Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Golden Compost

I had a number of relatives staying over New Year and a sumptuous meal was planned for us all ... in which I was not involved! Except in the eating part that is. Oh joy! Normally when there's any kind of dinner party or banquet pending, my restaurant experience is called upon to do something posh. However, on this occasion, my brother-in-law David (who's a pretty nifty cook himself) had supplied us with a fabulous haunch of venison from a deer he'd shot himself and his wife Donna and my other sister-in-law Debbie worked with him to create a feast of seasonal game and vegetables to die for. It was fantastic.

It took a day or two to prepare so, to get us dead weights out of the way, all of us not involved in cooking were packed off to the local cinema with our collective nephews and nieces to see The Golden Compass.

I've tried so hard not to go on the attack straight away but the film is such a beaten up, chopped about and toned down version of Philip Pullman's excellent Northern Lights - first book in the His Dark Materials trilogy - that I can't help it. It's a bitter disappointment. The writers and director have tried desperately to cram the many extraordinary concepts contained in the book into a single film ... and it simply doesn't work. I suspect that anyone watching the film, who hadn't read the books beforehand, would be confused by the plot. That was certainly the case for two of my relatives. And as we exited the theatre I heard three separate people asking other members of their parties ... 'So what was that Dust stuff?' One central plot theme - the idea of separate out-of-body souls or 'daemons' was very poorly handled and the entire Magisterium sub-plot about children and Dust whittled away to nothing. The whole thing was a garbled mess from the start and the ending, in particular, was dreadfully rushed and very different from the book, having had all of the emotion and power stripped from it.

On the positive side, there were some excellent performances - particularly from Dakota Blue Richards as Lyra. The effects are stunning; Lyra's Oxford is beautifully visualised and the Ice Bears are impressive. The casting is ... okay. Nicole Kidman was suitably menacing and Derek Jacobi was equally so. But Daniel Craig as Asriel? Yes, he was brooding and pouty - just like he is in any other film - but he was so unlike the Asriel that I visualised from the books that you may as well have cast Adam Sandler.

So, a disappointment but no surprise. My advice? Read the books instead. The books are extraordinarily inventive and clever and have been shockingly and criminally overshadowed by the mighty Rowling juggernaut. It's all so wrong. Specky Potter and his chums can't hold a candle to Lyra on any level, whether it be originality, quality of writing or characterisation. The fact that the Potter books translated so well to films is entirely because they are so unworried by complexity.

One last note ... at the same cinema they were showing the new St Trinian's film. I shan't be going to see it as I just know that it's going to be awful, especially when compared to the original St Trinian's films. I am amply supported in my prejudices by recent attempts to remake The Ladykillers, School for Scoundrels and The Pink Panther. Dire, every one of them. What next? The Titfield Thunderbolt? Passport to Pimlico? The Man in the White Suit? I'm All Right Jack? Please ... no more. Let sleeping British classics lie.

But I was fascinated to see this description of the new St Trinian's film on the cinema website ... the last line is priceless and says so much about our society in 2008:

'St Trinian’s, the infamous school for ‘young ladies’, is once again facing dire financial crisis. The bank is threatening headmistress Camilla Fritton with closure. Meanwhile her unorthodox doctrine of free expression and self empowerment is also under threat from new Education Minister Geoffrey Thwaites. He may be an old flame of Camilla’s, but right now he’s determined to bring discipline and order to the anarchic school. But the St Trinian’s girls are in a league of their own; smart, fearless and determined to defend the school they love to the end. They need to unite the warring girl gang cliques and come up with the cash fast. Sassy Head Girl Kelly and newcomer Annabelle join forces and gather together a motley crew of teachers, the fiendishly charming Flash Harry and the resourceful and ruthless pupils to pull off the heist of the century. They’re planning to steal the famous painting 'Girl With A Pearl Earring' from the National Gallery, right under the noses of the authorities. But can their combined cunning, girlish wiles and total lack of shame win the day before the authorities close them down for good? All of the hilarious antics and the girl-power action, which have made St Trinian’s one of our greatest and best-loved national institutions, are back on the big screen. Running time: 100 mins. Contains moderate sex references, comic violence and drug use. Certficate 12A - Suitable for children under the age of twelve if accompanied by a responsible adult guardian.'

Moderate sex references and drug use ... suitable for under 12s? You couldn't make it up.

1 comment:

Me said...

Huge fan of Ealing Classics here. Passport to Pimlico and more on my shelves over in the corner on VHS!