Film / The Golden Compass

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An adaptation of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, or rather, an adaptation of the first book. The Golden Compass is a loose adaptation of the first book in the trilogy and takes its name from the US title instead of Northern Lights.

Lyra, an orphan running amok at Jordan College, gets drawn into her Uncle Asriel's stories of the North. Snatched up by Miss Coulter with promises of adventure, Lyra gets involved in an adventure that leads her to befriend Armored Polar Bear Warrior and a Hot Witch as she searches for her lost friend in the North.

Tropes:

  • Adaptation Dye-Job:
    • Mrs Coulter is black haired in the book and blonde in the film. Philip Pullman gave his approval of this - "I was wrong. She has to be blonde" - as Nicole Kidman had been his personal favourite for the role.
    • Serafina Pekkala is described as "fair-haired" in the book but depicted with dark hair in the film. Ironically Eva Green is a natural blonde.
  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: In the book, Lyra saves the kids before being captured by the bears. The other way around, it seems pretty odd that after Iorek regains the rule of the bears, he doesn't lead them to help her. They try to cover it by having Lyra cross an ice bridge that would collapse under anyone else, but even then, Iorek is the only one with her.note 
  • Adaptation Name Change: Iofur Raknison's name was changed to Ragnar Sturlusson because it sounded too similar to Iorek Byrnison.
  • Ascended Extra: In the book, Fra Pavel is simply a minor character who deciphers the Aleithiometer in The Amber Spyglass. In the film, he is the Magisterium's representative at Jordan College. Perhaps, if the sequels had been made, he may have performed the role of Father Gomez as he even has Gomez' insect daemon rather than Book!Fra Pavel's frog.
  • Behind the Black: Iorek's Big Damn Heroes moment in the climax is one of the most absurd examples of this in any medium; despite being a giant bear wearing loud, clanging armor, he somehow manages to get in between the two opposite groups with nobody noticing.
  • Composite Character:
    • Billy Costa is a merger of himself and Tony Makarios.
    • Fra Pavel seems to be a cross between Fra Pavel Rašek and Father Luis Gomez from The Amber Spyglass.
  • Cut Short: The ending of the book was filmed, but chopped off to avoid a Downer Ending. Fans were wary of how they could make it work as the beginning of film two instead, but we'll never know. Showing how late this decision was made, clips of it still appear in the trailer and in the video game.
  • Expy: Oh, hey there, it's a Texan Revolver Ocelot, complete with his signature side arm. Erm...
  • Fake Russian: Bizarrely inverted in-universe by The Tartars (derived from real life Tatars). They, in fact, speak perfect Russian without any sort of accent! Which is quite curious, since the actual Tatar language is unmistakably different from Russian. Justified however, since there are many Tatars with Russian as a first language.
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence: The polar bear fight, though it is toned down from how it is in the book. At least Iorek doesn't rip Ragnar's heart out and eat it then and there.
  • Full-Name Basis: Lyra is like this with several characters, including the witch Serafina Pekkala and Iorek Byrnison. This is probably to emphasize Serafina Pekkala's exotic nature and Iorek's status as Large and in Charge... as well as being the physical embodiment of Rule of Cool. Oddly enough she just calls Lee "Mr Scoresby".
  • Happily Ever Before: The movie ends just as Lyra and Roger go off to find Lord Azriel, right before Roger is killed to open the portal to another dimension.
  • Infodump: An opening narration by Serafina Pekkala explaining the nature of daemons, alternate universes and dust. It was added at the request of the studio, who believed viewers would be confused.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Lyra is our protagonist but she quickly meets a bunch of people along her travels. Half the movie is her meeting new people and then moving onto the next set.
  • Light Is Not Good: The movie version of Mrs Coulter, who not only is blonde and beautiful but dresses in shiny clothes and has a golden monkey for a daemon. In addition, the evil polar bear king Ragnar Sturlosson is white and has a shiny armor (compared to the duller armor of Iorek), and instead of using a special blade as in the books intercision is done in the movie via some weird laser machines. Considering there's hardly anything bad related to darkness in the movie (except for the nasty-looking wolf daemons of the Magisterium soldiers), its fairly safe to say this movie is perhaps the best to express this trope.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father:
    • Mrs. Coulter is Lyra's mother.
    • And Lord Asriel is Lyra's father.
  • Magic Compass: The Alethiometer points to the truth.
  • Motifs: The good guys are surrounded by circles (the circular aleithometer, Lord Azriel's carousel projector, most of the instruments at Jordan College etc), while the evil characters by ovals (the Magisterium's logo and the intercision room at Bolvangar, which is dominated by a oval arch). The designers of the film notes that the circle is a pure form, and the oval is a corruption thereof.
  • The Multiverse: Sort of; the book's original ending was removed (though it was filmed), combined with the unlikely chance of the sequels getting made, this might be irrelevant. The opening exposition did say the setting of this film was part of a Multiverse, though. The original opening would have shown a cat crossing from "our" world into Lyra's through a portal and then being scared at seeing Pan change shape.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: See Behind the Black above.
  • Our Souls Are Different: They appear as Shapeshifting Talking Animals.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Iorek Byrnison.
  • Spiritual Successor: It was meant to be one to Lord of the Rings as a glance at the Teaser Trailer will show.
  • Steam Punk: Whereas the book only hints at it, the film plays the steampunk up to the hilt. Strangely, the design asthetic does not extend to Marisa Coulter, who seems to be surrounded by a 1920/1950 Art Deco designs.
  • Talking Animal: Played absolutely straight with the Panserbjørne, intelligent polar bears with thumbs and a talent for metalworking. The daemons also count.
  • That Makes Me Feel Angry
  • There Was a Door: Iorek after getting back his armor, symbolizing his return to badass status.
  • Thunderbolt Iron: "Sky-Iron" forms Iorek's armor.
  • What Happened to the Rat?: A sequel would presumably have explained what happened to the severed daemons; without one, viewers will have to read the books to find out what became of Billy's Ratter.
  • Zeppelins from Another World

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