FANTASY; 1hr 54min
STARRING: Nicole Kidman, Dakota Blue Richards, Daniel Craig
Bon appétit: from left, Kidman and Richards
Even in a ritzy alternative world, in which soul-equivalent animal “daemons” scamper and flutter with their human familiars, duplicity is alive and kicking. The characters in The Golden Compass — adapted by director Chris Weitz from the 1995 first novel in Philip Pullman’s inventive "His Dark Materials” trilogy — disport themselves in high society style. But the dictatorial Magisterium and its goon squad of Gobblers cast a long shadow, and 12-year-old Lyra Belacqua (Richards) is up to her feisty neck in it. Her bestie (Ben Walker) has vanished, her parameter-pushing uncle (Craig) is en route to the Arctic Circle and a velvety she-devil scientist (Kidman) is after Lara’s super-duper Golden gizmo.
If all this sounds like a load of old Gobblers, it’s because the transition from novel to screen is crying out for agility and lustre. Compass is a spare-no-effect expense splash-out, with big-ticket themes and polar bears in armour. When those babies get going, the cinema seats vibrate, and that’s as much of a pulse as Lara’s laborious, worlds-saving quest manages to muster.