Golden Compass Quick Review

The Golden Compass movie has finally arrived in theaters. This movie, derived from the books by Phillip Pullman, has been highly anticipated in our house. We are all fans of the books and were anxious to see the movie adaptation. Would they screw it up?

No.

While allowance has to be made for the time-compressed format of a theatrical release, the movie adaptation left us all pretty satisfied. One should still read the books, if only to really understand the relationship between a child and their demon. While reading the book, my son was inconsolable when he found out the activities at Bolvangor. In the movie, this has lost some of its impact.

The cumbersome voice-over at the beginning was quickly forgotten as we began our two hour long dash through Lyra’s world. The movie was visually lush and the casting was spot-on. Dakota Blue Richards’ precocious performance manages to draw the attention away from such charismatic screen personalities as Daniel Craig, Nicole Kidman and Sam Elliott. All cast in roles they were meant to play.

Don’t even get me started on the fantastic Ice Bears! The great armored bear, Iorek Byrnison, was neither cartoonish nor arbitrary. He was natural, menacing and regal by turns. The battle between Iorek and Ragnar was dramatic and exciting.

While there remains the shadow of the Magisterium and its mission to control the hearts and minds of the people of Lyra’s world, this is primarily Lyra’s story. It is an adventure story of great scope and wonder with plenty of thrills for everyone.

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Why is fiction so frightening?

Recently, I was forwarded the following email from a friend:

Subject: Pass on to anyone with children – Anti-God kids movie

Dear Friends,

Pass this on to anyone who might have children…click on the link below to find out more about the movie The Golden Compass which is to be out in December

Anti-God kids movie coming out:
http://snopes.com/politics/religion/compass.asp

The interesting thing about this particular bit of fear mongering by the religious right is that it is pretty accurate. That’s correct, the collection of books in His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass, The Amber Spyglass and The Subtle Knife quite purposefully challenge religion. They are also quite fantastic. Smart, compelling and complex in a way that Harry Potter (another difficult fictional character for religious types) doesn’t quite achieve. Of course, how the religious themes play out in the movie is left to be seen. As we know, movies don’t always capture the spirit of the book.

Philip Pullman is not shy about expressing his disdain for organized religion. From an interview with Third Way:

“Well, all right, it comes from history. It comes from the record of the Inquisition, persecuting heretics and torturing Jews and all that sort of stuff; and it comes from the other side, too, from the Protestants burning the Catholics. It comes from the insensate pursuit of innocent and crazy old women, and from the Puritans in America burning and hanging the witches – and it comes not only from the Christian church but also from the Taliban.

Every single religion that has a monotheistic god ends up by persecuting other people and killing them because they don’t accept him. Wherever you look in history, you find that. It’s still going on.”

That is the author’s view in his own words. Seems to me, he clearly expresses why we should all fear and distrust religion. Having said that, His Dark Materials IS A WORK OF FICTION. There are talking armored bears and flying witches! What occurs in the book involves fictional characters in clearly fictional circumstances.

So, why is it that fundamentalist Christians, Muslims, Jews and probably others I’m not as aware of, find this kind of fiction so threatening? It’s all made up stories, right? Well, as a recent Barna Group poll shows, a large number of Americans have a very difficult time distinguishing reality from “made up stories”. If super-beings, magic, ghosts and superstition in general made up your world view, you would find fiction very frightening indeed.

It is particularly important, they believe not to expose their children to these stories. There is the danger that, already indoctrinated in to believing fanciful things, they might find they prefer a mythology that is more consistent, intelligent and caring than their own.

Trying to establish a habit of finishing with an excellent quote. This particular one comes from a friend of mine who is currently reading The Amber Spyglass:

“Well that’s just it. If anything, I thought the books were condemning the hunger for power and dominance that can develop out of ANY organized movement that claims to be ‘Truth’ and ‘Right’, including religion and certainly political systems, whether its capitalism or communism. I was assuming the fight was against the evil urges of power and domination — thinking one’s perspective is so right and justified, and to be pursued at the expense of harming others, that one completely loses track of ethics.”

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