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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 The 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.
The movie received quite a bit of attention before release due to the controversial themes approached in the book and the appearance as a children's movie. Protests were staged and news stories were made about both the movie and the book. However, the movie ended up doing less business than was anticipated and received lackluster reviews. It still won an Academy Award for Visual Effects (Transformers and Pirates of the Caribbean fans were unhappy). The major themes of the book were altered, most likely due to Executive Meddling. The questions of how the sequels would handle the changes was answered easily -- "What sequels?"
Many 'His Dark Materials' fans like to pretend it never happened. Well, ignorance is bliss...
Provides examples of:
- Adaptation Dye Job - Ms. Coulter has black hair in the books but is played by bottle-blonde Nicole Kidman. Word of God is that Pullman wished he'd done this in the first place, understandably since fair-haired Lyra is her daughter.
- Not that it makes a big difference, plot-wise. Lyra's father, Lord Asriel, is fair-haired in the movie, and not specified in the book, though even there it's said that Lyra's resemblance to him was so complete that nobody else could be her father. Assuming genetics works the same, if he was blonde, and Ms. Coulter happened to have a recessive trait for blondness, then Lyra had a 50/50 shot at being either light- or dark-haired.
- Also, Serafina Pekkala is described as "fair" in the book, and she's played by the dark-haired (Dye Hard) Eva Green.
- Composite Character - Billy Costa is a merger of himself and Tony Makarios
- Expy - Oh, hey there, it's a Texan Revolver Ocelot, complete with his signature side arm. Erm...
- Family-Unfriendly Violence: The polar bear fight.
- Full-Name Basis - Lyra is like this with several characters, including the witch Serafina Pekkala and Iorek Byrnison.
- Happily Ever Before
- Hey, It's That Guy!:
- Info Dump: Starting from the opening monologue, and then it gets worse from there.
- Loads and Loads of Characters
- Light Is Not Good - The movie version of Mrs Coulter, who not only is blond 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.
- Lzherusskie -Bizarrely inverted 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.
- Missing Trailer Scene - Quite a few considering how much was cut from the final release. Including the entire ending.
- 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.
- Our Souls Are Different - They appear as Shapeshifting Talking Animals.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy - Iorek Byrnison
- Stillborn Franchise - They were willing to make a trilogy. However criticism from the Catholic church and middling box office return killed those plans.
- 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
- ... At least in the US. Internationally, it made over $300 million, enough to more than cover its budget. Unfortunately, New Line Cinema had sold off all the international distribution rights in order to finance the film's production (apparently thinking that the highly religious US audience that was protesting the film would turn out to see it), meaning that they never saw a penny of the international box office. As a result, New Line was merged into Warner Bros soon after.