Benbrook Library / Books

Book-to-Movie: The Golden Compass


This week, we have a guest post from Christina W., a library patron and BARC participant. In order to fulfill the requirements of the book/movie comparison BARC task, Christina has written her thoughts on the film “The Golden Compass”  and the book of the same name by Phillip Pullman on which the movie was based. Major thanks to Christina for contributing such a thoughtful, well-written comparison. Fair warning, it contains some pretty serious spoilers. Here is her submission:


I have just finished reading “The Golden Compass,” by Phillip Pullman. I watched the movie after I finished the book, and was surprised by some of the changes that were made in the book. Though I understand that changes must be made in order to make a book into a workable movie script, it seemed that some of the things changed just made the story seem more implausible.

The most obvious difference that I see between the book and the movie is the ending. The movie producers obviously felt that the movie needed to have a happier ending, in case a sequel was not made (which it wasn’t). The book ends with Lyra finding out that Lord Asriel is her father and that he is doing experiments to travel to another world using “dust” in the Northern Lights. She finds out that in order to accomplish his task he has to have a huge amount of energy. He takes Lyra’s friend, Roger, and plans to sever him from his daemon to create the energy needed. Lyra doesn’t make it to her father in time to save Roger, and decides to follow her father into the new world. The movie producers obviously felt this was not a good way to end their movie and decided to completely leave this part out. It seems that they may have used this as an opening for a sequel, had it happened. It seems as though the ending to the movie was very sudden and didn’t have the haunting effect that the book left you feeling.

Another large difference seen was the absence of religious backgrounds. The book is based around the idea of a magisterium that is in control of the people. The magisterium is meant to represent the church. There was much controversy over the religious activities that take place in the book. Many of these ideas were left out or loosely explained in the movie, probably in an attempt to keep all people happy and make the movie more secular.

Overall, the movie and book were pretty similar compared to other books and movies I have seen. I think, considering all of the fantastical things in this book, that they did a pretty good job of representing as much of the story as they could without it being an 3 hour movie. I am surprised that the movie didn’t do very well, as this seems to be the type of movie that was very popular at the time of its release, but I can totally understand why a sequel was decided against. I have not read the other 2 books in the trilogy, and I’m not sure that I will.

-Christina W.


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