strange_complex: (ITV digital Monkey popcorn)
IMDb page here. Seen on Christmas Eve at the Electric cinema, Birmingham - which has had a major face-lift since I last went there, and now sells possibly the best chocolate ice-cream in the world.

Having gone in to see this with very low expectations, I was actually pleasantly surprised. From time to time the plot felt like it was going through the motions a bit, but the characters all came to life beautifully, Lyra's world was intriguing and convincing, and I think it was probably better-paced and structured than the book. It's long enough since I read the latter (about six or seven years, I think), that I wasn't in the least bit troubled about whatever changes they might have made to the plot, and in fact was rather glad of all the explanatory voice-overs and unrealistically expository passages of dialogue that were thrown in to help us along. For someone who hadn't read the book at all, the film would be a breeze to follow - but I think someone who'd read it recently would find the explanations heavy-handed, and the plot rather stripped of its finer subtleties. I worry about how that will pan out over the next couple of films, as there is a risk of reducing the stories to simple good vs. evil battles, and that would be a great injustice.

Certain Catholics have got very upset about the representation of the Magisterium in the film, feeling that it is directly modelled on the Catholic church. But while that's certainly an element, I picked up visual references to both Eastern Orthodoxy and Chinese temples as well, so in fact I think a pretty good job has been done of representing the Magisterium as a generic, rather than specific, religious authority. I thought Oxford had been used beautifully, and indeed all of the sets and locations were visually stunning. The casting couldn't have been much better, either - a really triumphant combination of big names and impressive unknowns. I was particularly taken by the stunning Eva Green as Serafina Pekkala, and might well succumb to the temptation to make an icon out of her shortly.

So, all in all I'll definitely be seeing the next instalment - but without expecting a masterpiece of cinematic subtlety as I do so.

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