ByStephen Adamson, writer at
I love the game. I love the hustle. MP Staff Writer and Retired Rapper. Twitter: @_StephenAdamson
Stephen Adamson

The problem about film adaptation is that, even with excellent source material there can be things left out, items misinterpreted, budgetary issues that make depictions impossible, sluggish storytelling, etc. And there is also the difficult task of luring in those who never read that source material (in this case a world renowned literary masterpiece, albeit designed for children) that have to be catered to.

I'm talking about The Golden Compass and the many reasons that the transition to the big screen didn't work - focusing on a particular major gleaming one. Of course, that's taking the concerns of a religious group - one of the largest in the world, Catholics - into consideration, thereby negatively affecting artistic integrity.

Now, I'm Catholic, but I wouldn't consider myself to be stark in my views. I would under very few circumstances allow religious views to make me offended by a piece of art. However, the production team on The Golden Compass movie was afraid that I was an outlier, and they let a vocal minority determine what they did with the film.

See, in the book, they made it clear as day that Philip Pullman had a problem with the Catholic church. The Catholic church, being one of the most powerful institutions in the world, is clearly a touchy subject. Therefore, the film tempered Pullman's anger, watering it down, and changing his anti-Catholic sentiments to slight disenchantment with all dogmatic systems of belief.

This dilution of the book's actual theme backfired tremendously, annoying other secular groups who kind of got lumped into a $180 million anti-religion film as opposed to a film that only centered around one man's suspicions about the Pope. Of course, it doubly backfired when, then, Catholics got wind of the film and were... still angry.

So, in an effort to avoid offending Catholics, they still did... plus, they offended everybody else in the process. Now, everybody is mad and the film was essentially doomed from the get-go.

You may find yourself wondering how a big-budget film that could've been as big as Harry Potter ended up being such a flop. Well, not only was it offensive to many, but it also seemed tossed together rather sloppily. It felt like they were in such a rush to get to "the point"... which was already lacking... that it became overwhelming.

Keep in mind, this is a movie where a bear literally punches another bear's jaw off. Awesome, right? Not awesome enough. Because the movie just threw character after character after character at us without much explanation. It felt like a really intense lecture where there was a quiz coming at the end and we had to retain all of this information in order to pass. It was excruciating, to be honest.

Not only were there humans, but there were spirit animals of the humans, witches, Gyptians, armored bears, and more. I think the reason Harry Potter, which I am hesitant to compare it to but feel like is an example of a good book to film adaptation, was so successful, was that they kept it simple from the start. Surely, there are plenty of characters who didn't get as much detail as they could've had, but I think it's fair to say that they got Harry, Ron and Hermione right.

That's the most important thing. Unless you have an entire Game of Thrones type series to build this massive number of characters, there's almost no way to get it done properly in a feature film. Perhaps, leaving all of this peripheral stuff out and focusing on the main goal of getting Lyra right and her effort to save children from having their souls physically ripped from them would've been much better.

I mean, I guess it could have been worse, and there were certainly entertaining elements to the film. But that book was just so good! I think this was just a common case of overthinking it.

(Via: The Guardian)


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