In a previous post I predicted that the Golden Compass movie, after a reasonably strong start, would not break any records, and that this would happen, not because of the well-deserved boycott, but because a fantasy world without God in it is just not very interesting. Looks like I was right on both counts.
After opening in the US in the number 1 spot, though with an unspectacular box office of $26 million, on the second weekend it tanked by 66% and dropped to third place behind I am Legend and Alvin and the Chipmunks. Most mainstream reviews (including some by avowed atheists) have agreed that, for all the money that was spent on it (at least $200 million, according to reports) the movie seems strangely hollow, cold, and unaffecting. As is so often the case, only believers seemed to have any clue why.
A recent article in the Vatican newspaper, as reported by the Catholic News Service, got it exactly right:
"It's a film that leaves one cold, because it brings with it the coldness and the desperation of rebellion, solitude and individualism....In the world of Pullman, hope simply doesn't exist, in part because there is no salvation but only personal, individualistic capacity to control the situation and dominate events....
"The spectator of this film, if he is honest and gifted with a critical spirit, will feel no particular emotion, except for a great coldness -- which is not only due to the polar scenes....when God is pushed off the horizon, everything is made smaller, sadder, colder and less human...."
Several US bishops, in stark contrast with their film office, whose laudatory review was withdrawn after a spirited protest, also got it exactly right. Among them was Archbishop Alfred Hughes of New Orleans, who wrote:
"We are about to be treated to a new film entitled 'The Golden Compass'....As we conclude our Christian liturgical year, the Church reminds us there is a spiritual war going on. The kingdom of Satan is at war with the Kingdom of God. Rebellion, from the beginning, has been Satan’s goal. His weapons are violence and deceit. In some ways, violence is easier to fight against. It is more obvious and more abhorrent, even though we have a great deal of difficulty in containing it today.
"Deceit, however, is subtler and more subversive. It fosters rebellion through half-truths. Satan seduces some people to say yes to creation, but no to the Creator. Satan leads some to say yes to God, but no to Christ. These people embrace New Age spiritualities. Satan will lead others to say yes to Christ, but no to the Church. They may be scandalized by sin in the Church and cannot accept the promise of the risen Lord to remain with his Church ‘til the end of time. Satan may lead others to say yes to the Church, but no to at least some of her teachings and moral requirements. They accept the Church on their own terms, yet still consider themselves fully Catholic. The dramatic moral struggle for our souls is being played out in some way in the lives of each of us.
"The spirit of rebellion is the chief legacy of our first parents. In our own culture, the entertainment industry, public media and the elite of academia seem to have joined forces to promote it...."
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver wrote:
"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....Strangest of all — and in striking contrast to the Harry Potter and Narnia stories — is the absence of joy or any real laughter in the movie."
Glad to hear my opinions backed by competent authority. :-)