GOLDEN COMPASS -- NARNIA IT'S NOT
Commentary By Don Feder
Unlike Yamamoto's attempt to sink the U.S. Pacific Fleet, there isn't much bang to "The Golden Compass." The $150-million blockbuster (actually, it would have a hard time busting a street sign, let alone an entire block) is as flat as cola left in a glass overnight -- as stale as a week-old bologna sandwich.
The first in a planned cinematic trilogy intended to rival "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" and "The Lord of The Rings," "Compass" may turn out to be the "Heaven's Gate" of juvenile fantasy films.
The movie is based on a series of children's books ("His Dark Materials"), by British writer Philip Pullman, that are rabidly anti-faith. Pullman is an atheist who makes Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens seem calm by comparison.
"I don't think it's possible there is a God,"
In this regard,
"The Golden Compass" is a devious project that has enlisted powerful allies. Everyone from Random House (publisher of
So as not to offend families at the outset,
While the books make it clear that the evil Magisterium is a Calvinized Catholic Church (demonstrating
Still, there are echoes of the books' anti-religious theme. Agents of The Magisterium refer to certain ideas as "heresy." Unknown to most 8-year-old moviegoers, "Magisterium" refers to the teaching authority of the Catholic Church embodied in the episcopacy.
If "The Golden Compass" succeeds,
Director Chris Weitz (the genius who brought us "American Pie") told MTV MovieBlogs.com: "The whole point, to me, of ensuring that 'The Golden Compass' is a financial success is so that we have a solid foundation on which to deliver a faithful, more literal adaptation of the second and third books. This is important: whereas 'The Golden Compass' had to be introduced to the public carefully, the religious (anti-religious) themes in the second and third movies can't be minimized without destroying the spirit of these books."
Thus, the movie is chock-a-block full of cute, talking animals (external reflections of the human soul), armored polar bears, valiant flying gypsies, good witches, and even poor Sam Elliot typecast as the wise, folksy ole hombre (but looking like he'd rather be in a sequel to "The Big Lebowski").
"The Golden Compass" (movie, not book) may be mostly innocuous. It's also insipid. As the wicked Mrs. Coulter, agent of The Magisterium, Nicole Kidman looks and feels as sinister as a Vogue model. This is thin gruel next to Tilda Swinton's menacing, manipulative White Witch in "The Chronicles of Narnia." Even the young heroine (actress Dakota Blue Richards) comes across more bratty and petulant than spunky. Its lack of luster is reflected in receipts. "Compass" bombed on its opening weekend. In the
There's nothing tentative about
Various characters instruct young readers that: "The Christian religion is a very powerful and convincing mistake, that's all," and "In every world, the agents of the Authority (Magisterium) are sacrificing children to their cruel god!"
The Magisterium experiments on children, separating them from their animal spirits (called daemons) and turning them into zombies, in an attempt to create a more compliant, docile populace. Sounds like public education.
Mark Morford, who spews for the San Francisco Chronicle, is a huge
Morford is borderline delirious over
Secularists never want to control or manipulate, which is why we have the progressive income tax, campus speech codes, hate-crimes legislation and the cult of global warming.
It's revealing how the God-haters always get around to whining about constraints on their sexual behavior. They long for the happy days of Canaanite frat parties, when sex was purely sensual and people rolled in the proverbial hay with men, women, children, domestic animals and every imaginable combination thereof -- much like
That's what feckless middle-class parents are supporting when they schlep their kids to see "The Golden Compass" and buy them boxed sets of
Compare the number of movies that depict Christians positively (I saw only one this year -- "Amazing Grace") to those that show them as mutants.
There is no more powerful force for inculcating values (especially in adolescents) than
The survey found that only 3% of non-Christians (mostly the never-churched or those who've fallen away from the faith) had a favorable impression of evangelicals, versus 25% of the Boomer generation. Most of the former view Christians generally as judgmental (87%), hypocritical (85%), old-fashioned (78%) and too involved in politics (75%).
As a result, while non-Christians are less than 25% of adults over 40, they comprise fully 40% of Americans 16 to 29. Barna observes that this is not a passing trend which will change as the youth of today mature. "While Christianity remains the typical experience and most common faith in
You can thank
I just saw a photograph of
But now that God is dead (or at least on death row),
The British novelist believes that all can be achieved in a "
This is the delusion of Jacques-Rene Hebert (with his Goddess of Reason), Marx, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, advocates of psychotherapy and other proponents of the isms that have dominated the past two centuries. All end at the gates of
Of the Narnia books,
Magic is more than the miracles celebrated at this season (for Jews, the miracle of the menorah, for Christians, the virgin birth). The wonder is all around us. A flower, a sunset, a lover's kiss, a friend's embrace, the smile of a three-year-old -- these too are magic.
Everything in creation has a purpose. Doubt often leads to certainty. By challenging complacent faith, atheism can lead to a more mature belief.
For a half-century, Antony Flew was the world's most prominent atheist. An eminent philosopher, Flew was Dawkins before Dawkins -- Hitchens with an intact brain.
Beginning with his paper "Theology and Falsification" (which became one of the most widely read philosophical treatises of the 20th century), delivered at the Oxford Socratic Club when Lewis chaired the group, Flew argued passionately and persuasively for the non-existence of God.
The professor said that absent convincing evidence, atheism must be the default position. However, if I ever find that proof, I'll get back to you, Flew promised.
He did in 2004, announcing that he is now a deist. Among other factors, Flew observed that human biology can't be explained by evolution or accident but presupposes a prime mover. This argument is expanded in his just-published book, "There Is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind."
So there is hope for Philip Pullman. In the meantime, by challenging us (modestly), he will end by bringing some closer to God. And that must drive him nuts.
Don Feder is a former Boston Herald writer who is now a political/communications consultant. He also maintains his own website, DonFeder.com.