Monday, October 08, 2007

Golden Compass Ending Up-Ended

There's a series of strong voices spreading the same rumour at the moment and this rumour is, not to put too fine a point on it, that Bob Shaye is 'butchering' The Golden Compass.

It's been a far from ideal production, anyway, with Chris Weitz on-off-on-again as director, Anand Tucker tried on for size inbetween and other, far more suitable but less... malleable filmmakers being turned down no matter how keenly they sought the gig; with the abandonment of Tom Stoppard's screenplay adaptation and the removal of the key theological subtexts; with voice actors replaced all of a sudden and frightened mutterings from the hard-pushed FX teams.

Now it's being said that the end of the film is very, very different to the end of the book. By necessity, I am about to share some spoilers in discussing these changes.

The book ends with Lyra finding Lord Asriel tearing a rift between universes and following him through. According to old information, scenes were filmed to follow this, a coda to the book's plot lifted from the opening sections of The Subtle Knife, the second novel. This was supposedly meant to create a better segue into the 'our world' of the second film and book, rather than closing the first film on a fantasy note but beginning the second in 'reality' - but now there's talk that instead of leaving the story late, the film will be leaving early. Lyra won't even get to Asriel.

This space-time rift is opened in the book by an act, too complex to explain here, that results in the death of Roger, a key character. Of course, ending the film early stops it from climaxing on the death of a child.

Nobody has been able to convince me they know how the film actually will end, but there's a story of it wrapping up even before they even get to Svalbard. I doubt this - I suspect Iorek's battle with Iofur will be in, perhaps serving as a defacto climax.

It was always commercially risky, I suppose, planning to wind up what might, after all, be a stand alone film with a cliffhanger that's also a complete and utter downer. The following two books will only be filmed if this movie turns a sufficient profit and surely even a purist would see that keeping the story intact in film one at the expense of films two and three even existing would be a ridiculous trade-off. I wish widespread family audiences would cope with the scenes as written by Pullman, but I'm prepared to accept they probably wouldn't.

I assume that the excised scenes - which were filmed, of course - are to be placed at the beginning of the second film, should it happen. Surely their adjustment, from one film to another, is going to be somewhat moot if the second film hits, then? And if there is no second film, the absence of films two and three would surely be more disappointing. Anyway, at least they seem to have killed Roger in the scenes as filmed, rather than rejigging them and somehow just having him survive.

Rather than losing sleep over the postponement of these scenes, I think people should be more worried about the countless smaller changes Shaye will have insisted upon, and about the loss of the film's principal argument in a concession to the self-righteous and blinkered.

Just to repeat: this is all based on information I am treating as rumour and rumour only. I've had e-mails on the matter, and in trawling the various His Dark Materials pages, found much discussion of it on forums. But it is not yet confirmed. Yet.

11 comments:

Inquisitor said...

Yes, ending on a downer really didn't help Fellowship of the Ring, did it? Besides, using the opening of The Subtle Knife would have helped lessen the downer considerably.

I'm much more worried about the fact that they seem to have cut the religion out of it, but this does seem to be an obviously bad decision for New Line. Not hopeful.

Brendon said...

Fellowship could have ended with a knife fight that wiped out all of the major character and it wouldn't have hurt part 2 - providing this was 'true to Tolkein'. The Rings films were an entirely different proposition.

I agree, of course, that the stripping away of meaning is very possibly the stripping away of value in the case of these stories (if not, indeed, all stories).

Anonymous said...

I can confirm that what you've heard is true, Brendon. Weitz has been on and off the film 5 times. The FX team has been laughing at the footage coming to them. A great deal of voiceover is going to be done as a desperate attempt to make some sense of the damn thing. The production is truly a train wreck.

Hardy said...

The anonymous post is spewing a bunch of bull****.

The poster in the Bridge to the Stars forum was an imposter.

Mark said...

I hear New Line are excising all the World War Two subtext from Peter Jackson's upcoming LORD OF THE RINGS films in order to avoid offending the Germans.

Brendon said...

This impostor must have got around a fair bit then, because there's quite a few claims of this in a few international forums too.

Maybe it was copycat postings?

How do we know they were an impostor? Can we really sigh our breath of relief yet?

I do hope so.

All the same, New Line has cut off the theological content and it could be said that has neutered the film.

Mark said...

From a purely selfish point of view, I want this movie to succeed commercially just in case it means the ELRIC movies get made.

C. said...

It turns out the anonymous source was right, it's been confirmed by Weitz himself.
Here is the rather depressing news:
http://www.hisdarkmaterials.org/news/the-golden-compass/a-message-from-chris-weitz-to-his-dark-materials-fans

Brendon said...

Thanks for that, c. If that's a genuine statement, which I suppose it is, we'll see the news spread like wildfire now.

VFX Insider said...

I happen to know for a fact that VFX workers are not happy with the footage they have been seeing. The train wreck prediction has validity.

Anonymous said...

Original anonymous poster here. I have no reason to make anything up, nor have I been on any discussion forums to even read what other people are saying about it. I'm sure in certain corners this has already been exagerrated upon, as is the nature of internet gossip, but what I posted above are facts of the matter, I did not stretch the truth in any way.