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Alternate view on 'Golden Compass'

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By The Staff

Dear Editor,When the first Harry Potter movie arrived in theaters several years ago, many Catholic families had divided views about the film. Some enjoyed it as an innocent and intriguing fantasy. Others avoided it because of its emphasis on magic.But the screen adaptation of Philip Pullman’s “The Golden Compass” will likely produce far more agreement. No matter how one looks at it, “The Golden Compass” is a bad film.In fact, secular critics have been less than kind to the movie, and for good reason. It’s long, complicated, and despite a very gifted supporting cast and wonderful special effects, the story is finally lifeless. Much of the movie takes place in the polar north, and the iciness of the setting is a perfect metaphor for the chilly, sterile spirit at the heart of the story.Anyone expecting a playful children’s fantasy would do well to look elsewhere.As many readers will already know, Pullman is an atheist, and “The Golden Compass” – the first book in his trilogy “His Dark Materials” – is a calculated counter-story to Christian-based fantasies like “The Lord of the Rings” and “Narnia.”The aggressively anti-religious, anti-Christian undercurrent in “The Golden Compass” is unmistakable. The wicked Mrs. Coulter alludes approvingly to a fictional version of the doctrine of Original Sin. When a warrior Ice Bear - one of the heroes of the story - breaks into the local Magisterium headquarters to take back the armor stolen from him, the walls of the evil building are covered with Eastern Christian icons. And for Catholics in our own world, of course, “Magisterium” refers to the teaching authority of the Church – hardly a literary coincidence.Strangest of all is the absence of joy or any real laughter in the movie. The talented child actress who plays the film’s leading role is hobbled by a character who is uniformly unpleasant, rebellious, belligerent and humorless.Obviously, parents are the primary teachers of their children. They need to use their own judgment about whether a film is suitable for their families. But I’ll certainly be encouraging my own friends to put their Christmas cash to better use. In fact, maybe the most cynical and insulting thing about “The Golden Compass” is that its makers would offer this cold, anti-religious fable as “holiday fare.” That’s certainly worth a letter to New Line Cinema. With two more books in the trilogy as possible sequels, it might be helpful if they heard from all of us.Pam PrichardLos Alamos