The Golden Compass, a fantasy story written by British writer Phillip Pullman, is causing quite a stir with the debut of its film adaptation on December 7. The film is based on the first book of his trilogy entitled “His Dark Materials,” and has the Christian community in an uproar. Pullman is an overt atheist who has admitted to including anti-religious themes in his books. The story is a captivating one, full of many fantastical creatures and other creative elements, that has captured the imagination of thousands of children around the world since its publication.
A growing number of Christians have rallied together in protest of the movie, urging parents not to let their kids see it. Bill Donohue, the president of the Catholic League For Religious and Civil Rights, has condemned the movie for purposely toning down the anti-religious themes in order to make it seem harmless, describing it as an elaborate plot to wrongly influence their children, “They’re doing it through the back door, in a stealth fashion, because each book becomes more provocative, more aggressive and more anti-Christian.” Christian organizations across the country are preparing to protest upon its release, with rallies and even Facebook groups to motivate people to boycott the movie.
New Line Cinema, the film’s backer, has done its best to avoid controversy by watering down the anti-Christian elements in the movie. According to director Chris Weitz, there was no ulterior motive to push the entire series on children, stating the anti-religious undertones are not what most readers focus on, “Most readers see this as a story of a young girl fighting the odds, and the intellectual content is a bit of a bonus.”
Others are glad such a provocative series is making its way into theaters, and feel as though a little diversity in religious views could give children a chance to form their own opinions, instead of being given one perspective. James Ball of the Guardian Unlimited argues that, “If believers don’t hear contradictory views, they have little reason to truly consider what they hold dear,” and that it can only serve as a way to strengthen the truly faithful in their belief. Many feel the controversy over a film that has made alterations to the story to avoid the anti-religious themes is being blown completely out of proportion, and that people shouldn’t be boycotting the film as much as they should be evaluating their own arguments to help advise their children when they are inevitably exposed to views different from their family’s faith.
The movie is meant to enthrall audiences in a way similar to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and has been called the “Anti-Narnia” film in reference to its opposing theological stand from the classic series by the Christian C.S. Lewis. It promises to be a film for children and families to enjoy during the holiday season, regardless of its incitement of a religious dispute.