Better than Beowulf. From author Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials triology comes this elaborate, thoughtful fantasy, an allegorical struggle between oligarchy and democracy told as the quest of a teenage girl named Lyra Belacqua (Dakota Blue Richards) to free a group of kidnapped children from a cold laboratory in the Far North, where their free will is drained from them. Her allies include Daniel Craig, Sam Elliott, the voice of Ian McKellen as an enormous polar bear, and Eva Green as a good fairy. Among the baddies: Nicole Kidman (shades of Scientology!) and Christopher Lee. Director/adaptor Chris Weitz (About a Boy) achieves a Harry Potter look combined with a candidly political story of kind, ordinary people resisting fascists from the "Magisterium." Brace yourselves -- at least two sequels to follow (113 min., 2007).
Director: Chris Weitz
Writer: Philip Pullman and Tom Stoppard
Producer: Deborah Forte
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Dakota Blue Richards, Sam Elliott, Eva Green, Tom Courtenay, Ben Walker, Adam Godley, Simon McBurney, Nonso Anozie and Jim Carter