His Undark Endings

Finally saw The Golden Compass movie last night. Lovely scenery, fabulous armored bears (yay armored bears!), and … an odd lack of narrative tension.

But the part that was even odder … and a little troubling … to me was the ending.

I knew the movie ended three chapters before the book. That didn’t bother me. What bothered me was the way the ending of the movie depended on not knowing the ending of the book.

(Here be spoilers, for movie and book both)

Because the ending of the movie was hopeful, and it drew that hope from two things: the fact that Lyra and Roger were going to find her father to deliver the alethiometer, and the fact that they would do it together, with the help of all their newfound friends.

And within three chapters, not only will Lyra’s father betray her horribly, he’ll betray her horribly by killing Roger.

Meaning the hopeful ending of the movie is a lie, and will be shown to be a lie at the very start of the next movie, if there is one, if they stay even vaguely close to the original story. Which strikes me as a sort of betrayal of the viewer as well. I can’t imagine how they can pull of the opening of the next movie after the ending of this one.

Maybe this is why the ending of this one felt a little forced even without knowing the last three chapters? Because the setup isn’t there for Lyra drawing hope from her companions and their togetherness; the setup–if I remember right–is there for the reader drawing hope from her crossing over into one of those parallel worlds as, in the book, she does.

If you’re going to change the ending, you need to change the setup, too. But if you’re going to change the ending and there’s more story after that, you need to keep that more story at least somewhat in mind, too.

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