Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Only Thing to Fear about The Golden Compass is...


(There are no spoilers in this write-up)

While I was in New Zealand, a group of fellow travelers recommended the His Dark Materials series to me after learning about my love for The Lord of the Rings. I read all three books in the HDM trilogy earlier this year--The Golden Compass being the first.

While I thought the HDM books were decent, they are in no way comparable to LOTR, so I was almost offended at the comparison after having finished the trilogy. That being said, incredible concepts are explored in The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, and they're worth reading for that reason alone. These books make you think much more than the LOTR trilogy does. And while the His Dark Materials set is found in the Children's section of the book store and most of the main characters are kids, I strongly feel that these are books for adults.

It's not spoiling anything to say that there has been a great controversy brewing over the release of the movie because the books are deemed by several religious groups to be against religion or anti-God. I think all of that drama is hilarious, because anyone who's read the books and then actually thought about their message for more than 2 seconds will know that the books are definitely NOT anti-religion. They are "anti- organized- religions- that- abuse- their- power," which would seem to be a sentiment that the vast majority of people would/should agree with. The author is warning people about the consequences of any one organization having too much authority, and is at the same time advocating free will. The organization in the book just so happens to be "the Church," but it could just as easily have been "the Government," in my opinion. When I first read it, I did not know about this aspect of the story and admit that I was a bit shocked that "the bad guys" all seemed to be angels and figures from the church and whatnot (more so because I knew it's widely thought of as a children's book and I thought the concepts were really sophisticated), but once I took some time to think through what was going on rather than having a knee-jerk reaction and running with it, I was more comfortable with everything.

What annoys me about the people protesting this movie is that 1) they probably haven't read the books or seen the movies themselves, they're just jumping on the bandwagon, and 2) even if they have read the book/seen the movie, they are simply not giving readers, and kids in particular, enough credit. I give huge props to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for endorsing the movie and applauding it for what it is: "an exciting adventure story with a traditional struggle between good and evil" (and no, I'm not Catholic). My belief is that reading The Golden Compass isn't going to turn kids away from religion any more than Harry Potter or Star Wars did (those franchises sparked the same concerns, remember!). The ironic thing is that the groups protesting this movie are proving the very point it makes--that it is dangerous and insulting when a religious group assumes it "knows better" than everyone else and doesn't think its members or the general public can make up their own minds.

After watching this movie, I'm pretty sure that the only two things any kids who see it are going to be thinking about afterward are 1) what their daemon would be (in an imaginary world, mind you) and 2) how cool the polar bear fight was. They're not going to be like, "Sign me up, Satan!!!!"

And if there is anything a child would be scared of in this movie, it is Nicole Kidman's forehead. "Mommy, why doesn't it move?" Good luck answering that one, all you parents! Seriously though, the twelve-year-old in the movie had more facial expressions--I couldn't believe it.

Back to the controversy--as has been widely reported, the movie stripped out many references to "the Church"--but I thought the allusions they left in were still pretty obvious (to the adult audience). And I think that's OK--it would've been really lame if they tried to drastically change the entire plot. The other huge difference between the book and the movie is the ending. No, I won't spoil it, but for a very obvious reason the movie cut the storyline off a bit earlier than the book did so as to end on a happy note. Anyone who has read the book will know what scene they most likely are leaving for the second movie.

If there IS a second movie, that is. It hasn't done so well at the box office!

Watching the film, I found myself thinking, "If I didn't read this book I would be really confused right now!" However, my husband never read the book and said that he could follow the plot just fine. What can I say? I'm slow. I was surprised that he said he liked it overall. "It was better than that Narnia movie," was his exact quote.

I was disappointed with the movie simply because I thought the story line seemed choppy and some of the special effects looked fake (Lyra riding Iorek and some of the animals talking). But other effects looked very good (the daemons changing shape). And everyone knows I just don't like Nicole Kidman. Daniel Craig was fine, but he was hardly in it. The saving grace of this movie is the main character, Lyra, played by Dakota Blue Richards. She was cast perfectly and did an excellent job.

If you liked the book, then you should see the movie. If you didn't read the book, you should see the movie if you liked "that Narnia movie." But if you are scared of extremely Botoxed foreheads, steer clear!

- e

P.S. There were some excellent trailers in front of the movie which I will discuss tomorrow.

1 comment:

anna said...

Speaking of Nicole Kidman - have you seen this:

...she talked about her kids to British channel GMTV. “They don’t call me Mommy … sometimes they call me Nicole,” Kidman told her interviewer. In case you’re wondering, sources close to the kids — Isabella, 14, and Connor, 12 — say that they call Tom Cruise “dad.”

Weird