The Golden Compass Opens Today

7 12 2007

JJ’s note – We will try to see it this afternoon, not sure but we’ll
try. (Favorite Daughter is holding out for Sweeney Todd, which hasn’t opened yet. These certainly are not your father’s Christmas movies!)
NPR featured comments and mini-interviews on The Golden Compass this morning as I was
waking up. From these I gleaned :

Catholic League is calling for a boycott – afraid kids will read the
books and become anti-Catholic

True, it’s a great adventure story, but it may promote atheism and
denigrate great religions of the world

“The Magisterium” is a real institution, literally is ‘The Teaching Authority” of the Catholic Church. Pullman makes it his fictional evil empire in the books; the movie secularizes it somewhat but it’s really sinister, secular or not

one woman (sorry, missed her ID) sees it as a “compelling new idea of the
nature of divinity”, a layered concept adults can understand but kids
won’t – a Kansas adolescent lit prof says “to be a child is to be on the receiving end of power” and this book counters that, in the person of Lyra

Angels are major characters in the second and third books, if sequels
are made — it will be unavoidable to deal with them

The New York Times review is here. Apparently Lyra’s guardians are known as “The Scholars” and seem to be from Oxford University? Hmmm. . .this may take a whole blog-posse to dissect, feel free to jump on this horse and ride with me.


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27 responses

7 12 2007
JJ

Re: the GC website: You can answer some questions and a “daemon” or personal familiar (an animal vessel for your soul) is chosen for you. Young Son and I did it — I got a chimpanzee and he got a lioness named Xanthia. He also got a kick out being pegged as “assertive, spontaneous, modest, solitary, and soft-spoken” and the artwork is beautiful. Nicole Kidman looks amazing.

7 12 2007
JJ

We did see it — wow — and I do want to blog more. Favorite Daughter probably will do, too (we had some differences, since she’s also read the books and I never did.)
While we have supper though, here’s an interview with the author (cock of the snook to don at the gookins)

7 12 2007
sam

I haven’t yet seen the movie and may not for a while, funds being what they are. I don’t know that I ever blogged about this particular book/trilogy, but Phillip Pullman became one of my favorite writers a very few years ago, and I know that I’ve mentioned him and some of his other work. I forget how I discovered him the first time, but I like to take any opportunity to suggest people read more of his books. Don’t stop with His Dark Materials, the trilogy of which The Golden Compass is book one. Read more Pullman!

7 12 2007
RedMolly

I’m really looking forward to this movie… it’s got all my favorite ingredients, including Nicole Kidman and spectactular special effects. Being based on one of my favorite YA fantasy books is just another plus.

Our local alt-weekly’s review said (paraphrasing) that the anti-Golden Compass types might have a point… every kid who sees this movie will have all three books read by the end of January. Hoping that’s the case with my 8YO. Getting a little tired of seeing him reading Harry Potter over and over and over again.

7 12 2007
JJ

It’s not just the special effects you’ll want to see! The whole look of of this film is amazing, all the faces and hair and street scenes. I loved the Oxford scenes so much I wanted to step right into that world, courtyards and spires and these great cloistered interiors full of books and . . . and there’s a zeppelin I wanted to book passage on, plus an incredible wooden sailing ship (these are special effects I suppose, but not the battle or talking animal-type animation I usually think of as FX.)

The accents are of course great too.

But it’s the power of story I’m itching to blog about! OMG. There is a scene early on where Nicole Kidman demands the girl “obey” her and physically grabs her and dominates her, and so Lyra acts all meek and then rages off as soon as she can. It was such a direct parallel to the way I see the Christian corporal punishment meme.

7 12 2007
COD

We are seeing it tomorrow.

8 12 2007
alasandra

Glad to hear the rave reviews. I had been hesitate to go see it because everything I had read said it was watered down from the books.

I did a book review on The Dark Materials
The Subtle Knife was my favorite of the books http://alasandra2003.blogspot.com/2007/11/alasandras-book-club-subtle-knife.html
The Golden Compass http://alasandra2003.blogspot.com/2007/11/alasandras-book-club-golden-compass-by.html
The Amber Spyglass
http://alasandra2003.blogspot.com/search?q=the+amber+spy+glass

Not sure when I’ll get to see it though. Tomorrow I am hoping to go to a Robotics competion, where I’ll get to see one of our favourite if MIA bloggers (clue she loves shoes).

8 12 2007
JJ

I can’t wait to hear what you (both) think!

8 12 2007
JJ

NPR links here and here. (The second one is what I heard yesterday and refer to above.)

