The Golden Compass a.k.a. “His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass,” “His Dark Materials: Northern Lights,” “Der Goldene Kompass,” “À la croisée des mondes—La boussole d'or,” “Altin pusula,” “La Bussola d'oro,” “Kultainen kompassi”
Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray
Fantasy, Action, Kids, Romance, Adventure, Drama, Adaptation
1 hr. 53 min.
Year of Release:
December 7, 2007 (wide); DVD: April 29, 2008
THE OCCULT—What does the Bible say about it? Answer
What is the Occult? Answer
Is Satan a real person that influences our world today? Is he affecting you? Answer
How can we know there’s a God? Answer
What if the cosmos is all that there is? Answer
If God made everything, who made God? Answer
What does God say? Answer
“It is the Alethiometer. It tells the truth. As for how to read it, you’ll have to learn by yourself.”
“The Golden Compass” is being marketed to children. Your child watches the movie, wants the books, reads the books and gets a whole new perspective of God, which could doom him eternally. Don’t be deceived. The movie is bait for the books. And that makes me more concerned than Phillip Pullman going on record as an atheist. What he says will fade away, but what he has written will remain for unsuspecting minds to read for generations to come. Our work as Christian parents is cut out for us.
“God is our refuge and strength, a tested help in times of trouble.”—Psalm 46:1
Dr. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, notes in an article titled “The Golden Compass—A Briefing for Concerned Christians,” that:
Like most of you who are concerned with what The Golden Compass in book form says to our children, I have been reading with great interest what most reviewers, commentators and religious leaders have been saying about Phillip Pullman and his active, fervent put-down of God. Pullman has not been shy about his active disdain for Christianity or his own comments about the stories of Tolkien and Lewis. Here are his own words:
And his scorn for Lewis’s fantasy world has been widely documented.
He has called the series “one of the most ugly and poisonous things” he’s ever read.
Here is a point Mr. Pullman hasn’t noticed about himself, because he’s been so caught up in his atheistic rhetoric, and that is his stories follow closely the very lines he so venomously discounts.
Pullman is following in the footsteps of Lewis and Tolkien. Like them, he has created alternate worlds of fantasy that vividly manifest his own particular world view and his perspective on spiritual matters. Tolkien and Lewis established the foundation of modern fantasy storytelling, adding to that a beautiful sense of Christian love and friendship. It brings a smile to me to note that Pullman continues the fantasy tradition he so urgently puts down—and most notably in The Golden Compass.
His crafting of his stories, though, is where the similarity ends.
On a more sinister note, Mr. Pullman even sees that he has the edge, because J.K. Rowling has taken most of the public bashing before him. To quote Phillip Pullman:
We should be praying for our children and for the effects Phillip Pullman’s books and now the movies will most assuredly have on a new generation coming up in the wake of the fuss over J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter series.
I believe we should not fuel this author’s negative view of Christianity or of his blatant declaration of being an atheist. We dare not focus on him so much that we wind up making him stand out, while we at the same time risk the Christian community looking like the villainous Christians in his stories.
“The Golden Compass” focuses on a 12-year-old girl named Lyra (Dakota Blue Richards)and her daemon (pronounced “demon”)—her soul in the form of a talking animal—Pan (the voice of Freddie Highmore). Everyone in her world, in fact, has a daemon, which could range from a monkey to a lion.
Lyra saves the life of her Uncle, the good Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig), from an evil man in power who has tried to poison him. After hearing her Uncle talk about something called the “Dust,” which is symbolic of original sin and knowledge, she is intrigued. Lyra still is wanting to know more about this captivating thing called Dust, but keeps her curiosity to herself, for the time being.
Lyra and Pan are enticed to go and live with the beautiful and alluring Mrs. Coulter (Nicole Kidman)for a while in the wonderful “North.”
Before her departure to the North, Lyra is given an ancient device called an alethiometer. Lyra has no idea that the alethiometer is, in fact, the famed Golden Compass. She is told never to let anyone know she is in possession of it and that it measures “truth.” Once Lyra learns how to read it, she is able to see the past, present and future. The alethiometer becomes Lyra’s source of knowledge, and, as the film progresses, she leans on it more and more for guidance.
Early in the movie, her friend Roger (Ben Walker) is kidnapped by the Gobblers, and she sets out to find and rescue him.
Once Lyra realizes Mrs. Coulter is head of the Gobblers, she and Pan breaks free of her evil hold and, following their escape, meet many animals and peoples who help Lyra in finding not only her dear friend Roger, but to rescue all children being held captive by Mrs. Coulter and her band of Gobblers. Keeping them confined to an experimental station in the far North, the kidnapped children undergo a procedure called Intercision in which their daemons are cut away from them, leaving them without a soul and without a means for Dust to enter their lives as they mature.
Lyra is aided on her quest by Gyptians, a group of sea fairing people who resemble gypsies, an overgrown, gruff-talking armored bear (the voice of Ian McKellen) named Iorek Byrnison, a clan of witches led by the mysterious and beautiful Serafina Pekkala (Eva Green), and a slow-talking Texan aeronaut named Lee Scoresby (Sam Elliott).
“The Golden Compass” is a well-crafted film with top notch special effects and actors. It’s imagery is beautiful and exciting. It easily takes the viewer away into a fantasy world full of intrigue and wonder. Kids love this kind of stuff, and even most adults get a kick out of it, too. Don’t be seduced, however, by what’s on the surface. Underneath lurks many subversive, anti-religious messages which appear in euphemistic terms.
“The Golden Compass” avoids using the word “church” and instead calls it the “Magisterium,” an openly Roman Catholic term. Additionally, in the second and third books “God” is regularly called the “Authority.” And, as you well may have read by now, even if you knew nothing of the Pullman books before now, God is “killed” in the end.
