I haven’t written much about the movie adaptation of the Golden Compass. Others such as Carl Olson at Insight Scoop has been doing in depth coverage of this much better than I could.
But I do find a couple of things interesting about the debate.
For one what was the last time you heard the people involved with a movie basically brag about how far the movie adaptation is from the book? Usually you will here excuses in book adaptations giving an apology of why the screenplay has to be different from the novel. In this case though they go on about how they toned down elements of the novel to not be so anti-religious. So in a way they are admitting they are making a movie based on an anti-religious book. The actors involved have made all kinds of statements on how the movie is not anti-Catholic. I would like to hear one interviewer asking them if the novels are? If someone did a movie adaptation of The Elders of the Protocol of Zion and then said they toned down the anti-Semitic parts of it would they get away with this?
I also find it interesting that Pullman in his trilogy where the message of atheism trumps storytelling had to be done in an alternate time line. When you think of atheistic materialism you don’t often think, if at all, about having dæmons as an animal-formed, shape-shifting manifestation of people’s souls. Sounds a lot like to me of an Indian spirit guide. This is not to say that atheists aren’t allowed to use fantasy as a story telling vehicle. It just seems to me to be a poor vehicle for preaching materialism.
The whole debate though went off the end when a Zenit reader wrote Coke about their sponsorship of the movie and received this reply.
“We appreciate the opportunity to respond to your concerns.
” The Golden Compass movie is a story about friendship, love, loyalty, tolerance, courage and responsibility. This movie also provides an opportunity for Coca-Cola to help raise awareness about climate change and the perilous state of the polar bear.
“We do not believe that this fantasy movie is an attack on any religion. We would never support a film that intentionally antagonized or condemned any faith.”
So I guess a CGI armored bear dæmon in a alternate timeline fantasy movie is really going to help awareness for real Polar Bears. Did you know that Finding Nemo raised awareness for mercury levels in fish? This has got to be the silliest defense I have ever heard. But as Carl Olson said "Didn’t Al Gore already make a fantasy movie about climate change and polar bears? " So what Coke wants us to believe is that a movie that has the Magisterium as the enemy, talks about suppression of heresy, has the agents of the Magisterium called friars, includes a renegade priest is not an attack on any religion. I mean it is not like there is any faith that has a Magisterium includes friars and priests and condemns heresy. Oh wait.
Now I am not into boycotts, I am just into knowledge and honesty. That parents should be aware of the trilogies agenda and that while the movie tones this down it remains evident even by secular reviewers in the New York Post.
I just wanted to complain that there is only one decent action sequence in this lavishly produced flick — a fight between two CGI bears that drew the only reaction from the audience at last night’s screening at the Empire — and reams of dull exposition. Bill Donohue of the Catholic League has been publicizing the movie by claiming it’s an anti-religious tract, as much as it pains me to say so, this self-appointed no-nothing may actually have something of a point. You don’t need to be a Jesuit scholar to figure out that the film’s bad guys who keep complaining about heretics — led by Nicole Kidman, looking even more like a CGI character than those bears — are clearly meant to be reps of the Catholic Church, even before you get a glimpse of their Vatican-like headquarters.
If you are going to make a movie that is a veiled attack on specifically the Catholic Church, but really any faith – then at least have the courage to say you are doing so.
It use to be that I could at least admire Pullman’s frank discussion about his books and was quite above board about his atheism. His love of truth though seems to have gone out the window when it comes to defending the movie. He complains about Bill Donohue calling him an militant atheist out to convert people when he has in fact said – as Jimmy Akin has chronicled.
In an interview published in the Washington Post (Feb. 19, 2001), he stated:
“’ I’m trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief,’ says Pullman. ‘Mr. Lewis [C.S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia] would think I was doing the Devil’s work.’”
Similarly, in an interview published in the Sydney Morning Herald (Dec. 13, 2003), Pullman stated:
“I’ve been surprised by how little criticism I’ve got. Harry Potter’s been taking all the flak. I’m a great fan of J.K. Rowling, but the people—mainly from America’s Bible Belt—who complain that Harry Potter promotes Satanism or witchcraft obviously haven’t got enough in their lives. Meanwhile, I’ve been flying under the radar, saying things that are far more subversive than anything poor old Harry has said. My books are about killing God.”
Though in the books he doesn’t have much imagination when it comes to God and what he has done is setup a strawgod to knock down.
There has also been some controversy over the USSCB positive movie review by the same person who loved Brokeback Mountain and later had to revise his rating.
Update: A reader who has written to to New Line Cinema let me know that they are using the USCCB review and saying"this movie is ‘entirely in harmony with Catholic teaching.’ "
What the reviewers actually wrote was:
To the extent, moreover, that Lyra and her allies are taking a stand on behalf of free will in opposition to the coercive force of the Magisterium, they are of course acting entirely in harmony with Catholic teaching.
So blatant dishonesty is no problem for New Line Cinema. They were only talking about one aspect of the movie, though of course reviewers Harry Forbes and John Mulderig statement is pretty problematic in the first place.