Lyra’s best friends disappeared one night, and she is now caught up in a race to find her friends and Asriel before something terrible happens. On the way she rescues a whiskey-swilling polar bear who has lost his honor in combat, and now has a new lease on life from little Lyra.  She is also helped by a friendly witch named Serifina (Eva Green), and a balloon-flying cowboy “Aeronot” Lee Scoresby (Sam Elliot) and his long-eared rabbit daemon.

Like The Lord of the Rings, there is a new vocabulary to learn here, and the film moves quickly.  As Lyra and her rag-tag gang move to their destination, there is skullduggery, combat and lies, some perpetrated by our little protagonist!  The people of this fantastic world look to Lyra in a way like the folks of Lord of the Rings looked to Aragorn.  Could this girl be “the one” they’re waiting for?

The Golden Compass has an uncomfortable quality to it.  It’s that anti-hero, “the good guy can be bad” type of feel, with no character who’s a real source of light.  A general heaviness and darkness pervades and follows the film, much with the help of Nicole Kidman’s beautiful evilness.

In the past, there have been many movies that take cheap shots at Christianity, and they have come and gone very quickly, disappearing into obscurity.  But The Golden Compass is different somehow.  It may do very well at the box office, and as a “Christmas movie” could bring in the children (and mommy’s and daddy’s money) by the millions. The fact that it’s a trilogy will have kids racing to the bookstore to buy the books to stay ahead of the releases … just like the Harry Potter series. 

This first movie downplays the evil, anti-Christian elements of the book, but if this movie does well, the producers will make the second and third books into movies, and the director has indicated he’d be more true to the books' (anti-God) intentions. 

In a recent interview Director Chris Weitz said: “Whereas The Golden Compass has to be introduced to the public carefully, the religious themes in the second and third books can’t be minimized without destroying the spirit of these books. There is simply no way to adapt them without dealing with Lyra’s destined role, her secret name, and the war in the heavens. I will not be involved with any ‘watering down’ of books two and three, since what I have been working towards the whole time in the first film is to be able to deliver on the second and third films. If I sense that this is not possible, there’s no point my continuing to work on them.”

Even worse, writer Pullman proudly told The Washington Post in 2001 of the trilogy, “I’m trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief.”
      
So, is this movie a threat?  Will it lead children away from a personal knowledge of God?  Or, will it become a key opportunity to talk to children about the real adventure of knowing a living God who wants to know them in a personal way?

Though The Golden Compass may be a “gateway” movie for atheism, and gave this reviewer the “willies,” we have a God who is not afraid.  He is a King who knows no equal and is not the least intimidated by confused, lost people wanting to lash out at him.  Maybe we should act like him and find ways to use this film to teach children about how to discern movies, analyzing them for themes and values.  After all, it is just a movie, and we are children of the King.

If you bring your children to The Golden Compass, please take time to have dialogue with them about Magisterium vs. Christianity, make-believe vs. truth.  A good resource for educating your family is Dr. Ted Baehr’s book, The Media Wise Family.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  A bear drinks whiskey.
  • Language:  Mild name-calling.
  • Sex:  None.
  • Violence:  Woman choking a child with magic, slapping a monkey, men dying of arrows, gunfire, explosions. A bear fight with the antagonist bear having it’s jaw ripped off.
  • Worldview:  Mystical.  Magic is “normal.”  The church is an evil threat.  “Daemons” are helpful.