Rotten Tomatoes: “Golden Compass” is “Confusing and Meaningless”

Embargo, schembargo…

The mainstream critics are signing in:

Michelle Orange, Village Voice:

In drawing and quartering much of the novel’s intent, Weitz ends up with a film that feels not just unfinished but undone.

Nick Schager, Slant Magazine

Weitz crams his story full of magical terms and concepts with a rapidity that leaves things confusing and thus meaningless.

Stephanie Zacharek, Salon:

I can think of no more dispiriting experience this holiday season than seeing the crestfallen faces of several of my colleagues as they trundled out of a screening of Chris Weitz’s adaptation of The Golden Compass. Those faces said it all: Their faith had been shattered; there was nothing left to believe in; God must surely be dead. How could a book they’d loved so much be turned into such utter, soulless crap?¬†¬†

The great bummer is that the movie version of The Golden Compass is unlikely to inspire anyone to read anything. Most of what’s magical about Pullman’s novel has been mechanized, obviously at great expense: It must cost a heap of dough to make animal figures look like they’re talking, and there’s barely an instant in The Golden Compass when you can’t hear the money gears turning. This is the kind of movie that was made by throwing dollars at stuff, as opposed to using imagination, thought or even just common sense. Whatever complex or interesting ideas might have been found in the source material have been watered down, skimmed over, mashed into nonsense or simply ignored.

Chad Greene, Boxoffice Magazine:

The action sequences are the only outstanding aspect of this less-than-golden adaptation, which is ultimately undermined by its strictly tinny storytelling.

James Berardinelli, ReelViews

Constrained by a rushed feel and too little character development, this movie never seems to flow quite right.

Cole Smithey, ColeSmithey.com

Weitz’s spotty filmic adaptation never locates a throughline to the convoluted narrative.

Todd McCarthy, Variety

The prevailing tone is cold, which has nothing to do with the frigid settings of the second half, and the pic doesn’t invite the viewer to enthusiastically enter into this new dramatic realm.

Joshua Tyler, CinemaBlend.com

Whether or not you’ve read the books you’ll enjoy The Golden Compass on some level, but it feels rushed.

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” called Through a Screen Darkly, and a four-volume series of fantasy novels called The Auralia Thread, which includes Auralia’s Colors, Cyndere’s Midnight, Raven’s Ladder, and The Ale Boy’s Feast. Jeffrey is a contributing editor for Seattle Pacific University’s Response magazine, and he writes about art, faith, and culture for Image, Filmwell, and his own website, LookingCloser.org. His work has also appeared in Paste, Relevant, Books and Culture, and Christianity Today (where he was a film columnist and critic for almost a decade). He lives in Shoreline, Washington. Visit him on Facebook at facebook.com/jeffreyoverstreethq.

  • http://lookingcloser.org Jeffrey Overstreet

    Let’s just say I won’t be linking to reviews with which I strongly disagree. :)

  • aslanfrodo

    Right – I have been following this on RT, too. However, there are some positive reviews on RT – they just aren’t in the majority. I think we’ll have to wait to see as the week wears on to see whether this is (supposedly) a “fresh” film or a “rotten” one. Are you pointing to these RT reviews because they happen to concur with *your* review? (Trying to get advance info out of Overstreet…)