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I went to see The Golden Compass with some misgivings today. I had seen lukewarm reviews for it in the general media and had read a couple of scathing reviews in the Christian media. The movie is based on the first of a trilogy of books for children called His Dark Materials written by Philip Pullman of England. Pullman is a self-proclaimed atheist, and his objective appears to be to refute Christianity, or any other form of deity/religion. I originally did not plan to see the movie. However, a free movie pass and a challenge to review the movie found me there the last day the pass was valid.
On the surface, The Golden Compass is an exciting fantasy movie with some odd twists which involve the soul. In the movie, human souls take the form of animal daemon companions which may take many forms for children, but eventually settle down to one form for adults. For a fighting bear, his armor is basically his sole (although one brutish bear wants a real daemon of his own) – remove a bear’s armor, and he has no reason to go on.
This weird “soul” angle becomes the basis for the unfolding plot of The Golden Compass where children are abducted in cruel experiments to separate them from their souls. The evil entity behind this diabolical scheme is the Magesterium, which is the ruling power in the land. The Magisterium believes if they can remove the daemon from the children, they will have more control, and the ubiquitous and ambiguous dust which supposedly connects everyone to all parallel universes will have less influence. The officials of the Magesterium wear the types of vestments easily associated with the church, and in one scene where the fighting bear’s armor has been stolen and housed in the Magesterium building, the edifice is quite obviously a church with icons painted on the walls.
The hero, played by Daniel Craig, is a noble adventurer/scientist, who leaves his illegitimate daughter, Lara, in the care of a university. In this movie, science and the church…oops, I mean…Magesterium are squared off against one another in a deadly duel. In the world of The Golden Compass, free will (i.e. intelligence) and religion cannot co-exist.
The plot is a bit convoluted as any movie with a hidden agenda most be. Not only do we have the main story line, which is quite exciting, but we have to have constant references, hints and explanations about dust, daemons, and the dastardly Magisterium. As one who enjoys a good fantasy flick, I certainly was entertained by some elements of The Golden Compass, but I did find the several references to “free will” as well as the heavy-handed depiction of the Magesterium both tedious and trite. I did not leave the movie with a good feeling even thought it ends in “victory,” and I found the main character, Lara, to be as bratty as she was brave.
I guess according to popular culture and current literary blockbusters, I am still just a silly muggle at heart, after all. I’ll take that over the crap Pullman is selling any day. Pardon my French, but we muggles tend to get testy when too much of the afore-mention crap is shoveled at us.
By the way, popular myth debunker, Snopes.com has an interesting article on Pullman and The Golden Compass at:Snopes.com on The Golden Compass
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Snopes.com on The Golden Compass
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