24 May 2008

The Golden Comp-Ass

(Warning: Spoilers ahead.)
I have not yet offered any movies reviews here, for the simple reasons that not only do I rarely go out to the movies, but also I'm not that picky. I'd much rather relax and enjoy a movie than watch it critically, although I know that can be fun, too.

The problem arises when a film just won't let you relax and enjoy it. Sometimes, this is only partly the film's fault, like when I read the book first and had a solid point of comparision, knew the backstory and could not understand why things that only needed one little tiny line of exposition were left hanging.

I understand that transforming a novel into a screenplay is tricky business, after all the two mediums could not be more different from a writer's perspective, and it takes a skilled hand to concisely capture the inner lives of a novel's characters or condense lengthy exposition in a screenplay.

Still, The Golden Compass did one thing which I simply cannot excuse or explain away. An unforgivable error of judgment and since I don't know who made the call, I'll just blame everyone. They completely neutered the story.

The ending of the novel was powerful and bleak, leaving Lyra feeling that everything she thought she knew and understood was gone, but also more determined than ever to continue her journey. The ending gave the book it's true power, redefining the meaning of things that had come before, and leaving the reader eager to see what would happen next.

But it wasn't Hollywood enough apparently, so the film's solution was simply to fade to black before the bad stuff happens. There was no alternate ending, the film simply stopped. The screen went dark. It was terrible. Unforgivable.

And apparently Phillip Pullman was cool with it, something that I find hard to believe given his elitist opinions on most topics relating to the purity of his craft.

2 comments:

Annika said...

I only had a problem with this because they did it despite NOT HAVING A SEQUEL GREENLIT. If they'd shot the series back-to-back like LOTR it would have been a totally reasonable ending.

andi said...

That was one of my favorite books and I was afraid to see the movie for this very reason. I hate manufactured happy endings.