DVD of the Week: 'The Golden Compass'

From Stacie Hougland: I know what you're saying. Really? Yes, it caused controversy. No, it didn't do well at the box office. Yes, it's convoluted to the point of incomprehensibility. But in spite of itself, the embattled The Golden Compass, out now in single and two-disc platinum series, is one outstanding DVD that should not be dismissed, especially by fans of the fantasy genre.

The movie takes place in a parallel universe where people's souls exist in the form of talking animal "daemons." Dakota Blue Richards is Lyra Belacqua, niece of Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig), who wants to bring down the ruling government known as The Magisterium. He heads to the North Pole to find out if his theory is true about being able to unlock a porthole to other worlds using magic dust, leaving Lyra in the care of one enigmatic Mrs. Coulter (Nicole Kidman), who happens to be behind the gang of "Gobblers" that have kidnapped some kids--Lyra's best friend among them. Lyra escapes from Mrs. Coulter and heads to the Arctic to find her uncle and her pal, with help from a talking polar bear, a space cowboy, something called an alethiometer and sea nomads known as Gyptians.

Scratching your head yet? You're not the only one.



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"Can YOU tell me what's going on here?"

My advice is to go against your movie-watching instincts and forget about deciphering the plot (or better, read Philip Pullman's novel first). Instead, enjoy the film for its absolutely gorgeous visuals--marvelous sets, beautiful actors, fantastic costmes. The action picks up in about the last third, and when it does, it's nonstop and pretty awesome. This DVD features some of the best CGI I've ever seen on the small screen, appearing in fine and vivid detail.

Extras: Besides the director commentary and some photo galleries, the DVD boasts a whopping 11 bonus making-of features spanning some 160 minutes in 3 sections: "Origins," "Behind the Scenes" and "Lyra's World." Like the movie, the most interesting of the bunch are the ones covering set design and the research and construction of props like Lyra's titular golden compass. Take a look at "Armoured Bears," a breakdown of the massive bear fight sequence that took six months to create and started with a reenactment using paper miniatures.

Overview: The risk of getting lost in the plot's whirlwind pace is worth taking for the eye candy galore on this surprisingly satisfying DVD.

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