Care for some religion with that flick?
December 23, 2007
I found the controversial film “The Golden Compass” long and complicated. Despite good acting and wonderful special effects, the story is ultimately lifeless. Much of the movie takes place in the polar north, and the iciness of the setting is a perfect metaphor for the chilly, sterile spirit at the heart of the story. Anyone expecting a playful children’s fantasy would do well to look elsewhere.The movie takes place in a parallel world similar to Earth, but dominated by a sinister quasi-religious authority known as the Magisterium. This powerful elite seeks to “protect” people — for their own good — by shielding them from scientific knowledge. More specifically, the Magisterium abducts young children and literally kills their souls, thereby extinguishing the spirit of free thought and inquiry.The aggressively anti-religious, anti-Christian undercurrent in the movie is unmistakable and at times undisguised. When a warrior Ice Bear — one of the heroes of the story — breaks into the local Magisterium headquarters to take back the armor stolen from him, the exterior walls of the evil building are covered with Eastern Christian icons. And for Catholics in our own world, of course, “Magisterium” refers to the teaching authority of the Church — hardly a literary oincidence.Also, in contrast to the Catholic belief in heaven is author Philip Pullman’s afterlife that consists of bodies breaking into particles and being recycled into the material world.Strangest of all — and in striking contrast to the Narnia stories — is the absence of joy or any real laughter in the movie. The talented child actress in the leading role is hobbled by a character that is unpleasant, rebellious, belligerent and humorless.Obviously, parents are the primary teachers of their children. They need to use their own best judgment about whether such a film is suitable for their families.
(Case: I don’t know Al Smith but I like his style of writing and the content of his thought.)