From the Page to the Screen – Northern Lights

Philip Pullman: Northern Lights Book Review

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From the Page to the Screen – Northern Lights

Northern Lights is a famous fantasy novel from 1995 from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. It is easily the best novel in the series and one of the better fantasy novels out there. It features such a vast, well explored world, a very interesting mythology and pretty complex characters. It truly is a complex, abundant in detail and epic fantastical reading journey.

 

THE FILM ADAPTATION

The film came out in 2007 and was pretty abysmal in its reception. It received quite mixed reviews and was a giant box-office bomb. All of that was unwarranted as the film is pretty solid and very underrated. Certainly it is inferior to the book and it has its many flaws, but it is well acted, mostly surprisingly faithful to the source material and it features amazing special effects work. So let’s compare these two works.

 

PLOT

The film follows the book really well, stupendously well. It is faithful and thus it was wonderful seeing this great story on the big screen. However, the third act ruined it for me. It was rushed and basically they did not film the ending of the book as they left it for the second movie which never happened. That was unfortunate and it left this film suffer as a result.

WINNER – BOOK

 

CHARACTERIZATION

This is probably the one aspect where the movie suffers tremendously when compared to the source material. Mrs. Coulter is actually great and possibly even better than in the book thanks to an excellent villainous presence from Nicole Kidman. But I never bought Daniel Craig in the role of Lord Asriel and the character was underutilized here. Lyra is the biggest problem as she is a pale imitation of such a phenomenal, complex book counterpart.

WINNER – BOOK

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The Golden Compass Movie Review …………………………………………………

EMOTION

Because the ending was not filmed and because the characters are not all that great, the film is never as emotionally resonant as the book is. The novel features a couple of heartwarming sequences and the film is mostly lacking in that department.

WINNER – BOOK

 

THEMES

To me, Northern Lights isn’t all that complex or thematically rich and clever as many critics say it is. I know I am in the minority, but most of the novel was pretty straightforward and rarely truly deep. But it is still better than the film which is even more simpler in execution and dialogue.

WINNER – BOOK

 

TECHNICAL ASPECTS

I do like the world building in Northern Lights. I love it actually as it is great. However, the writing from Pullman is not as great and the action in particular he has trouble writing strongly or effectively. The film, on the other hand, is a visual marvel thanks to amazing, deservedly Oscar-winning special effects and terrific imagery. The action is also superbly executed and a lot of fun leading to such a fun audio-visual, kinetic experience.

WINNER – FILM

 

BOOK 4: FILM 1

Yes, the film is quite inferior to the novel in the end. It certainly is a solid, very underrated movie which looks and sounds great plus it is pretty faithful at first, but the character development is unfortunately very weak as is the problematic third act. The book is a much better crafted, more complex and definitely more emotionally resonant work.

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