Novelist Philip Pullman’s 1995 The Golden Compass (aka Northern Lights), the first installment in the His Dark Materials trilogy, finally reaches the big screen in this splashy 2007 adaptation from director Chris Weitz (About a Boy). Set in an alternate, dystopian universe, the story centers on the efforts of a young orphan named Lyra (Dakota Blue Richards) to rescue other orphans who are being systematically spirited away by a mysterious group known as the Gobblers. Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman co-star. In what often seems like a tune up for his work just a few years later on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, prolific French composer Alexandre Desplat (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Argo, The King’s Speech) steps away from his usual penchant for subdued, measured emotionality and reaches for the fantastic. Bold, rich orchestration incorporating touches of exotic, eastern instrumentation lends credence to the premise of a parallel universe filled with both unimaginable wonders and impossible terrors. Lush, romantic strings segue into soaring woodwinds and magical, mystical horns in such tracks as “Sky Ferry” and “Lee Scoresby’s Airship Adventure” while more restrained tracks like “The Magisterium” and “Rescuing the Children” help build suspense while contributing to the film’s overarching sense of steampunk mysticism.
The Golden CompassAlexandre DesplatThe Golden Compass