Kids probably won’t pick up on any agenda at all. In fact, they may be so enthralled with the intrigue and adventure of the film that they think of it as nothing more than a great movie about another world of make-believe—assuming they are not scared by several intense scenes and some frightening characters.
Whether we pick up on it or not, Pullman’s demented beliefs are reflected in this first installment of the trilogy for all of the world to see, and that is more than enough reason to stay away from it.
In addition, what is being touted as a children’s movie is very dark and is rated PG-13 for sequences of fantasy violence. Personally, I think “fantasy violence” is an understatement. There is a lot of fighting and death throughout the film, including a bear’s jaw being completely ripped off, not to mention Lyra’s attempt to kill her own mother. There is very little, if any, blood shown, however.
There are a number of twisted biblical references and a play on biblical names. There is some immodesty and sensuality seen in the character of Mrs. Coulter, who is shown always wearing form-fitting 30’s inspired dresses. The consumption of alcohol is present in the movie, and there is a scene where 12-year-old Lyra takes a sip of wine and spits it back into her glass. There is what also sounded to me like one use of the s-word, but I was unable to tell for sure.
Lyra’s character should also be of concern to parents. At times, Lyra appears to be a sweet heroine, whose boldness is commended. But she is also very conniving, manipulative and deceitful, and when she acts in these ways, she accomplishes her purpose. I know there are many times in film and fantasy where this type of behavior appears justified, but Lyra is never ultimately reprimanded for it, and is in fact applauded for it. Parents will not want their children mimicking our heroine.
In the end, as we all very well know, the production must make money in order to warrant the production of the next two movies which cover the last remaining books in the series. Within the pages of these volumes is where the trouble really lies. The final books are the ones which cover Phillip Pullman’s horrific view of God, and Christianity as a whole. If you want to make an impact publicly, instead of verbally bashing Pullman, hit the industry where it hurts. Do not spend your money on tickets. Stay away from the movie, the books and the following films in this trilogy. The Christian community has shown in the past that we are a massive community that has the power to make an impact on sales. I refer here to Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of The Christ” and how we were able as a group to bring it to the forefront, not just publicly, but profit wise.
Pray for Philip Pullman. Pray about the negative influence of his works. And pray for humility and wisdom in your own response. Pullman is a man who, somewhere along the way, has fallen into a perilous pit of treachery.
In closing, I agree with what Jeffery Overstreet of Christianity Today suggests, and I wish to credit and quote him here. This is what Mr. Overstreet extols us as Christians to do:
Al Roker of NBC’s Today Show recently even made The Golden Compass part of his children’s book club. And, children are reading it: During an interview with Roker, Pullman took videotaped questions from children about the The Golden Compass. He also took questions on the show’s Web site, where one boy, an 8 year old in Virginia, said he was reading the book with his class. It is being sold nationwide in schools through Scholastic, which also is selling the other two books and claims the The Golden Compass is appropriate for grades four and up!
Talk about a temptation. Soon this series will be too prevalent to ignore. We will need strength.
Scripture tells us that God tempts no man. Temptation always comes from the devil. Let not you nor your children be tempted by the wiles of this author or the films his pen will spawn. How do we overcome it? A little child once told of her method. “When the devil comes knocking at my door,” she said, “I don’t answer it. I send Jesus to the door.” Tell your kids that’s the way to take care of it. They don’t have to read the books they shouldn’t, and they don’t have to view movies they shouldn’t, even when all their friends say how great they are.
Send Jesus to the door!
Lord Jesus, help us all to remember the power of Your Holy Name.
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: None
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.
“The Golden Compass” movie is an adaptation of part of an objectionable trilogy of novels (10 million copies sold). Titled His Dark Materials, the books were written to be an influential atheistic counterpart to “The Chronicles of Narnia” and “The Lord of the Rings.” They are aimed at children and were written by anti-God activist Phillip Pullman who was featured in the 2005 documentary series “Why Atheism?”. He is described as “one of England’s most outspoken atheists” by New Yorker journalist Laura Miller.
Director and screenplay writer Chris Weitz (“American Pie” 1 and 2) says “that the film would make no direct mention of religion or God, two of the key themes of the books—a decision attacked by fans of the trilogy. According to Weitz, New Line Cinema feared that ‘perceived anti-religiosity’ would make the film ‘financially unviable’ in the USA. However, Weitz reassured fans by saying that religion would appear in euphemistic terms” (Source: Internet Movie Database).
In an MTV interview, Weitz reported that “Philip [Pullman] was very involved in the making of the film, from before I became involved myself. …I was adapting his book, which also happened to be one of my favorite books, and the whole thing wouldn’t work for me unless I could turn around at the end of the thing and feel that I had done it to his satisfaction. Thereafter, I was in touch with him all the time …Often we would pass scenes back and forth…”
Director Weitz also explained that although he made this first film more acceptable to religious people, he would certainly not water down the sequels. “…I saw it as my duty to build the franchise of His Dark Materials on as solid a grounding as I could… The whole point, to me, of ensuring that ‘The Golden Compass’ is a financial success is so that we have a solid foundation on which to deliver a faithful, more literal adaptation of the second and third books. This is important: whereas ‘The Golden Compass’ had to be introduced to the public carefully, the religious themes in the second and third books can’t be minimized …I will not be involved with any ‘watering down’ of books two and three…” (“‘Golden Compass’ Director Chris Weitz Answers Your Questions: Part I and II,” MTV Movies Blog, November 21, 2007).
About Pullman and his books:
Jesus Savior pilot me, Over Life’s tempestuous sea