The Golden Compass

Role: Billy Costa

Director: Chris Weitz

Release date: December 7, 2007 (US)

Running time: 113 minutes

Co-stars: Dakota Blue Richards, Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Christopher Lee


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The story takes place in an alternate world dominated by a powerful church called the Magisterium, and where part of the soul resides outside a person as an animal companion called a dæmon. Lyra Belacqua (Dakota Blue Richards) is an orphan raised at Jordan College in Oxford, while her uncle, esteemed explorer and scholar Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig), is busy seeking the elusive Dust, a cosmic particle of which the Magisterium has forbidden even the mention. When Asriel returns from his latest expedition, Lyra and her dæmon Pantalaimon (Freddie Highmore) witness a Magisterium agent poison his wine. Lyra warns her uncle, saving his life; then she watches Asriel give a presentation regarding his findings on the North Pole, where he was able to prove the Dust’s existence. The college gives Asriel a grant to fund another expedition that could lead to the discover of the infinite worlds linked by Dust, which would severely undermine the Magisterium’s hold on the world.

At dinner, Lyra meets Mrs. Coulter (Nicole Kidman), a wealthy, powerful woman who’s presented as “a friend of the college”. Mrs. Coulter insists on taking Lyra on a trip north as her assistant. Before Lyra leaves, the Master of the college entrusts her with the only remaining alethiometer, a compass-like artifact that reveals the truth. The Magisterium has seized or destroyed all the others. He instructs her to keep it secret, especially from Mrs. Coulter.

Mrs. Coulter takes Lyra into her home, in a big city that resembles a retrofuturistic London, and starts taking her to socialite dinners and parties. In her bedroom, Lyra gazes upon the alethiometer and notices that it continuously points to a lady, a lightning bolt, and a baby. She does not know what to make of her observation, however, and says nothing of it to Mrs. Coulter. Despite initially projecting the image of a free-spirited woman, she reveals herself to be extremely respectful of the Magisterium and its function. One night, Lyra casually mentions Dust; this puts Mrs. Coulter on edge as she warns Lyra never to mention it again, and also insists that she stop carrying around the bag secretly containing the aleithiometer. Mrs. Coulter’s dæmon (a golden monkey) attacks Pantalaimon, causing Lyra to give in. Lyra and Pantalaimon discover that Mrs. Coulter is head of the General Oblation Board, also known as the “Gobblers”, who have been kidnapping local children. Lyra also learns that her best friend Roger and her Gyptian friend Billy have been both taken by the Gobblers.

Lyra and Pantalaimon walk in on Mrs. Coulter’s dæmon attempting to steal the alethiometer and they escape into the streets. The Gobblers pursue her, but she is saved by Billy’s mother, who takes her to the ship of the King of the Gyptians, heading north to rescue all the captured children. Lyra shows the alethiometer to a wise Gyptian elder, Farder Coram, and it’s revealed she’s able to decipher the device’s answers.

After consulting with the Magisterium agent, Mrs. Coulter sends two mechanical spy-flies after Lyra. One is batted away but the other is caught and sealed in a can by Farder Coram, who explains that the spy-fly has a sting with a sleeping poison. Meanwhile, Lord Asriel has reached Svalbard, the kingdom of the Ice Bears, but he is captured by Samoyed tribesmen hired by Mrs. Coulter.

One night, Lyra is visited on the ship by a witch queen, Serafina Pekkala (Eva Green). She tells Lyra that the missing children are in an experimental station called Bolvangar. At a northern port, Lyra is befriended by a Texan aeronaut named Lee Scoresby (Sam Elliott), who advises her to hire himself and his friend Iorek Byrnison (Ian McKellen), an armoured bear Lee has come to rescue. Once a prince of his people, but now exiled in shame, the giant polar bear has been tricked out of his armour by the local townspeople. Using the alethiometer, Lyra tells Iorek where to find his armour. After recovering his armour, Iorek joins the Gyptian trek northward, along with Lee.

While the group is camped for the night, Lyra rides on Iorek’s back to an abandoned building the alethiometer pointed her toward. There, Lyra finds an escaped, cowering Billy separated from his dæmon named Ratter, and realizes that’s what the Gobblers are doing to the kidnapped children, something they call ” intercision”. Lyra reunites Billy with his mother just as the group is attacked by Samoyeds, who capture Lyra. Iorek and Lee follow her in Lee’s airship. Taken to the bear king Ragnar Sturlusson (Ian McShane), Lyra tricks him into fighting Iorek one on one. At first, Ragnar, who had already beaten Iorek while usurping his throne, seems to have the upper hand in the fight, but Iorek eventually manages to kill his rival, becoming the new and rightful king.

Iorek carries Lyra to a thin ice bridge near Bolvangar, but only Lyra is able to cross over before the bridge breaks. Upon reaching the station, Lyra is welcomed in and taken to eat dinner with the children, where she is reunited with Roger. While sneaking around, Lyra hears Mrs. Coulter tell the station scientists that Asriel has escaped capture and set up a laboratory, but Magisterium soldiers are on their way to arrest and execute him for heresy. She also hears the scientists talk about their experiments to sever the bond between a child and his or her dæmon. Caught spying, Lyra and Pantalaimon are thrown in the intercision chamber, and end up unconscious. On seeing Lyra in the chamber, Mrs. Coulter rescues her and takes her to her quarters.

When Lyra wakes up, Mrs. Coulter explains to Lyra how in her and the Magisterium’s view the intercision is needed to save the children from the corrupting influence of the Dust. She also reveals she is Lyra’s mother, but was forced to give her away because at the time of her birth she wasn’t married. Lyra correctly guesses that Asriel is her father. When Mrs. Coulter asks for the alethiometer, Lyra gives her the can containing the spy-fly instead. The fly stings Mrs. Coulter, knocking her and her dæmon out. Lyra runs to the room with the intercision machine and manages to destroy it, setting off a series of explosions that tear the facility apart.

Outside, the fleeing children are attacked by Tartar mercenaries and their wolf dæmons. The battle is joined by Iorek, Lee Scoresby, the Gyptians, and a band of flying witches led by Serafina Pekkala. The Tartars are defeated and the children are rescued. Rather than returning south, Lyra, Roger, Iorek, Lee, and Serafina fly further north in search of Asriel. Confirming Serafina’s prophecy of an upcoming war with Lyra at the centre, Lyra is determined to fight the Magisterium and stop their plans, which include taking over all the other worlds in the universe.