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GOLDEN COMPASS: Reviews are coming in

By Jackie Burrell
Thursday, December 6th, 2007 at 3:00 pm in Movies.

Golden Compass Tomorrow’s papers will, doubtless, be filled with reviews of “Golden Compass” and its cinematic treasures, but the first family-centric reviews are just emerging and just as we’d suspected, the violence and intensity of this movie ought to give a parent pause. If you recall that Beowulf’s extensive gore and blood spatter earned a PG-13 rating, instead of the R it deserved, because the animated film’s violence wasn’t “real,” then Compass’ PG-13 is consistent, we guess. But Kids-in-Mind‘s review gives the movie a 6 out of 10 violence rating (for context, Pirates of the Caribbean II and III got 7s and Saw IV a 10) for its blood-curdling battles, stabbings, shootings, explosions and many, many children-in-jeopardy scenes, including one in which a child’s daemon, which represents her soul, is nearly severed from her being. And CommonSenseMedia says, “Animals and kids are in constant peril, and young kids will be upset by the threatened separation between the animals (daemons) and their humans.” The many intense and violent scenes make this movie inappropriate for children under 12, the reviewer concludes, despite its being marketed as a family film.

Posted Wednesday: It’s a rare third grader who has read Philip Pullman‘s YA “Golden Compass” series, so perhaps Friday’s opening of the full, big budget, CGI’d extravaganza, complete with raging polar bears and an evil Nicole Kidman, won’t make for fraught discussions in households with younger kids. But for the rest of us, the question will be twofold. Will the movie, which is rated PG-13 for sequences of fantasy violence, be too intense for tweens and young teens? And can the cinematic version even begin to compare to the extravagant visions that fill readers’ imaginations?

The movie opens Friday, and reviews are just starting to trickle in. Entertainment Weekly gives it a C and calls it a “snowbound mystical-whizbang kiddie ride that hovers somewhere between the loopy and the lugubrious,” which frankly, doesn’t answer any of our questions. Hollywood Reporter, on the other hand, loved it, calling it “a ‘soft’ epic, a film touching on childhood fantasies with sturdy, unwavering characters driven to evil or good. More ‘Harry Potter,’ in other words, than ‘Beowulf.'”

Um, we don’t think so. For all its fantastical blend of otherworldly landscapes, mystical treasures and gentle, shape-shifting “daemons,” the book’s evil characters gave us shivers that even Voldemort never evoked. Now, we wait and see. Anyone out there seen a preview screening? Care to weigh in?

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