Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Golden Compass and the bigger picture

A comment on another blog got me to thinking. When do you go see something for yourself, and when do you let others opinions influence yours?

Looking specifically at the new movie, The Golden Compass, I'm confident that I don't want to see it for a number of reasons. Others though, Christians mostly, are going to spend their money on it to "see for themselves".

Cassy Fiano of Wizbang was one of those-Golden Compass Review

It's their money, and if they want to spend it supporting people who actively hate God and the Catholic Church, and by whose own comments have said that they want to draw kids away from God by creating a sort of 'anti-Narnia', well then, it's a free country.

My bigger problem though was with the larger idea that unless one experiences something first hand, they are letting some one else make a decision for them, or telling them what to do.

I don't have to smoke cigarettes to know that they can be harmful to my body. I don't have to get falling down drunk to know that alcohol can have negative effects on a person.

There is a time and a place for first hand experiences, but thankfully *I* don't have to be the one to do everything. Unfortunately, it IS necessary for some one to experience the negative things (smoking, drinking to excess, watching bad movies), and I'm sure there will be times when I am the one who gets to do so.

So, what criteria do I use to determine if I'm going to see a film? It comes down to three basic things for me-

1) Can I trust the person who is telling me about it to be giving me an accurate portrayal? Good, bad or otherwise.

B- Do I really want my money to go to support this type of project? What to the people involved with the film/book have to say about it?

III. Is this the sort of thing I should be filling my head with, is it edifying, or something that will try to tear down my beliefs or faith?

The first must be negative and usually from multiple sources, and BOTH of the others in place before I will outright refuse to see a movie. Note that I said BOTH of the second two criteria must be met. I've seen plenty of films with disturbing imagery, and some that aren't particularly edifying. Some of them I regret seeing, and some I own on DVD. (won't see V for Vendetta, seen Hannibal-complete with scenes now seared, seared in my memory, and own Dogma) That's why it's not the SOLE criteria I use for seeing a film.

Does this mean I'll miss a few good movies? Possibly. But with a limited amount of time and money, I'm willing to risk it.

With Golden Compass, it's as much the writer and director's philosophies about the project that bother me as the actual anti-Christian bias. That's what really disturbs me about this film. The outright hatred of Christianity that I've read from the people involved in the project, and how they hope it will be a catalyst for leading people away from God.

So, I'm not going to go see it, and I'm going to actively discourage others from seeing it. But I'm not going to protest it in any other visible way. Why give them the free media attention?

For those who are interested in what other's ARE saying about the movie and the books, here's a few of the sources I have read-

Archbishop Chaput On The Golden Compass

"Compass" Points in Wrong Direction

Here's Snopes on it

I could go on, but you get the idea. Also, just from a movie going point of view, what I've read doesn't make me want to rush out and see it. Here's a couple of key graphs from Cassy's review-

All that aside, how was the actual movie? It was decent. I'd give it a C. I got to see the trailer for The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian again, and that had me more excited than the actual movie did (literally -- I was practically bouncing up and down in my seat with excitement). The movie had decent action sequences, although not enough, and I felt myself willing the movie forward. The plot was kind of tedious, and left the ending quite obviously open for another movie. There were no real awe-inducing visuals in my opinion, either. There also is not the feeling that Lyra's quest is something that she needs to undertake. There's mention of how she's the child in a prophecy, but there is no sense of urgency there.

The biggest problem, however, was not the tedious plot or lack of action sequences or that there were no stunning visuals. It was missing that spark of magic, that sense of awe and wonderment you get from other fantasy movies like the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Harry Potter movies, and yes, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Those movies left you feeling awed, stunned, and the magic in those worlds seemed palpable and real. You left the theatre feeling as if these were real people, real events, and that if you poked around a few wardrobes in your house, you might just find Narnia, too. The Golden Compass did not have that spark of magic. You didn't leave the theatre feeling awed and stunned. Whether this was due to the plot or the filmmaking, I don't know exactly. Some movies have it. Some movies don't. This didn't.

So, I'm still encouraging folks to give it a pass, but that's just my opinion on it. (that IS why you read my blog, right?)


(oh, and thanks A, for your comment on the previous version of this post. It really helped me with rewriting this piece.)


At December 12, 2007 7:32 AM, Blogger Alicia said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At December 12, 2007 8:29 PM, Anonymous Dustin said...

Regardless of the author's intention in writing the book, he actually infused the plot with a very deep and beautiful mysticism. In the quest of the characters to destroy God (which is known as the FAKE God), they actually gain direct experience of a true, loving and real God. How is that something that can be condemned?

Don't confuse God with religion. The author of the books may be an atheist, but his hatred of God isn't really a hatred of God, it is a hatred of the church, which, regardless of how you feel about that institution, is not a pure, enlightened or benevolent organization, and history proves it.

Having said that, I myself believe in God and that Jesus Christ died for our sins, but I am not a Christian and I don't believe in the authority of any of our earthly institutions.

At December 14, 2007 12:27 AM, Blogger Alicia said...

Hey, coming back, and you're welcome. I read the piece again with new eyes.

I'd agree with you on this one:

>My bigger problem though was with the larger idea that unless one experiences something first hand, they are letting some one else make a decision for them, or telling them what to do.

I think we could do a whole series of conversations on that idea. Like I said, in theory I agree with you completely. In practice, sometimes it's still hard to tell the difference between being confident in the experiences of those I already trust, and accepting something without questioning it. Maybe we just need experience to know where those lines are...?

I've heard Ladyglencora's reactions to Hannibal, and even her description of some of those scenes is seared into my brain! Again, I agree with you on your choices and reasons to watch or not watch something. There really are too many movies out there worth seeing for their own sakes to waste time seeing something just so I can say I'm not letting anyone else make up my mind, you know?

Hmmm, just don't forget that the battle has already been won. Just like in the review you quoted, stories that are deliberately anti-God aren't going to be as good as stories that deliberately (or, for that matter, unintentionally) convey the glory and magic of His design. That's actually one of the strongest proofs I find that God is real. Stories sometimes unintentionally drift into His grand design (because it's real, it's really the way the world works), and the ones that deliberately reflect it are full of magic and metaphors that I have in my head and heart to this day (like the Chronicles of Narnia). But anyway. I don't believe in supporting people who are directly fighting for evil. I just think it's important to remember that they've already lost. I guess--if there was a practical option such as checking books out of a library, that didn't support those who were attempting to lure children away from God, I'd use that. I just want the freedom to be able to also choose to see something, and in this case I think the opportunities for discussion outweigh the negative of adding a few dollars to the movie's total take. Besides Mysanal, Lavender Jane wants to discuss, and now there's a thread on XOC too, all with potential evangelism opportunities. Anyway, just thought I'd mention that's why I'm seeing it, but if it wasn't for that, I wouldn't either. I agree with your reasoning!

At December 14, 2007 12:30 AM, Blogger Alicia said...

Hi, Dustin! Alicia here, I just wanted to write back to your comment as well. I don't know the story behind Golden Compass at ALL, only that my non-Christian friends are all asking what the fuss is about.

I guess I'd say that creating a fake god in order to control people is an evil thing to do, and it's something people have done throughout the ages, that I wish they hadn't. However, I wouldn't put every member of the Church in it. I have seen Church corruption in history, and experienced a few variations of that corruption and how it can affect one personally, but I also see so many good, genuine people within the Church. I love it and believe that it is the institution God created, and I believe that Christians are to defend the Church as well as God. That doesn't translate to letting Church leaders get away with stuff, of course, but I think that's more the exception than the rule.


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