“The Golden Compass,” a film adaptation of the first book in a trilogy by author Phillip Pullman, is stirring unrest in some Christian souls.
Pullman is a militant atheist, and he’s made it known that he detests religion.
Just as J.K. Rowlings’ “Harry Potter” series grew progressively darker as she churned the books out, Pullman has things in his trilogy growing progressively more anti-religious.
The heroes of the story are engaged in a rebellion to kill God. In the third and final book, they succeed in their efforts.
Nicole Kidman, who stars in “The Golden Compass,” spoke with Entertainment Weekly about the film. She told the magazine that she was raised Catholic and that the Catholic Church is part of her “essence.” She added that she wouldn't be able to do the film if she “thought it were at all anti-Catholic.”
The sweet result is that the religious message put forth in the film version of the book “has been watered down a little,” according to Kidman.
Based on the footage that I have seen, Christians are not likely to be offended by the movie. Still, the Catholic League intends to conduct a nationwide two-month protest of the film.
Christian groups are right to be concerned. The movie could lead children to read the books, which contain potentially faith-damaging material. Additionally, Pullman is an excellent writer and uses cliffhangers to induce readers to continue on to subsequent books in the trilogy.
But, in my assessment, a boycott is an ill-advised approach in this instance. Controversy has been a key element in film promotion over the past few years, with PR firms seeking to generate loads of it in the hopes of boosting ticket sales.
“Compass” is not as well known as “Potter,” but controversy will provide it with the publicity it needs to rise to a higher tier within the fantasy realm. This plays right into the hands of the studio.
Boycott or not, Christian organizations should focus on educating the public on the difference between the film and the Pullman books and encouraging parents in particular to monitor and guide their children in the selection of literature and media.
Faith and film have come together in a big way for another Tinseltown figure. Have you heard of Christian director Tyler Perry? Hollywood sure has.
With a production budget of only $6 million, Perry’s “Madea's Family Reunion” grossed over $63 million. And similarly, with a production budget of a mere $5.5 million, his “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” took in $50 million.
Most recently, the Lionsgate film “Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married?” clobbered George Clooney's legal Oscar dreamer “Michael Clayton,” Cate Blanchett’s regal sequel “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” and Mark Wahlberg’s criminal thriller “We Own the Night.”
“Married”’s cast includes Janet Jackson.
The positive themed flick brought in $21.5 million as opposed to Clooney’s “Clayton,” which pulled in $11 million as did “We Own the Night.” Blanchett’s “Golden Age” took in $6.2 million.
It turns out that box-office cash has slipped for the fourth straight weekend. The best dozen films of the past weekend brought in $85.5 million, off 14 percent from the same weekend last year.
If there’s one thing that can make Hollywood find religion it’s the almighty Dollar.
James Hirsen is a media analyst, Trinity Law School professor, and teacher of mass media law at Biola University.
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