|New Line Blu-ray Disc
For me, the main attraction of this two-disc set wasn't the fantastical tale of dirigibles, evil councils, and gentleman adventurers in search of dust (don't ask). 'Twas the rare DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1-channel soundtrack I sought after, one of a handful of Blu-ray titles capable of satisfying my new receiver's full potential.
Ultimately, The Golden Compass isn't lacking technically or for talent, only in terms of imagination. The presence of Daniel Craig and Casino Royale playmate Eva Green, the John Barry-esque music, and the huge Maurice Binder-imitating sets all seem Bond-inspired. Just not inspired enough.
In the VC-1-encoded transfer, every bead and sequin on Nicole Kidman's dress is visible as she menacingly slinks and vamps her way through the story. Figures are all three-dimensional - particularly the digitally animated "demons," which makes them stand out a bit from the rest of a shot's occupants but are otherwise completely lifelike. Check out the Ali/Foreman rope-a-dope polar-bear fight in Chapter 15.
And that high-rez 7.1 mix? Well, all channels are active throughout - but only with Alexandre Desplat's old-fashioned score, which comes across full and crisp, with well-separated instrumentation. As for effects and their movement, ask the dust. And forget about the extras, comprised of disposable featurettes, an inane director's commentary, and the same commentary with behind-the-scenes PIP.
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