Skip to comments.Critics Slam 'Golden Compass' Movie for 'Castrating' Anti-Church Themes
Posted on 10/16/2007 10:17:59 AM PDT by NYer
LONDON A debate over a movies anti-religious antagonism or lack thereof is heating up ahead of its upcoming release, with some accusing Hollywood of castrating the anti-Catholic themes present in the novel from which it is based.
The expected blockbuster, The Golden Compass, is named after the American title of best-selling author Philip Pullmans novel Northern Lights and will star actress Nicole Kidman and James Bond star Daniel Craig.
The original childrens novel, part of Pullmans His Dark Materials series, rejects organized religion in particular, the Catholic Church and critics of the movie version say the anti-religious elements of the book have been taken out of the storyline so as not to offend faithful moviegoers in the United Kingdom and United States.
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. In doing that they are taking the heart out of it, losing the point of it, castrating it, said Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, a British organization that promotes secularism and which Pullman is an honorary associate of.
It seems that religion has now completely conquered America's cultural life and it is much the poorer for it," she said in The Guardian newspaper Sunday. "What a shame that we have to endure such censorship here too.
Filmmakers, however, say they have stayed true to a majority of the narrative in the fantasy novel which tells the story of a young heroine and her battle against a dominant religious authority called the Magisterium, which condones the abduction of children for experimentation.
Movie director Chris Weitz, who directed the British hit family comedy About A Boy, starring actor Hugh Grant, assured that the film would be a fair reflection of Pullman's novel.
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 said.
The filmmaker explained that the sinister organization has been changed so that the film will now appear to be a more general widespread attack on dogmatic authorities.
We have expanded the range of meanings of what the Magisterium represents. Philip Pullman is against any kind of organized dogma whether it is church hierarchy or, say, a Soviet hierarchy, he noted.
Nicole Kidman, who is reportedly Christian herself, has also defended the movie.
She acknowledged that the movie has been watered down a little, but that it still introduces a world that is "dominated by the Magisterium, which seeks to control all humanity, and whose greatest threat, is the curiosity of a child."
I was raised Catholic. The Catholic Church is part of my essence. I wouldn't be able to do this film if I thought it were at all anti-Catholic, she has also stated.
Pullman, meanwhile, has said that he believes the outline of the story is faithful to what I wrote, given my knowledge of what they have done.
Although he is a self-professed atheist and a supporter of the British Humanist Association, Pullman has found support from some Christians most notably Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams. They point out that the English writers negative portrayal of the "Church" in His Dark Materials amounts to an attack on dogmatism and the use of religion to oppress, not on Christianity itself. Williams has gone so far as to propose that His Dark Materials be taught as part of religious education in schools.
Others, however, view the His Dark Materials series as a direct rebuttal of C. S. Lewis' series The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, as both feature children facing adult moral choices, talking animals, religious allegories, parallel worlds, and concern the ultimate fate of those worlds. Furthermore, the first published book from Narnia begins with a young girl hiding in a wardrobe, as does the first His Dark Materials book.
The U.S. release date for "The Golden Compass," based off the first installment of Pullman's "His Dark Material" triology, is Dec. 7, 2007.
Watch a video of the Catholic League's Bill Donohue discussing this issue here.
A film called "The Golden Compass" opens December 7. It is based on the first book of a trilogy titled His Dark Materials. The author of this children's fantasy is Philip Pullman, a noted English atheist. It is his objective to bash Christianity and promote atheism. To kids. "The Golden Compass" is a film version of the book by that name, and it is being toned down so that Catholics, as well as Protestants, are not enraged.
The second book of the trilogy, The Subtle Knife, is more overt in its hatred of Christianity than the first book, and the third entry, The Amber Spyglass, is even more blatant. Because "The Golden Compass" is based on the least offensive of the three books, and because it is being further watered down for the big screen, some might wonder why parents should be wary of the film.
The Catholic League wants Christians to stay away from this movie precisely because it knows that the film is bait for the books: unsuspecting parents who take their children to see the movie may be impelled to buy the three books as a Christmas present. And no parent who wants to bring their children up in the faith will want any part of these books.
"The Golden Compass: Agenda Unmasked" is the Catholic League's response. It provides information about the film, "The Golden Compass," and details what book reviewers have said about Pullman's books; a synopsis of his trilogy is also included.
If you would like to order copies, you can do so by sending $5 (includes shipping and handling) to:
450 Seventh Avenue
New York, NY 10123
Or order using our online form. (If you choose an electronic copy, a pdf will me emailed to you.)
On orders of 10 or more, the cost is $3 per copy.
It is important that all Christians, especially those with children or grandchildren, read this booklet. Anyone who does will be armed with all the ammo they need to convince friends and family members that there is nothing innocent about Pullman's agenda. Though the movie promises to be fairly non-controversial, it may very well act as an inducement to buy Pullman's trilogy, His Dark Materials. And remember, his twin goals are to promote atheism and denigrate Christianity. To kids.
Please get the word out.
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The ACLU should sue the movie producers for not being Anti-Christian enough.
