Thursday, January 03, 2008

[LIF] Golden Compass Points to Spoilers

I went to see the Golden Compass tonight with a friend of mine. He is a Baptist chaplin so I figured we'd have a good conversation on the movie after. Actually I was disappointed, so we just talked about life after. I'm not sure I'd pay to see other installments of this series on the big screen. There are some cool things about the movie (apart from it getting under the skin of religious folks), such as battling polar bears. What is not to love about bears in armour kicking butt! And the concepts are kind of neat, I think that a Magesterium is a great idea for an overarching enemy (sorry Benedict). But there is a lot I didn't like.

I did not like the fact that this film overemphasised a Platonic notion of soul and body. That kind of crap is the bane of good theology. Not that Pullman is concerned with good theology. Also the choice to call these souls demons just opens up too many questions for me to want to take my daughter to see this film (and she has asked to see it). I'm still Pentecostal enough to teach my kids that demons are bad things. However, I did like the fact that if the soul was hurt, that also hurt the body.

Also I think I am impressed that Pullman avoided telling the gospel story, at least so far. Most movies do not do so well. But then again this might be coming later in the story. My buddy Brad has a theory that if you tell stories long enough, you have to tell the story. But what we have instead is a Gnostic sort of story where knowledge equals freedom. Truth plays a role, but the compass is more of a prophetic tool guiding the characters, liberating in a way, but also the author seems to want us to believe that truth is suppressed by the institution/church. I think it is a good critique to make, but I'm not sure that the same can't be said for Gnosticism.

What I liked least is the main character. What was her name? Started with an L. She makes Harry Potter seem well behaved! Her rebellious impertinance is glorified in this movie. I think the actor, Dakota Blue, did a great job, but the character is not one I enjoyed. She didn't win me over to her side. Her demon did a better job actually. And I still can't remember her name - shows you how much I bonded to this character.

This is probably worth renting on a lazy Friday night. But you might want to preview it before showing the kids. Figure out what you will say about the demons and the dust, cause you know those questions are coming. And if they aren't? Well, I think I'd be more worried.


Andrew said...

I think what pullman is doing with the daemons has much less to do with things "demonic" and more to do with the fact that, at least as I understood based on my reading, his story is basically a retelling of an early "gnostic-like" mythology (or it at least has its basis in such a mythology. whether it's a decent retelling, I have yet to decide). I've not seen the movie so these comments are based on my reading (so far) of the "His Dark Materials" trilogy. On a different note, Pullman's portrayal of "Christianity" bears little resemblance even to nominal expressions thereof and, regardless of the language the screenwriters might use to describe it, so far he rarely refers to the religion practiced in the "oratories" as Christianity. Clearly, the religion portrayed in the movie is fictional (see the book for reference to "Pope John Calvin") which points to a suspicion I have recently blogged about that people simply do not know how to read fiction without being suspicious of some "I'm trying to convert you to demon-worship, atheism, or whatever other ism currently seems threatening to your faith." Anyway, I've enjoyed your blog thus far and you'll be added to my blogroll. Don't know if you plan to read the book but I think you'd enjoy it (Pullman is actually a masterful storyteller and - if your post is any indication - it seems like the screenwriters (not pullman) could have used some help in adapting the story for film.
Grace & peace, A.T.

One of Freedom said...

Hey Andrew. I was wondering if they meant daemons, the movie clearly pronounced them demons. It was definitely clear that these were the souls of the individuals (Kidman's soul reveals her real nature) but it is a bit off putting when they are always talking about their demons. I'm more thinking in terms of trying to watch this with my kids (and I'm fairly liberal about what I watch with my kids).

BTW Pope John Calvin is mentioned in the movie, that one made me laugh.

Andrew said...

that's interesting that they pronounced it "daemons." Anyway, I've got no kids so I'm not sure what to do about that. I made some guesses in my post but, in the end, I'm not sure. Once again, great blog! Thanks for the response.