The Golden Compass

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The Golden Compass is an anti-religious novel by Philip Pullman aimed at children and teenagers. It deals with ultimately tracking down and killing the Judeo-Christian God. ("Yahweh" is used in the book - the name of God given in the Bible in the Book of Exodus).

Indeed, church historian Dr. Quinn Fox notes:

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." [1]

The book is the first in a trilogy of anti-religious novels by Pullman. The protagonist is a 12 year old girl and Amazon.com classifies it as being for readers aged 9 to 12.[2]. It was recently released in a film adaptation starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig.

The anti-God subject matter was repressed from the film's advertising with the movie actually being advertised during Christmas specials on Lifetime. The DVD sales have been advertised on Nickelodian and special sales are meant to appeal to children by including a cute stuffed polar bear. Plot summary (from Amazon.com):

  • In the epic trilogy His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman unlocks the door to worlds parallel to our own. Dæmons and winged creatures live side by side with humans, and a mysterious entity called Dust just might have the power to unite the universes--if it isn't destroyed first. The three books in Pullman's heroic fantasy series, published as mass-market paperbacks with new covers, are united here in one boxed set that includes The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass. Join Lyra, Pantalaimon, Will, and the rest as they embark on the most breathtaking, heartbreaking adventure of their lives. The fate of the universe is in their hands.

The Golden Compass was originally published in Britain under the title Northern Lights. It was retitled for a North American readership.

Criticism

Allegations of an atheist agenda present both in Pullman's writing as well as the film adaptation have been raised by numerous groups. Reporting on the issue has ranged from mainstream news outlets like Fox News and CNN to left-leaning blogs like 2log. While Pullman has watered down his rhetoric before the release of his movie, his interviews over the years have not been as guarded.
""I'm a great fan of J.K. Rowling, but the people - mainly from America's Bible Belt - who complain that Harry Potter promotes Satanism or witchcraft obviously haven't got enough in their lives. Meanwhile, I've been flying under the radar, saying things that are far more subversive than anything poor old Harry has said. My books are about killing God."[3]


Brian Rittmeyer of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review wrote:

  • St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in Pine describes the movie as "atheism for kids," and Pullman as a "militant atheist and secular humanist" whose objective is to bash Christianity and "kill God in the minds of children."
  • "While 'The Golden Compass' movie itself may seem mild and innocent, the books are a much different story," the church bulletin says. "Each book in the trilogy gets progressively worse regarding Pullman's hatred of Jesus Christ." [4]


It should be noted the books have drawn a level of support from Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who believes the book series by Pullman can be used to help address the "inadequacies" of some religious education courses which only teach pupils about religious festivals, and not the deeper theological issues of Christianity. [5] [6].

Feature film

The film based on the first book of the trilogy grossed only $25,783,232 its opening weekend,[7] a disappointment when compared to earlier blockbusters that it was trying to mirror, namely the Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings. Domestically it took in only 70 million dollars all told, far less than the 300 million the other mentioned films each grossed. Worldwide it registered 370 million dollars in gross sales, still far short of the 800 million to 1 million of the blockbusters.

The film originally cost 180 million dollars to make, not counting marketing and distribution costs.

References

  1. http://www.pluggedinonline.com/movies/movies/a0003536.cfm
  2. http://www.amazon.com/Golden-Compass-Deluxe-Anniversary-Materials/dp/0375838309/ref=pd_bbs_sr_6?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1210266213&sr=8-6
  3. http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/2007/11/philip_pullman_realizes_underm.html
  4. http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/cityregion/s_541577.html
  5. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/03/10/npull10.xml
  6. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2004/03/17/bodark17.xml&page=1
  7. http://boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=goldencompass.htm
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