One of the great things about being in youth ministry is that you can take kids to have lunch, see a movie, and call it ministry! I know some people don’t like this idea, but I took whoever wanted to go in our high school group, and saw the movie, “The Golden Compass”. I made it clear it wasn’t a church event so much as it was just hanging out. After the movie, we walked to our apartment (we live less than a mile from the theater), and talked about the movie. More on that later.
As far as the movie goes, I thought it was fairly entertaining. It isn’t often that I see movies after I have read the book. Honestly, I’m not usually reading books that they make movies out of. So this was an interesting event for me. I always hear people rant about how the book was so much better, and those rants annoy me, so I’m not going to say that. That’s partly because I actually didn’t think that this book was the best thing since ink was put to paper, as most seem to think.
I thought that the beginning of the movie was pretty rushed, which I realize it had to be in order to keep the movie from being a ‘family’ movie that passed the two and half hour mark. At the present, it comes in at just under 2 hours.
The main beef I had with the movie was its unfaithfulness to the layout of the book. I was shocked when the director decided to switch two of the main conflicts at the end of the book. This decision, I thought, took away from the flow of the story, as well as removing some pretty tense scenes.
There were two scenes, primarily, that were altered that I thought took away from the story. One is when Lyra, the main character, rescues a boy whose deamon had been separated from him. In the book, this was a very moving moment and the despair of the boy was clear. He was mumbling about missing his daemon and was mostly incoherent. This boy ends up dying because of the separation. In the movie, that boy is one of Lyra’s friends, and from all accounts, survives. But later in the movie, we find out that this boy escaped with others and it is implied that the others died after they were recaptured. So which is it? Did Billy Costa die or not?
The other situation that was changed for the worse was when Lyra is taken to the station where they are doing the separation. I thought that portion was a strength of the book, and it was just butchered in the movie. In the book, she is there longer and discovers the despair of many of the children, as they face a great unknown. All they know is that when kids are asked out, they don’t come back.
My other big beef of the movie is that the director chose to reveal information in a completely different order than it was revealed to Lyra, and in turn, the reader. There didn’t seem to be the weaving of mystery that there was in the book. The movie just seemed to have a dribble of information, and lacked the suspense of mystery of the book.
As far as the religious content goes, my guess was accurate. They toned down quite a bit of it. But that doesn’t mean it still isn’t something to take seriously, because children will be much more likely to read the books, which are much more straight forward with the objectionable material. In the movie, it is obvious that the religious establishment are the bad guys who desire to control everything.
One of the most anti-religious rants is at the end of the book, and that portion was completely left out of the movie. I had heard that people didn’t like the ending, and I agree with them. It is obvious it sets up the sequel, but it just didn’t have an urgency to it. The movie didn’t seem to wrap at all. It felt like the Pirates II ending where you just wanted something more. I was looking forward to see how they wrapped it up, since they totally messed with the order of the book, but they dodged that bullet by completely avoiding the ending.
It will be interesting to see if they make a sequal. The ending of the book quite simply isn’t ‘family friendly’, so I understand to a degree why they failed to do it. But that makes me wonder how they would cover it in a sequel. But the reality of a sequel seems to be up in the air, since this movie didn’t do too well.
As far as positive things to say, I loved the style and setting. The futuristic-forties/fifties look was great. The actress who played Lyra did a great job, as did Nicole Kidman, though I think I would have liked to see some more of the evil drive her character showed in the book. The special effects were great, and they did a great job showing the daemons interacting with the people.
I mentioned earlier that the students and I went back to the apartment after the movie. I wanted to use this movie as a way to discuss the role of Atheism in the world, what it looks like, the strategies of New Atheism, and how we as Christians should react. We spoke quite a bit about Atheism’s increasing influence on our society, and how we as Christians should not be ashamed of the Gospel. New Atheism’s desire is to make Christians feel shamed into denial of our faith. They want to make people who tolerate the idea of theism or Christianity feel like idiots for their irrational adherence to modern myths. They throw ‘new arguments’ out, but the reality is that it isn’t anything new. Everything has been said before, it just comes in different and shinier packaging.