Saturday, October 18, 2008

Golden Compass: Review (Belated)

Finally saw it. Yeah, I know. A billion gazillion people have reviewed the movie and Christians everywhere have lopped-off its head, dug its grave with a rusty spade and set the tombstone high and crooked above the Golden Compass. Most likely, there won't be a sequel to the film because of the mediocre sales of the first, which is a bit of a bummer because the first film had such an overwhelmingly obvious cliffhanger. Slightly irritating, to be honest. They might as well have said in the final voice over, "just wait till the next movie!"

So, despite the oceans of columns and blogs that have already been written on the subject I will offer a humble paragraph or two. Its probably a good thing I didn't see it earlier or it might have been my longest blog yet.

As a film, I thought it was... okay. There were some good things about it but it seemed to be lacking "feeling," as my wife put it. Without feeling, a mythology is difficult to support. This is why we love the Potter books so much and why Peter Jackson took such a long time in the making of his first LOTR film. I liked the mingling of sci-fi and fantasy and that whole parallel universe thing but again, as far as the mythology went, I was let down. Partly because I had heard that he had created a whole new mythology, a world that would rival Tolkien, Lewis and Rowling. Ummm, nope. Maybe one or two newbies. It was cool, but the borrowed motifs seemed clunky. It could have been that we (the viewer) were being required to see Witches and talking animals in a scientific light. It could work, but we just weren't given enough to support that mythology to suspend all that we've believed about the "prototypes" ingrained in our subconscious.

So as a film: C+ to a B-. The polar bear stuff was the best of the lot. I could have had a movie based on that story alone.

The mythology and all that Atheist business... It was so obvious that Pullman hates the Church and God and sadly, his crusade almost got in the way of the good story-telling. I can handle an Atheist storyteller. What I don't want is a sermon when I'm watching fantasy. To be fair, its the parts that I least enjoy about the Narnia films as well. The subtleties of allegory can easily become thorns that prick at your suspension of disbelief, until you are suddenly awake and staring at moving images, and watching a flat-screen tv, and listening to sound emerge from your speakers, and staring at the burned popcorn wondering how many fat grams you just ate, rather than lost in a world of fantasy and imagination, munching away in hypnotic-ignorant bliss.

The mythology gets bogged down in its own philosophical-preachy boots and every fantastic object or animal requires too much... thinking. After all, magic is magic. It can't be both. Make it one or the other. For instance: Supposedly, only one person could read the telepathic, scientifically created compass. This relies heavily on some "prophetic" quality, supernaturally given to the girl in the story. But the reading of the compass is somehow simply telepathic or metaphysically- scientific. Already, too much to think about when watching. That's the beauty of magic. You point the wand, believe, and lose yourself.

In short, Pullman tries to create a mythology in which God does not exist. This in itself is an oxymoron. As a result, in every room that Pullman creates, he shatters the mirrors and snuffs-out the candles, leaving only us to imagine what his world would have been like if he had just simply believed.


Vitamin Z said...

Don't know if you ever saw my review:

Here it is:

You have probably heard by now (you haven't? You aren't steeped in Christian culture like me? You need to get with the program) about the movie, The Golden Compass and all the hype it is receiving or going to receive as it's release draws nearer. Just a quick recap:

The author of this book (that is being turned into a film staring Nicole Kidman and others) is a committed atheist and hated C.S. Lewis' Narnia series as it pointed to the gospel and wanted to give kids a "better" alternative of atheism. Read more about the hype here.

He is out to get your kids! Quick, lock them up! We need to boycott this movie with huge signs and raging, fist pounding chants! If we are not careful, pretty soon they'll be voting for Hillary Clinton and reading Harry Potter books!!

Blah, Blah, Blah...

Everyone just needs to calm down and unbunch the undies. I know we can be a bit defensive about someone attacking our beloved C.S. and his timeless work for children, but to quote Job Bluth, "Come ON!!!!!"

I get the impression that Satan's strategy is rarely a full-frontal attack such as this. He is a twister ("Did God really say?") not a debater. He lives in the shadows and I believe subtlety is usually his method.

Am I worried about this new book infiltrating the brains of my three little ones?

Not really.

Here is what I am more concerned with:

1. I am more concerned with the subtle, soul crushing attacks of materialism in our culture that leads my kids at the ages of 5 and 3 to already tell me almost daily what possessions they want to acquire.

2. I am more concerned with the ease and comfort that we live in that may anesthetize them to a need for the gospel.

3. I am more concerned with the reality that they are daily exposed to a Dad that loves them desperately yet regularly falls short of perfection. I pray they will learn to look to Jesus when I fail them.

They might see this movie once and forget it but these are the things my kids are exposed to daily! This movie will come and go just like The DaVinci Code and The Last Temptation of Christ did but the cultural air they breathe is not going away anytime soon. I would be more concerned about this than The Golden Compass. Don't get too worked up about this one people. We have bigger fish to fry spiritually speaking.

Seth Ward said...

I did read that a while back and I thought you were spot on! Good to read it again though and some great reminders.

Becky said...

I haven't seen the movie, but I read the book. My problem is not with the "heretical" content, but with the plagiarism.

Seth Ward said...

Becky, great points. SO true. I did pick up on some of the Narnia similarities but totally missed the wicket witch rip, and the similarities in the names... Nice work!

He also ripped the "dust" idea from the Herbert Dune books. "spice" anyone? Sheesh.

What irks me is that Pullman had the gems to say that Tolkien was boorish and bland. What a doof.