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« A quizzical retrospective of a thirty year anniversary | Main | What was really agreed to in Bali? »

Comments

Grant S

Stop it Ian, you're breaking my heart...

On an even brighter note, it was good to see that the secular-progressives lost the war on Christmas this year in the USA.. the Happy Holidays bullshit is gone burgers...

Psycho Milt

An atheist movie loudly opposed by bombastic, venal preachers bombs in the United States? Quelle surprise!

Rick

I'd have to see it to be sure, but any film whose only purpose is to prove a political or philosphical point will flop.

The best films always attempt to break new ground, examine old truths in a new way, or, even more rarely, reveal forgotten truths.

Film making is an artform. Any Artist who disappears into politics will fail.

Ryan Sproull

I'd have to see it to be sure, but any film whose only purpose is to prove a political or philosphical point will flop.

Man, forget seeing it if you haven't read the books. Go read the books. The first one's called Northern Lights. It's pretty good. They kind of go downhill from there, but the first one is great.

I prefer his Ruby in the Smoke series, though. I'm just a big sucker for 19th century detective stories.

robk

PM

"An atheist movie loudly opposed by bombastic, venal preachers bombs in the United States? Quelle surprise! "

It is, actually... Normally condemnation by conservatives guarantees people will flock to see a film.

Sam Finnemore

From what I've read it's overblown, very fast-paced and extremely confusing for anyone who hasn't read the books, which excludes a hell of a lot of people. I can see why word of mouth would be negative.

I'm really not sure I buy the "glorious victory against the forces of anti-Christmas" line, though.

Ryan Sproull

I believe I declared some time ago that I would not see the movie if they did not cast Nathan Fillion as Lee Scoresby. I mean COME ON.

Rick

Just had a look through some of the video footage availiable and "extras" from the site.

Looks like an entertaining film. They seem to have redefined a thing called a "daemon" (pronounced demon) and smudged it somewhere between the psychological definiton and the concept of "the soul". They seem to promote a daemon as a positive thing, something we can't live without and without which other people would be horrifed at our presence. I suppose yes, in today's world it would be unusual to find someone without "hang ups" and they would be socially shunned - modern life is constructed around dissatisfaction, careers based on emotional scars.

But the film's definition smudges that possibility so the real truth is there for those who want to see, but the filmaker/writer has removed the path unless you already knew the theory. Psychologically, a daemon could be loosely viewed as positive, though only so far as in any illness that cures you of something else.

Let's call that artistic licence.

The issue is a background one and no more disturbing than an episode of Pokemon. A child certainly couldn't unravel all the threads, or suddenly adopt the film as a culture.

The "ruling body" that is trying to control everyone in the film can be interpreted either way. They could suggest it is "The Church" or equally, it could be feminism, or communism or just any government. The traits of the ruling body are universal.

Just by viewing the trailers etc I think the major flaw of the story is that the golden compass is a tool to let you see into the future. Of course it reveals "dire" situations to avoid, with accompanying emotional film additives. To me that betrays a certain amount of anxiety as weakness. Sure, the girl is the only one who can use it, she still has to learn to read it (what skill! haha) but it's purpose is to remove anxiety, not guide toward truth - which again is a smudging of psychological and religious ideas. The overall idea supports fate, rather than self direction. The ideas bounce and blend everywhere. I wouldn't be surprised if by the end of the film the golden compass is "destroyed". That would be honest.

There are all the cool blue screen effects, talking bears, monkeys and other creatures... and Nicole Kidman - so yeah I'd go see it. If it sucked big deal, if not, it's just another movie in a long string of hollywood movies.

It does look like this film is following "the old recipe" rather than breaking new ground, which could be disappointing. But I'll reserve that judgement till I see it - the major test of quality of course being in the theme and not so much the detail.

If the world was run by strict christian law to the same a level of, say, extreme Islamic law, this film would never have been made. But the reality is that the christianity is a choice.

Ryan Sproull

Rick,

I'm not going to go ruining the story for you or anything, but the alethiometer (truth meter) works predicting the future because there is a kind of plan and prophesy at work. While Lyra can in theory ask it any question and get an answer that she intuitively understands, she also learns early on that she should only use that talent for entirely selfless motives.

As for what happens to the alethiometer at the end of the trilogy, I'm not going to go ruining that for you.

KevOB

In the real world Christianity is not a choice: only the recognition of who Jesus is, is a choice. God created the world, made us in his image and wrote His laws in the inner being of all humans. The only choice is to recognise His sovereignty or go our own way which He gave us the freedom to do. Going our own way leads to eternal death: going with God assures eternal life. What an awesome prospect being on the team that created the universe.

Andrew Davies

"What an awesome prospect being on the team that created the universe."

As opposed to the team descended from monkeys. Nice.

peter

You can see where the budget went just by looking at the cast:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0385752/

But it sounds like the script, character development left much to be desired.

I don't see how Dawkins fits into this though. Come to that I have not read Pullman, something I must rectify.

ian

Yeah, don't get me wrong, it's a free world and anyone can make a movie about whatever they like.

Personally, however, I find that movies where adults take out their "issues" on kids are worth avoiding.

Pullman wants to make an atheist fantasy movie? Great - aim it at late teens and adults who can accept or reject his biases at face value...but aiming something negative at pre-teens is as dodgy as offering them waccy-baccy while arguing its health benefits.

Pullman's problem is that his whole fantasy is actually borrowed from Christianity...albeit inverted: Daemons (pronounced 'Demons') are our "friends".