I have read the first two books of the triology and am reading the third one now. Pullman is a good writer and his trilogy, at least the first two books, are a fun read. But as you get near the end of the first book, the anti-Christianity themes get stronger. He finally attacks the whole concept of original sin and he certainly hates the church. The third book of the series, The Amerber Spyglass, is so laden with hatred for the church that the writing gets bogged down from the beginning. If the producers want to bring all three books to screen, then they will not be able to avoid the implications. He also hates C. S. Lewis. You could call these the anti-Narnia books. He begins his story in a wardrobe, although the difference is vast from the very beginning.
I have not read the books, and will admit that I was looking forward to the movie. I may have to reconsider.
I would take the other side of the bet. Niclole Kidman has been on losing streak lately picking films and husbands for that matter.
This would be news.
I think the producers are just trying to make some money.
I was considering reading those books, but maybe I won’t now (one important factor is I don’t have easy access to them). I really generally don’t mind attacks on Christianity in fantasy books, because due to the medieval-style setting of most of them they attack the medieval church, which was royally messed up (no pun intended). The same can be said for the Halo games - the leaders of the bad aliens are religious zealots called ‘Prophets’, but when you look at the social structure of the Covenant as a whole, it almost perfectly reflects medieval society.
Anyways, I see a lot of Harry-Potter-style hype about the series’ anti-Christianity themes happening, people reading way too much into stuff, etc.
Thanks for posting this. I was planning on taking my 12 year-old to see this movie, and a couple days ago nearly bought him the book. Yikes.
On a different note, does anyone know anything about the Spiderwick movie?
I would definitely not buy these books for a 12-year-old child. They are exciting enough, but by the fhird book, they’ll be into themes that I doubt you would want your son reading. Hint: the church gets another chance to do the Garden of Eden over. Pullman thinks that the church is evil to forbid sex. The two young protagonists are young adolescents; the young lady, Lyra, is the new “Eve,” although you don’t know that until the third book. I hope that’s not a spoiler. Anyway, if you get my drift, there are topics you probably would not want your young son to contemplate for awhile. And you might well not want him ever to think about it the way Pullman does.
Philip Pullman is also the nimrod who wrote several columns attacking CS Lewis when the Narnia films came out.
I believe the Catholic League fears that the first movie, which is very mild, will encourage parents to buy the finished set of movies or, more likely, even buy the book trilogy (as I did with the Lord of the Rings trilogy). Then, the “beast is in the household” so to speak.
I saw the preview for this movie. It looked like one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen. With the talking animals I thought it looked like a ripoff of Narnia. And if it’s anti-Catholic I definitely wouldn’t pay to see it (I am a Catholic). Go see The Kingdom instead. It’s definitely worth your time.
I agree, I think that’s the fear. I also think it’s well founded. I want to see the movie, but that’s because I’m curious about it now that I’ve read the book. If I had young children in the house, I wouldn’t go near it.
It’s not a rip off of Narnia. A lot of those animals are the people’s “daemon’s.” I guess that they’re like their soul which take animal form. This book leads to about as anti-Catholic themes as you will find. He attacks God’s work in the Garden of Eden.
What gives? I thought global warming killed all the polar bears.
The previous post from 'twigs' provides some insight into the books. The most extensive reviews, however, are posted at Amazon.com. The following one immediately caught my eye.
I am not a religious person. I wouldn't say I'm an atheist, but I'm seriously leaning toward agnosticism. However, this series made me feel not just uncomfortable, but downright unclean because of how it dealt with religion. Mr. Pullman is an atheist, and I do not take exception with his right to his beliefs. I probably share some of them. The problem is, this series has been published and marketed as a children's fantasy novel, with no mention of the active dislike - hatred, even - in it's portrayal of religion. Mr. Pullman is free to believe what he chooses, and I'll defend to my dying day his right to do so. However, readers (and their parents) also have a right to their beliefs, and should not be blindsided by a seemingly harmless children's book. We label music with violent lyrics, restrict access to movies with adult themes, even rate television shows so parents have some idea of the content before allowing their children to watch. It disturbs me that this book is marketed directly to children, without any indication of its anti-religious themes.
This is not a series for young children, no matter how precocious they are. Religious issues aside, it's just too dark. Even young teens should not read this series without adult input. If your child wishes to read it, you should read it first and be prepared to discuss it with them. This is especially true if you are even casually religious because it's unsettling to have your beliefs twisted into something evil and spit back at you. Adults and older teens should be aware of the subject matter before reading it. If you don't have a problem with it, fine, enjoy the books. They're certainly well written. If I had been prepared for the subject matter before going into it, I might have actually liked the books.
I was predicting years ago that as a result, when something really toxic was offered to the public, we'd be powerless to effectively combat it because of the boy-who-cried-wolf reaction.
And yea verily, it comes to pass. Pullman is genuinely, explicitly, overtly and proudly anti-theistic in general --- the children actually kill God in the final book, or the repellent figure who is obviously set up as God--- anti-Christian in particular--- and if Christianity is the target, Catholicism is the bull's-eye.
The "His Dark Materials" trilogy (The Golden Compass; The Subtle Knife; and The Amber Spyglass) is clever, appealing stuff, and just as anti-Catholic is "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" is anti-Jewish.
Also, unfortunately, in my estimation Philip Pullman is a much more skillful writer than J.K. Rowling.
So what are we to do? Cry out, and who will believe us?
I remember going to see The Life of Bryan in NYC when it first came out. In front of the theater was a group of picketing nuns. After seeing the movie, it was evident that none of them had seen it.
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