The Golden Compass

Wow. What a disappointment. I was looking forward to this one for months, but I guess I should have known Hollywood couldn’t do this book justice. I just had no idea how badly they’d fail. I mean, I knew they were going to water down the anti-religious message. (The Golden Compass was flat-out heretical. The Subtle Knife was actively blasphemous, and by the time the third book arrived, the series was bordering on satanism. No way Hollywood was going to follow that plot line.) However, I didn’t know they were going to open with massive spoilers.

The defining characteristic of the first book was a deep sense of mystery. You really didn’t have any clear idea what was going on, just what all these demons were, who were the good guys and who were the bad guys, or pretty much anything else. You certainly didn’t know what dust was, or what was happening in the arctic. You usually heard about most things chapters (sometimes books) before you actually figured out what they were.

By contrast, the movie started with 60 seconds of narration that laid out the answers to pretty much every question in the story so everyone could understand exactly hat was going on from the very first frame. I suppose the producers thought the story was too deep and confusing for American audiences raised on moral pablum like Star Wars and accustomed to the ethical complexity of professional wrestling.

If there’s been clearer evidence in recent years of the relative maturity of the British and American peoples, I can’t think of it. In Britain these books are considered classics of children’s literature, and perhaps second in popularity only to Harry Potter. In America, they’re relatively unknown; and considered wildly too complex and controversial even for most adults. Maybe one day America will be ready for stories like these, but apparently not in Generation Z.

One Response to “The Golden Compass”

  1. John Cowan Says:

    Another instance is that the Archbishop of Canterbury came out in favor of the books (not too surprisingly, given that Pullman’s Authority is Calvinist rather than Anglo-Catholic like the Archbishop, much less Roman Catholic). And in the third book we get not satanism but Gnosticism.

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