8 12 2007
JJ

It’s a “religious oligarchy” of wrong belief and suppression of truth as the villain, and Nicole Kidman is really similar to the White Witch at victimizing the children etc — so this is interesting, about why Christian concerns should (or shouldn’t) apply to this movie yet not to The Narnia Chronicles last Christmas:
“Christians worry about ‘The Golden Compass”

8 12 2007
Alasandra

I think it has more to do with WHO wrote the book and their beliefs.

You know I got tons of emails stating that Philip Pullman is an Atheist, and I shouldn’t let my children read books or go to movies written by Atheist. Why or earth not?????

I read one biography that said he was a secular humanist, which from reading “The Dark Materials” is I think closer to the truth. For those who are actually familiar with the Bible, it is very apparent that he knows his theology. Sadly most Christians only have a nodding acquaintance with the Bible. They have never actually read it.

8 12 2007
JJ

A British-national dad some of you know from NHEN said on our parent education list the other day, that:

Pullman is a close friend of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Catholic Church’s reviewers liked the film. There is, in fact, a powerful spiritual dimension to “His Dark Material” (the name of the trilogy – “The Golden Compass” is the first book) and there’s a very strong theme of personal responsibility, for
oneself and others.

I like the feminist theme, Pullman writing the story with both protagonist and antagonist as female, power of story saying to me that females aren’t automatically pure or evil, weak or strong, any more than males are — just layered and complicated! And yes, individual. Also I like that that the children’s souls are so mercurial and uncontrollable and packed with potential, to be anything. Not predestined or assigned to a particular class or world view or role in life.

8 12 2007
JJ

It occurs to me that if the conservative religious contingent in America were really clever, they would EMBRACE this story rather than complain or caution, and insist the evil empire of woman-and-child soul-ripping-apart-in-the-name-of-false religion must represent radical Islam, while brave truth-seekers like Lyra were obviously on their spiritual side!

And I’m surprised the radical religion pretending to be truth through the Discovery Institute, isn’t cozying up to the Scholars and scientists, claiming to be on their side. . .

8 12 2007
JJ

Sam, I started the trilogy last night, good stuff!
Which of his other books would you particularly recommend to me, and why?

8 12 2007
JJ

Btw, it’s a good thing Pullman didn’t name this the Jeweled Compass instead — the abbreviation would just look like too much of a coincidence. 😉

9 12 2007
COD

If your in the mood for a laugh, or cry, depending upon your POV, read the Focus on the Family review of the movie at http://www.pluggedinonline.com/movies/movies/a0003536.cfm

9 12 2007
JJ

That review does a great job capturing what I commented on above, about evoking the creepy Christian corporal punishment meme of the Pearls et al:

As if setting her up as a domestic abuser, the filmmakers show us Mrs. Coulter slapping Lyra, then hugging her and telling her that she didn’t want to do it. Later, Coulter angrily socks her dæmon in the face, then gathers
the monkey into her arms for a cuddle.

And this makes me feel like laughing and crying at the same time:

. . .no one over four feet tall could mistake the Magisterium for anything but an oppressive theocracy.” That notion is supported by church historian Dr. Quinn Fox, who observes, “The most telling aspect of His Dark Materials … is that the Reformation never happened in the world of The Golden Compass. Indeed, Pullman’s simplistically harsh view of the church and God posit a power-hungry, misanthropic institution out of control, and a detached, domineering God devoid of grace.”

Absolutely true. True that the story does this, also true that there are churches like that in our real world. And so — what? If (when) any church is power-hungry, oppressive and misanthropic and posits a detached and domineering God to rule the earth by hiding truth and confusing inquiry, then what would be the right response of good people who see this as evil?

(And again, why don’t fundamentalist Republican Christians celebrate Lyra’s side as their own, and attack Islam as the bad theocracy?)

10 12 2007
Colleen

I can’t wait to see this film. Jerry and I listened to all three audio books and LOVED them. I’d actually like to read it, too, so I can take it slower and digest more of it. I was afraid that they couldn’t possibly make a decent movie out of such an epic adventure but it sounds like they may have done it!

10 12 2007
COD

The fundamentalist Republican Christian Lyra would be at home knitting socks for her domineering father that was out trying to find her a proper God fearing husband 🙂

10 12 2007
alasandra

JJ you asked
(And again, why don’t fundamentalist Republican Christians celebrate Lyra’s side as their own, and attack Islam as the bad theocracy?)

It would require them to 1.) actually read the book or see the movie; so they would actually have some idea what it is really about and 2.) THINK for themselves. Much easier to just denounce it and tell people not to see it. Saves all the thinking.

I also liked the message (in the book) that everyone had the ability to ‘help’ if they would just do what they could. Haven’t had the chance to see the movie yet.

11 12 2007
JJ

So I’m reading the book to myself late at night, and yesterday I got a good hour of reading in, while FavD was with her voice coach. I’ve only read about 150 pages but so far I’m interpreting it as more an indictment of School than Church. (Maybe because I see them as pretty much the same thing, and both opposed to real education.)