Get your own mythology, Pullman, like other fantasy authors, and stop dabbling in territory you actually know nothing about...

KevOB

There are no friendly demons, just ones that pretend to be. Don't mess with them. Maori spirituality is in that category too: invoking demonic assistance in the haka is not helpful for their game.

peter

Ian

I am sure that Pullman will be acting upon your every word!

Shane Ponting

I read "The Subtle Knife" and "The Amber Spyglass" back when it was released. I found it to be quite a good read, so far as a reality where our good is their evil and vice versa, can really be. I was quite frustrated that the writer didn't invest his talents in something that wasn't so at odds with how things really are since I struggle to entertain contradictions even for the purpose of entertainment....

Ryan Sproull

Pullman wants to make an atheist fantasy movie? Great - aim it at late teens and adults who can accept or reject his biases at face value...but aiming something negative at pre-teens is as dodgy as offering them waccy-baccy while arguing its health benefits.

Well, Pullman wrote books. Someone else made the movies. And everything you say here could be said about Sunday school, the Narnia books (and movies), Veggie Tales, Parachute Music...

Do you really want all of those things held off until people get old enough to make up their own minds about it?

I'm not really disagreeing. I didn't read the books as a kid. In fact, I doubt most pre-teens would get past the words "alethiometer" and "experimental theology" before throwing it away. It's young-adult fiction, like John Marsden or something. Certainly not aimed at pre-teens.

Which was your least favourite book in the His Dark Materials trilogy, Ian, and why?

Sean

Personally, however, I find that movies where adults take out their "issues" on kids are worth avoiding.

Pan's Labyrinth is another one.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0457430/

The mythology actually had some potential but most of the movie was spent on the heroic communist rebels taking on the insidious govt forces of Franco.

Director Guillermo del Toro - guess who won?

ian

Ryan...the last fiction/fantasy stuff I read was Robert Jordan's series...I don't have the time, sadly, to indulge in fiction any more.

Pullman's stuff was well after my time...I remember reading an interview with him four or five years back where he made it painfully clear one of his primary motivations in writing the books was to provide an atheistic counter to CS Lewis and Narnia...because he hated Narnia so much. Knowing the motive, and knowing he was presenting a work of fiction rather than reasoned argument, I didn't need to read his books to get a better sense of them...I'm sure he's a good writer, I'm sure the stories are entertaining.

As a child who loved the Narnia series, the Christian allegory actually went over my head until I was much older...

But a counter series pushing "demons as buddies" to children is messing with issues that Pullman and certainly most atheists don't really have a clue about. Having prayed for a possessed person and seen things firsthand that previously I had rubbished as a skeptic, I can categorically say that Pullman can mock all he likes...but eventually he won't be laughing about it.

Yes, his books are aimed at teens, but as I viewed the movie trailers the film is more pitched at the family market...which makes it insidious.

Ryan Sproull

Ryan...the last fiction/fantasy stuff I read was Robert Jordan's series...I don't have the time, sadly, to indulge in fiction any more.

Yeah, there's a tragic tale. That guy died this year, I think, long before he could ever complete that enormous series he started.


Pullman's stuff was well after my time...I remember reading an interview with him four or five years back where he made it painfully clear one of his primary motivations in writing the books was to provide an atheistic counter to CS Lewis and Narnia...because he hated Narnia so much. Knowing the motive, and knowing he was presenting a work of fiction rather than reasoned argument, I didn't need to read his books to get a better sense of them...I'm sure he's a good writer, I'm sure the stories are entertaining.

As a child who loved the Narnia series, the Christian allegory actually went over my head until I was much older...

But a counter series pushing "demons as buddies" to children is messing with issues that Pullman and certainly most atheists don't really have a clue about. Having prayed for a possessed person and seen things firsthand that previously I had rubbished as a skeptic, I can categorically say that Pullman can mock all he likes...but eventually he won't be laughing about it.

Yes, his books are aimed at teens, but as I viewed the movie trailers the film is more pitched at the family market...which makes it insidious.

I agree that the movies are aimed at kids, but that's hardly his fault. He wrote young-adult fiction.

And I'd be wary of focusing too much on the whole "daemon" thing. The word predates Christianity and is spelled that way in the real world (let alone Pullman's writing) to distinguish it from the demons of Christian mythology. (Info here.)

Certainly the daemons of Pullman's mythos are more like souls than anything resembling Christian notions of demons. The idea is that in Lyra's world, people kind of wear their souls on the outside. Children's souls (daemons) change shape into different animals as they change moods, but when kids grow up, their soul (daemon) settles into one shape that is reflective of their general attitude in life.

A far better CS Lewis-based criticism might be that Pullman's idea of daemons could have been directly pulled from the end of "The Great Divorce" by CS Lewis, come to think of it.

The anti-organised-religion aspects of the trilogy is nothing to do with the use of the Greek word "daemon" and more about the totalitarian religious state that controls Lyra's world, and its condemnation of those passions that Pullman presumably thinks are those things that make us the most human. The Church of Lyra's world is tending towards something from a dystopian novel, where the theocracy is experimenting with procedures that render citizens harmless and obedient. I suspect some frequenters of this blog would find more parallels in their mind between Lyra's world's theocracy and the Labour nanny state, than with the kind of religion they think of themselves as representing.

In other words, really, if you're going to criticise the books, you should probably read them, in order to avoid people saying things like...

"Stop dabbling in territory you actually know nothing about..."
- Ian Wishart, December 17, 2007 at 03:03 PM

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