The Golden Compass Movie: Cause for Concern?

When Cathy and I last went to the movies (to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix — sans kids) we saw several clips for other upcoming fantasy films. One of them was “The Golden Compass”. It looked like a really classy, intriguing and exciting film. We instantly put it on our “must see when it comes out” list.

Last week, I read this news story on CathNews: My new film not anti-church, pleads Catholic Kidman. I didn’t give it much thought then. Nor did I connect the title of the film to the trailer Cathy and I had seen in the cinema.

But then today I read this on The Cafeteria is Closed: Atheist’s children book turned into movie, and then I finally put the two together.

Is there cause for concern? First the details:

Watch a five minute trailer here.
Read about the movie here (check out the parental guidance section on the left hand side)
I couldn’t get the movie site to work, but you might have more luck.
Here is the Wikipedia site for the book on which it is based (“Northern Lights”) and for the whole “His Dark Materials” trilogy.

Now, I haven’t read the books. I think I might now, however. As far as I can tell, it is anti-Catholic, anti-Christian ideology in a very attractive three-volume package.

My concerns? Well, if it was the movie only, I wouldn’t be too concerned. The movie will poison the term “Magisterium” (more’s the pity)–but it is a term that doesn’t usually enter into the basic Catechesis of most Catholics, and those who learn the term are usually beyond being poisoned by stuff like this at a popular level. I also note in the trailer that the Professor is condemned for an idea which is said to be “heresy”–so not all the ideology has been removed from the film. But it seems that our Nicole is right–there isn’t much directly in the movie that could be said to be explicitly anti-Catholic. The implicit undertones however… well, there is a lot more to be concerned about here than with Harry Potter, which simply ignored the spiritual side of reality (at least until the last book).

But it isn’t only a movie. It is based on the first volume of that trilogy–and that is a real concern. Because kids who enjoy the movie will want to read the books, and that is where the real damage can be done. It is one thing, perhaps, that outside the Canada and the United States the book is not know as “The Golden Compass” but “Northern Lights”. But I expect it will not be long before editions of the book start appearing Down Under with the title “The Golden Compass” as a tie in to the movie.

Christians were happy to see the “Lord of the Rings” and “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” made into movies, precisely because it encouraged children to read these great fantasy novels–and thus to expose them to some of the greatest Christian themed fiction ever written. But the cinematic industry is a two edged sword, and “The Golden Compass” cuts the other way.

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5 Responses to The Golden Compass Movie: Cause for Concern?

  1. LYL says:

    Without having read the books or seen the movie, I must say this was the conclusion I was coming too myself. I don’t think we’ll be letting the kids read/watch these ones.

  2. Pastor Michele Fischer says:

    Very rarely would I garee- but the idea that the author states that his books are about “killing God”
    No way– Although as a pastor, I might go have to read the books so I can speak against them– Just as I read the first LEFT BEHIND–
    great science fiction BAD THEOLOGY

  3. Purported Over Protective Mum LFB says:

    I purchased The Golden Compass today as I like to read books before I pass judgement on them. The first page of the book introduces the three books of the trilogy and then there is a note that explains the word “Daemon” which appears incessantly in this novel is to be pronounced as “demon” when reading this book. When you read the book a daemon is explained to be an individuals personal companion that can become any animal or item it wishes to portray and that every human has one. If the human dies the daemon dies as well and that when the humans become adults the daemon loses its power and can only take on one form.

    Maybe I’m looking into things to deep but one of the main characters, Lyra’s uncle, is named “Lord Asriel” if you turn the letters around in the last name it becomes “Lord Israel”.

    In Chapter 2 children are introduced to a procedure called “Trepanning”. Trepanning means to drill holes into a persons head to show the brain and has been used in mystical circles. The movie might be watered down, but after reading only the first couple of chapters I can assure you the book isn’t. Lyra is portrayed as the hero yet in the book she enjoys and promotes getting drunk, smokes and is a bully to weaker children.

    In one storyline it explains how the scholars and masters heat up Poppy’s when they have important meetings as when they inhale it it makes their mind clearer. If I’m not mistaken isn’t opium used to make heroine made from Poppy’s.

    I will be interested to see how they cover these traits in the movies.

    As I said I have only just began to read this book and find it very disturbing. My children will not be seeing this movie or reading the books as there are much better choices of entertainment than this.

  4. reader says:

    Reading the last post, i feel as though there are a few errors that need to be cleared up.

    First and foremost a daemon is a soul, regardless of the way it is pronounced. Anyone who had actually read the book in any depth would have found that out immediately. A daemon can turn into any animal it chooses until the child reaches puberty, when it settles on its ‘true’ form, reflecting the nature of the individual’s soul.

    And yes, you are looking too deeply into Lord Asriel’s name. If you had read the book, you would know that he is a very complicated character that does not come off very well at the end. He is also Lyra’s real father.

    Trepanning is never introduced as something to be valued; rather it is a reference to the diversity of the planter, and is never endorsed.

    Finally, Lyra may initially smoke, drink, swear and bully in the book, but in her evolution as a character she forsakes all those things. It is also worth mentioning that she takes up such behaviour because of her neglectful upbringing, and her urchin-like actions are never praised implicitly by the author- judging by the tone of the novel, Pullman is actually disgusted by her uncouthness.

    As someone who first read the book when I was 11 (the same age as Lyra), I can attest that the book never made me want to smoke, or drink, or swear, it never made me praise the devil. Rather, it affected my profoundly the way good stories always do. The lesson is not to embrace sin, or to hate the church, it is to question authority and to trust in the purity of your own soul.

    It is a book defending the rights of the individual, and above all the sanctity of the soul. The villains are people who separate children from their souls in an attempt to discover the origin of sin. Nothing could be more sinful, or unholy, than that.

    In the last chapters, Lyra exclaims, “Why do they do these things to children, Pan? Do they hate all children so much, that they want to tear them apart like this? Why do they do it?”

  5. Anonymous says:

    Protective Mum LFB: Your “Lord Israel” comment doesn’t make any sense. The character’s name is Lord Asrael. Which would give you….nothing if you changed the letters. Stop trying to stir up commotion.

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