Over the weekend, an extended 5 minute preview of The Golden Compass was posted. Lots of new footage is shown, but most importantly I think it gives a good idea of the film to those who have no experience with the book. Out of all of the movies that studios have developed as Harry Potter clones, this one has the best chance to succeed.

After the success of the Harry Potter films, studios were snatching up any fantasy related material with kids present. In the past few years we’ve had Eragon, Bridge to Terabithia, the Chronicles of Narnia (which also got a push from Lord of the Rings), The Dark Is Rising, The Spiderwick Chronicles, and many more that I’m forgetting.

Based on just the previews, The Golden Compass looks to be the most engrossing. It looks less like an attempt to pander toward the “Harry Potter” audience and more like a honest attempt to bring Philip Pullman’s world to the screen.

The Alethiometer from The Golden Compass movie website

I’m usually not a big fan of movie websites. I can’t stand all the crappy interactive Flash features and nonsense. I usually opt for the Apple.com trailers page and that’s it. Sometimes I’ll grab a desktop image if it’s a movie I especially like, but very rarely do I dig around inside.

Having said that, I found myself digging around inside the site for the The Golden Compass. For those unfamiliar with the series, it’s based on a trilogy of books by Philip Pullman. I read the first book (The Golden Compass) when I was in school at MTSU. Here’s the Amazon.com description for The Golden Compass:

Some books improve with age–the age of the reader, that is. Such is certainly the case with Philip Pullman’s heroic, at times heart-wrenching novel, The Golden Compass, a story ostensibly for children but one perhaps even better appreciated by adults. The protagonist of this complex fantasy is young Lyra Belacqua, a precocious orphan growing up within the precincts of Oxford University. But it quickly becomes clear that Lyra’s Oxford is not precisely like our own–nor is her world. For one thing, people there each have a personal dæmon, the manifestation of their soul in animal form. For another, hers is a universe in which science, theology, and magic are closely allied:

Not that Lyra spends much time worrying about it; what she likes best is “clambering over the College roofs with Roger the kitchen boy who was her particular friend, to spit plum stones on the heads of passing Scholars or to hoot like owls outside a window where a tutorial was going on, or racing through the narrow streets, or stealing apples from the market, or waging war.” But Lyra’s carefree existence changes forever when she and her dæmon, Pantalaimon, first prevent an assassination attempt against her uncle, the powerful Lord Asriel, and then overhear a secret discussion about a mysterious entity known as Dust. Soon she and Pan are swept up in a dangerous game involving disappearing children, a beautiful woman with a golden monkey dæmon, a trip to the far north, and a set of allies ranging from “gyptians” to witches to an armor-clad polar bear.

In The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman has written a masterpiece that transcends genre. It is a children’s book that will appeal to adults, a fantasy novel that will charm even the most hardened realist. Best of all, the author doesn’t speak down to his audience, nor does he pull his punches; there is genuine terror in this book, and heartbreak, betrayal, and loss. There is also love, loyalty, and an abiding morality that infuses the story but never overwhelms it. This is one of those rare novels that one wishes would never end.

The comparisons to Harry Potter are out there and having never read the Harry Potter books, I won’t choose a side either way. Regardless, I was fascinated with the book and managed to read the second book, The Subtle Knife, in between reading all my other books for that same class. I then had to wait for the final book in the series to be published, but when The Amber Spyglass was released, I read it within the first week.

Having said all of that, I guess you could say I’m predisposed to like the movie website. I think it does a great job of explaining dæmons and the Alethiometer (a magical/scientific device that only Lyra can use). The working replica of the Alethiometer itself can waste hours of your time if you were to read every bit of info available. As you can see above, the site will generate a personal dæmon for you. Why mine is a spider, I’m not sure. I’m like spiders as much as Indiana Jones likes snakes. I can’t wait to see a trailer for this movie and I’m sure I’ll be there later this year when it’s released to check it out.