Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Golden Compass

What’s the hubbub about?
The Golden Compass is the first movie to come out of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. The books have been described as the anti-Narnia, and, until recently, the author seemed pretty open about the fact that they’re intended to promote atheism. The trilogy is essentially about two children killing God (who turns out not to be a god at all but a deceiver). In the process it allegedly casts religion in general and Christianity specifically in the worst possible light. For some reason people have a problem with this.

The first book is not terribly anti-religious, and the movie apparently is even less so, but the goal of the first movie is obviously to make a second movie, and the movie will likely drive millions of children to read the other two books long before another movie could be made.

What’s the story about?
I’ve recently completed the first book of the trilogy, and I have to say it’s a well-written page turner with interesting (though not always likable) characters. Like any good fantasy story, the world in which the story takes place is as interesting as the story itself, which means that this material is the literary equivalent of crack cocaine.

The story introduces us to Lyra, a girl who’s part orphan and part queen. She’s clever, fearless, and a little too mouthy, and she clearly thinks the world exists to entertain her. Unfortunately, in short order her life is turned upside down as her friend is kidnapped by an organization that turns out to be sponsored by the church. (At this point I’m not entirely sure if it’s Roman Catholic or Protestant – Pope John Calvin’s moving the Vatican to Geneva kind of threw me off.)

Soon she is sent to live with a strange, powerful woman whom she learns is the head of the kidnappers. Lyra also finds out that her father has been imprisoned and sets out to free him and take him the “golden compass” (alethiometer in the books). Along the way she makes some interesting friends (including the talking bear you’ve seen in the commercials), frees the kidnapped children, facilitates a revolution, and journeys to another world. Not bad for a girl who’s not quite twelve.

What should we do about it?
It’s an interesting story that is clearly designed to pull readers in and make them receptive to the author’s message which is, at minimum, a deep distrust of organized religion and is probably full blown atheism. I think many people underestimate how messages in books and movies can affect us, and that’s why complaints about things like this can attract such negative remarks from the general public.

Well, tough. These books pose a clear danger to our young skulls full of mush, and I advise making sure your kids avoid them.

We can’t keep people from buying books, but we can possibly keep the next movies from being made. The key is to keep box office receipts low. If this movie doesn’t make enough money, the other movies won’t be made.

How do we affect receipts? 1) Don’t picket or raise any other kind of ruckus. Attracting attention to these things only makes people curious to see what the trouble’s about. Plus it makes Christians look silly.

2) Don’t see this movie. Do see another movie. Any other movie. This weekend. If you don’t have time to go see a movie, buy a ticket to one you don’t mind supporting. (Yes, I know how much movies cost. Sometimes we have to sacrifice for the greater good.)

Some movies that Focus on the Family seems to think are alright: Bella, Enchanted, and Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. Honestly, though, I think it would be better to see (or at least pay for) just about anything else as long as it’s not The Golden Compass.

Christians in America are prone to watching the same movies, reading the same books, and visiting the same places as everyone else. It doesn't have to be that way, and in this case, it shouldn't be. There are a lot of Christians in this country, and if they all decide not to see this film, there won't be a sequel. We can make a stand just by going to see a different movie. I strongly encourage you to take your significant other to a movie this weekend. Just not this one.

Al Mohler has an insightful piece on this movie and the books. (HT: Justin Taylor)
The Thinking Christian has also written quite a bit about this.

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