Let’s face it, the plot is all about a powerful institution kidnapping children for their own good, the face of a kindly teacher snatching little kids from their mamas and mates and games, to experiment on them by forcibly separating them from their own nature. Through Obedience and Discipline.

Call it church or school or church school, in the book this institutional compulsion clearly contrasts with the real Education to be had (if you can get in somehow) by living among the colleges of Oxford.

In our world, your family might sign you over to the church but afaik the church can’t come get you forcibly. Oxford won’t. School can and will.

All through the text little gems keep jumping out at me, like:
“To be sure, there’s a warm passion behind what you say. But if you give in to that passion, friends, you’re a’doing what I always warned you agin’ — you’re placing the satisfaction of your own feelings above the work you have to do. Our work here is first rescue. . . if we aim to punish the Gobblers first and by doing so lose the chance of resucing the kids, we’ve failed.”

17 12 2007
alasandra

I found ‘gems’ throughout all 3 of the books.

Finally had a chance to read Bel Canto. I LOVED it!

18 12 2007
JJ

Oh good! 🙂

21 12 2007
JJ

Me responding to this criticism of The Golden Compass at Scott’s:
“I hope they don’t expect Christian parents to beat down the doors to buy tickets to a movie based on a book built on the opposite worldview.”

Except that this book-movie doesn’t really come from the “opposite worldview” to yours, Scott. In my literary opinion anyway.

I’d characterize Pullman’s worldview as Power of Story, same as Somerville’s science fiction, Left Behind, Narnia, MiddleEarth, Hogwarts.

Surely all worldview-engaging power of story — no matter what constellation of belief its author comes from — is meant to be understood on multiple levels and in multiple contexts, not merely as “facts” in an almanac, much less a profit center for Hollywood — which makes teammates of C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Rowlings, Homer, Shakespeare, Chaucer, and the early Christian storytellers too, right?

We delight in all these stories for their intelligence, inspiration, metaphor and their ultimate common message to humanity that how we live MATTERS.

Another thing these good stories have in common is that none is a hammering, dogmatic indocrination or a seductive lure for kids, despite what critics claim. They each offer multiple views of multiple worlds, to readers coming from multiple memes — even though imo, both church and school do a sorry job of preparing students intellectually to deserve them.
Let a thousand stories bloom!

5 01 2008
JJ

Hey! I just came across a comment of my own from last year, before I ever read The Golden Compass or heard about its “Dust” and yet, maybe great minds do think alike, check this out!

In another thread we are talking about the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, how the little boy and his stuffed tiger play a spirited, collaborative AND competitive, everchanging game of “calvinball” where they lose themselves in that loving, playing power of story together. That’s pretty much how I experience religion/philosophy.

“Kurt Vonnegut who said . . . the only reason he needed to believe in the existence of God, was music.”

In my (formatively Methodist) life I felt free to construct my own rules and philosophy, so I grew up seeing music AS god, as part of that infinite connected wonder that literally and continually creates “us” as the complex thinking and spiritual animals we are. In my metaphorical mind that makes an inspiring AND perfectly scientific Creation Story — because without that spark we wouldn’t be “us” in either sense.

Thus I can understand “prayer” as staying connected with that which creates our higher existence. . .

22 02 2008
JJ

What I said about it at Scott’s:
Re: The Golden Compass
by Dr JJ on Fri 14 Dec 2007

Except that this book and movie doesn’t really come from the “opposite worldview” to yours, Scott. In my literary opinion anyway.

I’d characterize Pullman’s worldview as Power of Story, same as Somerville’s science fiction, Left Behind, Narnia, MiddleEarth, Hogwarts.

Surely all worldview-engaging power of story — no matter what constellation of belief its author comes from — is meant to be understood on multiple levels and in multiple contexts, not merely as “facts” in an almanac much less a profit center for Hollywood — which makes teammates of C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Rowlings, Homer, Shakespeare, Chaucer, and the early Christian storytellers too, right?

We delight in all these stories for their intelligence, inspiration, metaphor and their ultimate common message to humanity that how we live MATTERS.

Another thing these good stories have in common is that none is a hammering, dogmatic indoctrination or a seductive lure for kids, despite what critics claim. They each offer multiple views of multiple worlds, to readers coming from multiple memes — even though imo, both church and school do a sorry job of preparing students intellectually to deserve them. Let a thousand stories bloom!

27 02 2009
JJ Makes Another Book Meme Her Own « Cocking A Snook!

[…] Rings, JRR Tolkien 2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen *3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman (see “Golden Compass Opens Today” and comments) *4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams *5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of […]

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