After months of waiting, schedule shuffling, and rain checks Shari and I finally had the movie night we first planned back in June. It wasn’t hard to decide what to see, since watching the first previews we had agreed to see The Golden Compass together. This was long beforethe current hot controversy surrounding the movie, books, and author. This is my take on what I saw the good, the bad, and the not as ugly as expected.
The story is fantasy. If you don’t like the genre in general you won’t like this one either. There are talking animals and witches and a whole world operating with it’s own rules. Fantasy is normally enough to get Christian groups riled up.
From what I understand the author Phillip Pullman’s trilogy is to Atheism what Narina is to Christianity, which has been like adding gas to a burning fire. Pullman is quoted as saying, "I'm trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief…" in the Washington Post back in 2001, I couldn’t find the original article just many that site it. But Pullman also recently said in an interview on Today, "Well, you know, I always mistrust people who tell us how we should understand something. They know better than we do what the book means or what this means and how we should read it and whether we should read it or not." I found this quote here.
I found a decent review of the movie on Kidology’s site. They also have a forum discussing the movie and whether Christians should see it. What I found refreshing about the article was that it did not tell you not to see the movie, it goes over the plot, gives four areas to be aware of, and three teachable themes with biblical references to enrich a discussion. I also liked that it was written to help pastors, teachers, and parents to engage in those who have seen the movie. The article is good stuff.
Back to the movie. The Magistrate, which I understand in the books symbolizes organized religion or the Catholic Church, is more like a corrupt government. It could be compared to the ruling powers in Animal Farm, Brave New World, or V for Vendetta. They want to dictate what people think and do and stop free will. The heroin and friends set out to discover truth and defend free-will. I didn't mind not liking them. They were evil, but I didn't feel like I as a pastor was being attacked. I hear the anti-church theme was watered down for the movie, that could be the reason the anti theme wasn’t as noticeable.
One of my bigger issues is that it is not a children’s movie. We saw parents taking young ones to see it. The Canadian rating is PG, but I agree more with the PG-13 rating the US gave. The Golden Compass is filled with frightening concepts (Gobblers stealing children in the night), suspenseful moments, violence, and death. Even the lighting was dark and spooky, if I were a child I would be up all night with fear. Not a kid's flick!
So, yes, I did enjoy the story and all the subplots. The characters were introduced and developed well and I became increasingly drawn into the tale. The most frustrating thing was the conclusion. It had that same let down as the end of the Fellowship of the Ring, when you realize the two hours you just watched was really just an introduction. The ending can only mean they plan to make the next two.
Also I got really excited to see the new Narina trailer…May 2008=Prince Caspian!