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Video: The Golden Compass - Official® Trailer [HD]

Excerpt from a review of Golden Compass(2007): Bless the Beasts and Children by Manohla Dargis for, December 7, 2007

A fantastic bestiary inhabits “The Golden Compass,” prowling and flapping and slithering and fluttering. The animals, most of which are called daemons and are manifestations of the human soul, hover at the side of their people and near the story’s edge, where their coos and barks mix with the ambient clatter and clang. Every so often, an animal leaps forward, its fur raised in alarm, its feathers fanned in flight. And because these are no ordinary animals, they also offer words of comfort, advice, warning. In this otherworldly realm, humans have no dominion over these creatures, yet they are not merely equals, either. They are one.

This beastly attitude and the conception of the soul as being somehow separate from its corporeal vessel are, as far as I can tell, the most irreligious conceits in the movie adaptation of “The Golden Compass,” a novel that was first published in Britain as “Northern Lights.” Written by Philip Pullman, it quickly became a critical and commercial success for the most obvious of reasons: It’s a charming romp set in a parallel universe stuffed with magical creatures, spooky villains and mythopoetic conceits, and propelled by a young orphan, Lyra Belacqua, who embarks on the hero’s journey with her shape-shifting daemon, Pantalaimon (Pan for short). The book has attracted voluble criticism for equally obvious reasons: Its army of darkness is a totalitarian institution called “the Church.”

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