top notch CGI throughout, doing an exceptional job with the dæmon’s (pronounced demons), the animal manifestation of ones soul that never leaves your side, prowling about everywhere in this fantasy world. We are quickly introduced to Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig) and we know he is important and is doing important things but we never really find out why and who he really is. This is par for the course in this movie, always feel like we are just skimming the surface of what is really going on. Anyways, Asriel has a niece Lyra (Dakota Blue Richards) who lives under his and the college that he works at protection who are under pressure from the evil Magisterium. The Magisterium is a Christian-like organization that is, gasp, the bad guy. The organization is accused of blinding the people from the truth, destroying evidence that proves other wise, and abusing its power to make sure anybody that might go against them is silenced; even if they might be right. Anyways, one of Lyra’s friends is abducted by “the gobblers” while she is whisked away by an important woman, Miss. Coulter (Nicole Kidman) to the North as part of some experiment Coulter has going on there.
Either way, to say more would ruin the story, but I promise the actual film isn’t as all over the place as that last paragraph makes it sound. The film is quick paced and well structured, it is just all a bit to convenient sometimes with things happening just because to move things forward, instead of the characters keeping things going. Along the way we will meet the Gyptians (or Gypsy’s), armored bears, including the awesome Iorek Byrnison, an exiled prince voiced by Ian Mckellan, and witches like Serafina Pekkala (Eva Green); Even Sam Elliot show up as Lee Scoresby, an air ship pilot. All the characters have these fun names and seem really interesting but we just skim over who they really are, getting only peeks into their back story, as the movie moves forward.
All in all the movie is very well done, with good acting all around but no one really standing out or doing anything extraordinary. The world is very fun and interesting to dive into, but as i said before, we just feel like that the film is only a narrow looking glass into that world. The ending will also leave people feeling a bit under whelmed as it is very abrupt and sets up the potential sequel. And also one another note, there is a pretty grisly kill in this movie that I didn’t think would be doable in what is essentially a kids movie, so fair notice if you have a youngling, though they might not realize what happened.
A solid fantasy movie, better than Narnia but paling in comparison to Potter or Lord of the Rings, it is a fun way to spend a couple of hours, if only they would have let us into the world a bit more. Oh well, I guess there is always the Extended Edition DVD that is reportedly in the works.