Golden Compass, The
PG-13
Entertainment: +2
Acceptability: -2

Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Sam Elliott, Ian McShane, Dakota Blue Richards. Sci-Fi/action/fantasy. Written & directed by Chris Weltz (About a Boy, Antz).

FILM SYNOPSIS: Taken from Philip Pullmans bestselling trilogy, His Dark Materials, The Golden Compass is set in an alternative world where peoples souls manifest themselves as animals, talking bears fight wars, and Gyptians and witches co-exist. At the center of the story is Lyra, a 12-year-old girl who sets out to rescue a friend whos been kidnapped by a mysterious Big Brother-like organization known as the Magisterium.

PREVIEW REVIEW: Throughout this film I felt a depression, something discouraging my spirit. Was that because nearly all the adults portrayed seemed sinister? Was it because I was suspicious of the direction the story was going, only to be right when in the final scenes of the film it is declared by the child that freedom of will is everything? Was it due to the fact that according to everything Ive read, the author of the series is an avowed atheist? Was it because I was concerned that the authors anti-religious agenda might truly become apparent? Is it because the author wants to kill off God later in the series? Is it because secular critics and moviegoers think we Christians are a bit silly at being alarmed at a sci-fi fantasy? Was it because all the characters of the film call the manifestation of their soul a daemon (demon)? Or was my depression due to the fact that while the film never mentions God, I suspected that the film was simply a part of a larger picture that threatens the relevance of the Almighty in our culture? Or is it because one of my fellow reviewers was so excited that there would be the antithesis of The Chronicles of Narnia, a film whose characters and storylines symbolize all the themes important to C. S. Lewis, including the clear-cut retelling of Christs love and our need to be His ambassadors. Was it because The Golden Compass is so well made that it will no doubt be alluring to audiences even though it was filled with deception and violence?

Was it because of all of the above?

Director Chris Weltz and his camera crew have given the film a golden, mesmerizing look. The CG whiz department has filled it with Oz-like magic, the effects staggering the imagination. And the story, though confusing as most of these sci-fi trilogies tend to be if you havent read them five or six times, makes for fascinating viewing. But theres just something unsettling about this film, which points to sequels that will further Mr. Pullmans book series.

Heres how the series is perceived by most in the church community: The themes of these books concern reason, truth, self-awareness, and free will. Those are important, but only until they become idols replacing Gods authority. (I suspect thats where the debate begins.) In the series, the Authority is the enemy, a mythological and false God. And in the second and third books, with the aid of demons and witches, Lyra is determined to defeat the Magisterium, and God is killed in the last book.

Many in the secular community and some in the church, those who rallied around Harry Potter because of the hypnotic hold that series had on adolescent readers, may find themselves defending Mr. Pullmans trilogy for the same reason they like the idea that kids are reading, even if the characters the kids relate to are defiant of authority.

Those who seldom frequent church services or even know which room hides their family Bible may not be able to grasp our hesitance to be supportive of an atheist with an agenda. Because Ive been asked about this production more than any other release this year, allow me to offer these humble thoughts concerning the overall frustration Christians have with the films themes.

As I grow closer to God through Christ I find myself awed by His love for us. This love became profound to me as I read about the night Christ served the last supper to his disciples. Jesus knew what lay before Him. It wasnt just physical torment, or even the sins of the world that overwhelmed Jesus as He later prayed in the garden. It was the realization that for the first and only time in eternity, the Son would be separated from the Father. The pain God felt is symbolized in Mel Gibsons The Passion of the Christ. As the audience is looking down on Golgotha, the three crosses prominent, hangers-on still in attendance, the cameras birds-eye view takes in the tableau, briefly becoming distorted, as if looking through water. Suddenly that optical illusion converts into a single teardrop falling to earth, signifying Gods anguish.

Because our Savior was willing and able to overcome this humanly unfathomable emotion and make that crucial sacrifice, we never have to go through such anguish. We never have to be separated from the Father. This is a love Im not sure we will completely comprehend until the day we stand before Him. As I seek to draw closer to God, I sense His compassion. Along my spiritual walk I become more aware that God deserves our passion and demands our reverence. So to knowingly support one who wants to diminish God and religious authority seems counterproductive to that destiny. And it saddens Believers who truly care about the souls of those around us when artistry is defended at the expense of spiritless content.

To me, the saddest thing is that there will be those who smirk while reading this or those who pat me on the back but fail to connect with the message. If Im wrong, what do I lose? Isnt living a life based on the teachings of Christ worthwhile? But if they are wrong, wont they regret their rebellion?

Unbelievers think we Christians just want to be right. The truth is, were just afraid theyll discover too late that theyre wrong.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Distributor: New Line Cinema

Summary
Crude Language: None
Obscene Language: None
Profanity: None
Violence: Surprisingly, there are several graphic battle scenes; some action is jolting and may frighten little ones; flying witches with bows and arrows do some damage; when warriors are killed, their demon spirits dissolve; a bear does battle with another, at one point the jaw is whacked off and a bear is killed; a man is beaten and bloodied. Blood: When a man is beaten, we see some blood.
Sexual Intercourse: None
Nudity: None
Homosexual Conduct: None
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog: None
Drug Abuse: Wine is poisoned
Other: None
Running Time: 113 minutes
Intended Audience: Ten and Older

Copyright Preview Family Movie Review (www.previeoOnline.org)