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Benedict XVI and Golden Compass


It’s generally not a good thing when artists sell out to Mammon, by self-censoring out of fear of low box-office. But I must admit that the film version of The Golden Compass is an exception to this general rule. By eviscerating the story of its anti-God elements, the filmmakers have turned it into a defense of a key religious value: political freedom and the integrity of the human soul. The plot now focuses on the evil totalitarians’ plot to sever the souls from children so the kids won’t be able to make wrong choices. Watching this, I thought it was a strong illustration of an point in Benedict XVI’s recent encyclical on hope: “If there were structures which could irrevocably guarantee a determined–good–state of the world, man’s freedom would be denied, and hence they would not be good structures at all.”

So on this, the Golden Compass film is on the same page as Pope Benedict, and as Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange (I think Burgess, whose reputation has fallen of late, will eventually once again be recognized as one of the great Catholic writers). To try to turn the remaining two Pullman books in such a positive direction, however, would be well-nigh impossible: They are dominated by sheer hatred of the God of the Scriptures.
So should you take the kids to see this one? Not if you don’t want your money lining the pockets of someone who–albeit not in this film–propagandizes for an atheist agenda. Also, while there’s not a lot of gore, I thought the movie was a little too intense for very young viewers; and the plot is way too complicated (I tend not to care about plot very much myself, but kids–in their naive insistence that things should make sense–might be asking you all the time, “who is that?” “what are they doing?” etc. Trust me, you won’t have the answer.).


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