So have you seen the trailer yet for The Golden Compass? If not then here it is below:
Until I saw the trailer I’d never heard of the books the movie is based on — a trilogy called His Dark Materials — and the first time I saw the trailer I wrote it off as a Chronicles of Narnia wannabe. The only reason I might have had for seeing it in theaters is that Courtney was very excited about the movie. As it turns out, though, I may have to go see it out of my own curiosity now that I’ve learned that the books have a somewhat anti-organized religion tone to them and are written by an avowed atheist.
It seems the movie has been a cause of concern for our good friend and Catholic League president, Bill Donohue, prompting him to put out a press release advising parents not to take their kids to see the film:
“New Line Cinema and Scholastic Entertainment have paired to produce ‘The Golden Compass,’ a children’s fantasy that is based on the first book of a trilogy by militant English atheist Philip Pullman. The trilogy, His Dark Materials, was written to promote atheism and denigrate Christianity, especially Roman Catholicism. The target audience is children and adolescents. Each book becomes progressively more aggressive in its denigration of Christianity and promotion of atheism: The Subtle Knife is more provocative than The Golden Compass and The Amber Spyglass is the most in-your-face assault on Christian sensibilities of the three volumes.
“Atheism for kids. That is what Philip Pullman sells. It is his hope that ‘The Golden Compass,’ which stars Nicole Kidman and opens December 7, will entice parents to buy his trilogy as a Christmas gift. It is our hope that the film fails to meet box office expectations and that his books attract few buyers. We are doing much more than hoping—we are conducting a nationwide two-month protest of Pullman’s work and the film. To that end, we have prepared a booklet, ‘The Golden Compass: Agenda Unmasked,’ that tears the mask off the movie.
“It is not our position that the movie will strike Christian parents as troubling. Then why the protest? Even though the film is based on the least offensive of the three books, and even though it is clear that the producers are watering down the most despicable elements—so as to make money and not anger Christians—the fact remains that the movie is bait for the books. To be specific, if unsuspecting Christian parents take their children to see the movie, they may very well find it engaging and then buy Pullman’s books for Christmas. That’s the problem.
“We are fighting a deceitful stealth campaign on the part of the film’s producers. Our goal is to educate Christians so that they know exactly what the film’s pernicious agenda really is.”
Wow, anything that gets Bill’s panties in a bunch like that might be worth seeing, but as it turns out he’s quite right that the filmmakers have toned down the anti-religious aspects of the story somewhat. According to some folks it’s been watered down a bit too much:
Northern Lights, the book which first introduced readers to Pullman’s 12-year-old heroine, Lyra, is as dear to its many fans as JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and JK Rowling’s Harry Potter saga, so tampering with the philosophical content is not likely to be welcomed when the film is released before Christmas.
While Pullman himself has said he believes ‘the outline of the story is faithful to what I wrote, given my knowledge of what they have done’, the National Secular Society – of which the author is an honorary associate – has now spoken out against the changes.
‘It was clear right from the start that the makers of this film intended to take out the anti-religious elements of Pullman’s book,’ said Terry Sanderson, president of the society. ‘In doing that they are taking the heart out of it, losing the point of it, castrating it. It seems that religion has now completely conquered America’s cultural life and it is much the poorer for it. What a shame that we have to endure such censorship here too.’
Kidman has said the critical stance of the film ‘has been watered down a little … I was raised Catholic, the Catholic Church is part of my essence,’ she told film journalists in Australia in the summer. ‘I wouldn’t be able to do this film if I thought it were at all anti-Catholic.’
At a preview of footage staged at the Cannes Film Festival in the spring, director Chris Weitz, best known for directing About A Boy, said the film would be a fair retelling of Pullman’s tale.
‘In the books the Magisterium is a version of the Catholic church gone wildly astray from its roots. If that’s what you want in the film, you’ll be disappointed,’ he admitted, but added: ‘We have expanded the range of meanings of what the Magisterium represents. Philip Pullman is against any kind of organised dogma whether it is church hierarchy or, say, a Soviet hierarchy.’
That’s disappointing to say the least, but as Bill Donahue points out there’s always a chance some kids will be inclined to pick up the books after seeing the movies. I’ll have to make a point of picking them up myself as well. The film is still causing enough concern among the Religious Right that several emails have been circulating around warning about its anti-Christian message. The email is cropping up often enough that the folks at Snopes.com already have an entry on them on their site. If nothing else it’s nice to see the other side get a little representation every so often.