SAY AH: Aggressive, armored polar bears are just one of the spectacles in this mystical, CGI journey to the frozen north.
Director: Chris Weitz
What can be better than the spectacle of seeing two armored polar bears clawing away at each other in a fight while a ring of 20 furry onlookers holler and stomp as they look on?
The skilled CGI artists behind "The Golden Compass" deserve a round of applause for taking audiences on a frigid journey to the far north and playing with our imaginations in this classic story of good versus evil.
This fantasy fiction film is a faithful and lively adaptation of the first part of Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" book trilogy.
The setting is the late 19th century, a time of invention and discovery. Lyra Belacqua (Dakota Blue Richards) plays the main character, a young girl living at Jordan College in Oxford. Every child is accompanied by an animal called a daemon. The daemons don't mature until the children become grown-ups and can cause them to misbehave.
Lyra's uncle Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig) is a scientist preparing to explore the North in search for a substance of other worlds called Dust. He wants to research and collect Dust because its extraordinary powers can even lead to other, parallel worlds.
However, scholars from the dogmatic Magisterium don't like the idea, which threatens to disrupt the orderly world they have established, and their rather cruel plans to maintain that orderliness.
Lyra wants to travel to the North with Lord Asriel but ends up in the care of the rich and beautiful Ms. Coulter (Nicole Kidman) who is in league with the Magisterium. Before leaving Jordan College, Lyra is given an instrument called an Alethiometer (a golden compass) which allows her to find out the truth of any situation by carefully reading the instrument's cryptic signs.
She soon escapes from Ms Coulter, who is clearly up to no good, and heads for the North, for the simple reason that it seems to hold all the answers to the many unsolved mysteries, not least of which is the unexplained disappearance of countless children.
"The Golden Compass" is an extremely entertaining movie that combines some wonderful fantasy elements with intelligent storytelling. This is by far the best fantasy film of the Christmas season and can be greatly enjoyed by children and adults alike.
But the polar bears really stole the show for me and are reason enough to see "The Golden Compass." I look forward to seeing the bears in action in the second installment.
Opens in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania on Dec. 14.