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Based on author Philip Pullman's bestselling and award-winning novel, The Golden Compass tells the first story in Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. The Golden Compass is an exciting fantasy adventure, set in an alternative world where people's souls manifest themselves as animals, talking bears fight wars, and Gyptians and witches co-exist. At the center of the story is Lyra (played by newcomer Dakota Blue Richards), a 12-year-old girl who starts out trying to rescue a friend who's been kidnapped by a mysterious organization known as the Gobblers - and winds up on an epic quest to save not only her world, but ours as well.
The first book in Pullman's fan loved His Dark Materials is more "The Hobbit" than "Lord of the Rings". What I'm saying here is that there's nothing adult about it. Some books crossover. "Lord of the Rings" works even better for adults than it does for younger readers. Some of the "Harry Potter" books I'm told, are great for older readers. But "The Golden Compass" should have "kids adventure novel" stamped right on the front of it.
Now fans are going to try to tell you that's it's dark and violent. True, there is a lot of fighting in it, but it's presented in a light, kid-friendly way. Sure, Iorek Byrnison rips people to shreds, but it's told with all the descriptiveness of a blood soaked Pokemon battle. Come on, kids love gore nearly as much as they love farts.
That's not to say the first book isn't fun, it is. It's just not chock full of adult themes. Later books in the series become thematically heavier, but if this first movie wants to cross over and appeal to broader audiences the way other modern fantasy titans of its genre have, Chris Weitz is going to have to get creative. The fantasy staples of magic, strange beasts, and world saving are there, but Weitz will need to dig around for deeper meaning if he wants adults to stay hooked. If he doesn't, The Golden Compass will end up on par with Lemony Snicket instead of Chronicles of Narnia.