Philip Pullman novels are always dark and intricate - and they don't necessarily make a great deal of sense in isolation - so adapting them for the screen was likely to be a tough ask. This story centres around the young "Lyra" (Dakota Blue Richards) who overhears some sinister plotting by the "Magisterium" that could put the lives of other children - and the demons with whom they are connected - in dire jeopardy. Determined to thwart this, she heads to the frozen Arctic where she encounters "Scoresby" (Sam Elliott) and helps the dispossessed king of the polar bears "Iorek Byrnison" to reclaim his kingdom before all descend on an heavily guarded secret location where she hopes to free the children from the experiments. Director Chris Weisz has assembled a strong cast, on paper, here - but they don't really add much to what is an increasingly sterile story full of imaginative and impressive visual effects, but is remarkably devoid of engaging characterisations. Richards is fine, indeed given that she probably spent much of her time acting against a blue screen, she fairs quite well but Daniel Craig isn't on screen often/long enough to make much impact, nor is the conniving "Mrs. Coulter" (Nicole Kidman) used to anything like enough of an extent to exude much menace. Her adventures are well put together but are too episodic to knit the whole story together very well before a denouement that clearly illustrated that this story is part of a series and that more was yet to come in a sequel - if we were to make enough sense of the continuing dynamic. It's also rather wordy, too, which paired with the manner in which Weitz has decided to present this leaves it all just a bit dry, dull even. Great looking, though...!
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