Holy Mother of God, lock-up your children, it’s another über-threatening fantasy flick.
On Dec. 5, 2007, New Line Cinema released “The Golden Compass,” the first of a planned trilogy based on Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy.
In recent years American movie theatres showed a constant stream of fantasy films, from “Harry Potter” to “Lord of the Rings” to the “Chronicles of Narnia”. Largely based on their popular book counterparts, these films gained extreme popularity, generated massive profits, even though they caused controversy between religious and secular groups.
Like its predecessors, “The Golden Compass” dealt with an especially public outcry regarding it’s anti-religious content. But unlike its predecessors, the film debuted with lackluster box office profits, only grossing $25 million in its opening weekend. Compare that to the opening weekends of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” ($90 million), “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” ($72 million), and “The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” ($65 million). To date, “The Golden Compass” has earned a mere $65 million in the U.S.
Despite its lackluster profits (or perhaps what caused its lackluster profits), the film has caused enormous controversy within the Catholic Church and other Christian organizations.
On Dec. 19, 2007 L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, published an editorial denouncing the film as godless. In October of last year, the Catholic League called all moviegoers to boycott the film.
But, if “The Golden Compass” has such a dangerously profound effect on the beliefs of our progeny, maybe secular families should have been just as concerned bringing their children to see “The Chronicles of Narnia.”
Clearly they weren’t.
Profits for “The Chronicles of Narnia” rank it among the 50 highest-grossing films of all time.
How does “The Golden Compass” differ? What makes the content of this film so offensive that it necessitates public cries of blasphemy?
It is apparent that the film and (especially) the book have anti-religious themes. Author Pullman is an honorary associate of the National Secular Society, and has expressed his negative perceptions of the Catholic Church. Although the religious connotations are heavily diluted in the film, it has not quelled the wave of religious outrage.
“The Golden Compass” is certainly not the first fantasy-book-turned-film to face the wrath of fuming parents from the Bible Belt. The “Harry Potter” series is strictly forbidden to many children because of its glamorization of witchcraft. Similarly, some families have opted not to watch “The Golden Compass,” and not to expose their children to the supposedly demonic teachings of Pullman’s work.
But where were the American Atheists when Narnia infiltrated the big screen? Why weren’t they rallying their godless troops, and calling for the boycott of a film with heavy pro-Christian themes?
Because—in the end—it’s just a movie. And if a film has the capacity to uproot your child’s faith, perhaps the issue at hand is not the film.