Sunday, January 10, 2010

“The Golden Compass” – Maybe God is a polar bear.

The question I ask most frequently during my reviews is “Will I ever learn?” The answer to that seems to be “No.” A while back I wrote a review for “I am Legend,” in which I railed on movie studio executives for destroying a movie and discarding the book it was based on at the same time. Well, I’ve got another question, which I am sure will be popping up nearly as frequently; “When will these studio execs stop butchering good books just to appease fanatics so they can make more money?” I am sure the answer to that question is “When all movie studios go up in flames.”

If you were expecting one of my typical reviews, you should stop reading. You may also want to stop reading if you are easily offended or agree with the religious fanatics because I’m about to slam them all.

If you haven’t heard about the controversy involving this film, let me explain. The film is about a parallel universe in which peoples’ souls take physical shape in the form of animals outside of their bodies. They literally walk next to them. A little girl named Lyra is caught up in a struggle in which the Magisterium, the main authoritative body, is trying to keep the world from learning about Dust. Dust is what binds everything, including people’s souls. Mrs. Coulter (Nichole Kidman) heads a Magisterium-funded project in which children are abducted and whose souls are cut from their body in an attempt to keep Dust from binding them to the universe.

What does this have to do with religion? I’m glad you asked. There are several Christian groups – Catholics, Southern Baptists, and Methodists, among others – that wildly objected to this film on the grounds that it portrays and promotes anti-Christian and atheistic ideals, even calling for boycotts of the film. You should know that the studio actually removed most of the material that portrays those ideals and only left subtle references to them. Conversely, the studio managed to anger fans of the book by doing this, proving the ageless axiom “You can’t make everyone happy.” Let’s remember that these Christian fanatics are the same ass holes that called for boycotts of the Harry Potter films, “The Da Vinci Code,” and countless other films and books.

The craziest part of the argument wasn’t so much about the movie as it was about the books. They actually said that the most dangerous aspect of the film was that it would entice children to read the books. If you’ve never questioned the motives of whichever religion you happen to belong to, this kind of thinking should do it. Not only are they channeling their inner Hitler by advocating that children shouldn’t read, but that if children are exposed to this material, they will become atheists. I’d like to think this viewpoint was exclusive to a select portion of lunatics, but even the Vatican published an editorial (Dec. 19, 2007) in their newspaper denouncing the film. The big problem with the Vatican and these other people is that they are so paranoid and insecure in their own beliefs that they are afraid that a fictional story is going to destroy God. Did I mention “The Golden Compass” includes a race of armored, talking polar bears? This should tell you how far past the deep end these people have gone.

Before you get any ideas that I am an atheist or advocating atheism, you should know that I was raised Catholic and believe that religion can be positive in some ways. I am not a practicing Catholic; I disagree on many topics with what I am “supposed to believe,” which leads me to the other problem with these people. They do not believe they are wrong, they want you to believe what they believe, and they do not want you to be a free thinker or question any of these beliefs (that insecurity I was talking about). I am not saying all Christians are like this, but it seems that they are the only ones who ever say anything. By the way, if you think my comparing them to Hitler was crossing a line, go research Hitler’s reasoning for burning books and you’ll change your mind.

Can you also see how hypocritical these people are by reading the books and deciding that you shouldn’t read them, rather than letting you make up your own mind? What was that word I used earlier? Oh yeah, insecurity. In all fairness, there is a group called the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, who suggested in November 2007 that parents should talk with their children about any of the issues that this movie brought up. Guess who forced them to retract this statement a month later? Not even the Catholic Bishops are allowed to think for themselves.

Religion aside, I’m also tired of studios changing books. Besides removing Philip Pullman’s (the author) religious ideals, they ended the movie roughly three chapters before the end of the book. They say they did this because it was the natural end to that part of the story, but they really did it to shorten the movie to maximize profits and to placate the fanatics. If they are going to make books into films, they should leave the stories intact, remembering that they bought the rights to a story because fans liked it the way it was originally written. They should stop trying to “improve” them or make them shorter or they’ll only end up making more trash like “Jumper.”

My whole point is that people should all be atheists. Just kidding. My real point is that religious entities should trust their followers enough to let them think for themselves – and movie studio executives should trust good stories to speak for themselves. Asking people to boycott films and books is nonsense and makes people want to see or read them even more. They should be doing what the bishops tried to do; encourage people to talk through it and make up their own minds. If they end up believing their goldfish are their souls, maybe they shouldn’t be trying to recruit these people into their churches.

Rating: You should ask for seven dollars back so you can go buy the book and read the original version.

1 comment:

  1. I'd like to argue a couple points. One, the shortened ending from the books. I've read (well actually listened to the audiobook. By far it is the best one I've ever heard. The author is the reader, and there's a great cast of people who do all the characters. I highly recommend!) the books and at the end of the first one a child is sacrificed. Since this movie was being marketed mostly to kids and teens they knew there was no way they could keep a PG-13 rating and stay true to the books. Plus all the critics (and parents) would have had a conniption fit if they'd have to watch that. Especially the ones whom haven't read the books. That's pretty much most of the people who saw this movie.
    Also, I don't know why they even bothered to make this movie. The third book reveals who "god" really was and what he did when Dust first appeared in the universe. And with what the characters do to him, there was no way the church (ie the Vatican, who by the way has a permanent "consultant" working for the movie rating committee) would ever let them be made.
    Making this movie was a big money grab, not an attempt to bring to life a wonderful fiction story like LotR trilogy was. Knowing the fans of the book would go see it, and the curious non-religious fanatics they made it anyway. Secretly with their fingers crossed in their pockets, hoping that if it made enough money they might have been able to give the proverbial finger to all the haters and make more money producing the sequels. But alas that's not in god's plan.