Thursday, April 23, 2009

Adaptations Gone Wrong: The Golden Compass

Reading the recent AV Club interview with a less-than-thrilled Bret Easton Ellis promoting (?) the latest adaptation of his work brought to mind all of the terrible ways novels adapted into films tend to go wrong. One of the first butcherings to come to mind: The Golden Compass.

Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy is nothing short of amazing, so how did such a promising project go so terribly wrong? I think we have Chris Weitz to thank for that. Although he wasn't the original director linked to the project, the film ended up in Weitz's hands, and he is the one responsible for turning down a screenplay written by Tom Stoppard...maybe you've heard of him. Deciding he was better suited to adapt the novel than TomfuckingStoppard, Weitz wrote the screenplay himself.

What ensued can only be described as a weak, censored, cliff-notes-written-by-someone-who-maybe-didn't-even-read-the-book kind of film. I could rant about this for days. But I won't. Instead, I'll only say this: when a novel ends on the heartbreaking yet-suspense-filled note of a young protagonist realizing she has just inadvertently led her best friend to his death at the hands of her father and your film adaptation ends with said protagonist and said best friend floating off into the sunset before any of this even happens, you have failed.

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