A friend sent me a link about a fantasy movie called “The Golden Compass”.
I thought I would look into it, especially as it seems to be quite a big budget production – starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig (of Bond fame), with loads of special effects.
You may even be tempted to allow your children to see it, especially when you hear comparisons to the Narnia series by C.S.Lewis or Lord of the Rings by Tolkien.
However, I would like you to be aware that this movie, and especially the books it is based on, are very different, and in my opinion completely inappropriate for Christians.
The “His Dark Materials” trilogy was written by Philip Pullman, and “The Golden Compass” movie is based on the first book of the series. Pullman is an atheist, and is happy to refer to himself as such on his website. But that is not enough to stop me from seeing his film – I’m sure there are many things I encounter each day – books, magazines, TV shows – that are written by atheists. No, the reason why I won’t see this movie is because of the story itself.
The summary of the movie (as taken from the Wikipedia website, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/His_dark_materials) is as follows:
In Northern Lights (released in the United States and Canada as The Golden Compass), the heroine, Lyra Belacqua, a young girl brought up in the cloistered world of Jordan College, Oxford, and her dæmon Pantalaimon learn of the existence of Dust, a strange elementary particle believed by the Church to be evidence for Original Sin. Dust appears to be less attracted to the innocence of children, and this gives rise to grisly experiments being carried out by Church-controlled scientists on kidnapped children in the icy wastelands of the distant North. Lyra and her dæmon, Pantalaimon, journey to save their best friend Roger Parslow and other kidnapped children from this peril, with the aid of the Panserbjørne (armoured bear) Iorek Byrnison, John Faa and Farder Coram, leaders of the Gyptians, the aeronaut Lee Scoresby, and the witch Serafina Pekkala. After dealings with armoured bears and witches and success in many arenas, Roger is killed by Lyra’s father Lord Asriel in his own successful experiment to create a bridge into another world. Lord Asriel, followed by Lyra and Pantalaimon, journey through it separately in search of the source of Dust, unaware that they both mean to prevent the Church from destroying it.
I know, quite a complicated summary, eh ?
For those not familiar with the term “daemon”, it refers to a person’s soul, which in Pullman’s novels is shown to be a separate entity from a person. This entity takes the form of an animal. While people are children, these “souls” can change animal forms but by adolesence they are fixed. (Makes me think of same native spirituality). Several of the evil characters in the novels either attack the daemons or try to separate the daemons from their humans.
While some have tried to argue that Pullman is only attacking those churches that are oppressive and dogmatic, quotes from his books would suggest otherwise. Ruta Skadi, a friend of the main character Lyra says at one point: “That’s what the Church does, and every church is the same: control, destroy, obliterate every good feeling.”
Mary Malone, a former nun who is portrayed as a hero for rebelling against the church says: “the Christian religion…is a very powerful and convincing mistake, that’s all.” These are not the words of a man that is attacking simply one denomination or one cult but rather all organized religion.
And this should be no surprise to anyone who has read Pullman’s own words, which can be easily found on his website.
“But organised religion is quite another thing. The trouble is that all too often in human history, churches and priesthoods have set themselves up to rule people’s lives in the name of some invisible god (and they’re all invisible, because they don’t exist) – and done terrible damage.” (emphasis mine)
“The trouble comes when the fundamentalists insist that there is no such thing as analogy or metaphor, or else that they are wicked or Satanic, and that there must only be a literal understanding of stories. The Bible is literally true. The world was created in six days. The Kansas Board of Education says so. The worshippers of Bumba, as far as we know, haven’t developed this modern perversion, this modern limitation on the meaning of narrative; it’s only the worshippers of Yahweh and Allah who are as silly as that.” (emphasis mine)
Well, I am one “silly worshipper of Yahweh” who is going to take her entertainment dollars elsewhere.