From an email I sent some friends, as a reply to my brother’s email that included this link to a Golden Compass review.
The Golden Compass:
I did finally watch it (I finally joined Blockbuster), but it took me two sessions. So maybe that contributed to the feeling I had of not getting too much out of it. On the other hand, I thought it was perhaps the most beautiful film I’ve seen in a while.
I didn’t read the books, so I don’t have any comparisons for that. After all the stuff I’ve read in my life (and I’ve read some wild stuff), I wouldn’t worry too much about the anti-Catholic/religious themes in books or movies, etc. (In general, I mean, for young readers and the “corrupting” of). But I will say that heavy-duty smackdown of real religions are a bit much for a real “kid’s movie”–*I* think, anyway. But not for an adult movie. For an adult movie where you really want people to think, then it shouldn’t have been cut or diluted at all.
For something marketed *as* a “kid’s movie,” while at the same time wanting to make money, it would be just stupid to make it unpalatable to parents, most of whom have religious (or want to have) leanings. I mean, it’s the nature of humanity at this time, so to attack and/or sabotage the structure of the western world is not wise. Whether or not you agree with it…
It would be rather different if you were just trying to get the message out in an artistically beautiful way, and weren’t at the same time trying to make money.
Hands down, LOTR is the best of the bunch. Narnia was okay; I was a little disappointed with the first one and actually liked the second one much better. But I totally disagree on two points that people always bring up when talking about Lewis; that– 1) the Narnia stories were “allegory,” and 2) he was trying to push or convince or “sneak in” religion or faith into his works.
No! If you want to see allegory, look at LOTR. An allegory is basically one story that parallels another, that is–it is used to represent the other. The story of Gandalf is plainly and completely the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and rather niftily and well done, I’d say. Lewis did write an allegory, called “Pilgrim’s Regress,” which of course is a take-off of John Bunyun’s “Pilgrim’s Progress.”
C. S. Lewis wrote a book inspired by The Pilgrim’s Progress called The Pilgrim’s Regress, in which a character named John follows a vision to escape from The Landlord, a less friendly version of The Owner in Pilgrim’s Regress. It is an allegory of C. S. Lewis’ own journey from a religious childhood to a pagan adulthood in which he rediscovers his Christian God.)
For Narnia, as in “The Space Trilogy,” rather than ignore God, or try to sneak him in somehow, Lewis just presupposes “His” existence as matter-of-fact, and simply proceeds from there. It wouldn’t make any sense to him at that point to not have Him involved in some way, according to His rules. And as he makes the point in the Space Trilogy, God is represented by one species or another, depending on the need at the time–as a human on Earth, for example. As a lion in Narnia, etc.
He also throws in a bunch of other mythos for good measure, which makes sense, because he loved ALL that stuff, Greek and Roman myth, northern Euro, etc. It was just one big smorgasbord of fantasy and adventure, and to include his own vision of faith and God was just natural.
So there’s not really any allegory or trying to push religion in those stories, as I remember them. I will say that when he has Aslan act, Aslan acts in ways that reflect how Lewis thought our relationship with a Christian God would act. You’ll notice that Aslan sacrifices himself for Edward, as Jesus did on Earth. That’s the closest thing you could call allegory, but in Lewis’ Space Trilogy books, he makes it a point to say that parallel things happen in other worlds, for similar reasons. In other words, if God’s representative had to sacrifice himself for humanity on Earth, there’s a good chance that it would happen in other worlds. If I remember correctly, he explicitly states that in “Out Of The Silent Planet,” where God was represented and sacrificed as one of the natives of that planet (Mars).
And it’s not like He wants it that way, but it seems to need to happen as a result of free will, and the sacrifice is the ultimate example of the collision of love and free will–giving your life for another.
So while the story parallels, it’s not a matter of some “hidden” meaning. As for the rest of it, you may also notice that as the kids get older, as in Prince Caspian, Aslan does less and less directly, and waits longer before intervening (or interfering, if you’d rather). He doesn’t intervene unless you’ve given your portion of effort to your cause, and it’s still easiest for the youngest to see Him.
My problem with the Narnia movies was simply that since I had read the books, I was not satisfied with the explanations and motivations for the characters. Everything just seemed to come out of nowhere.
That’s my similar problem with Golden Compass, but worse, because I didn’t have the knowledge of the books to back me up, and fill in motivations and context. I think they did a little better job in Compass with some context than the first Narnia, though. But I still sort of felt like I was a stone just skipping across this beautiful lake. I will say that the actors did a fine job, and the girl was really good. I was especially impressed after having read that she had zero acting experience, and just showed up at the audition.
(The wiki article kept saying that she “had beaten 10,000 girls for the the part.” That gave me a chuckle; I imagine her with a jawbone of an ass standing up on the director’s table as all these young chicks are laying around her holding their faces or arms, etc., and general moaning and groaning of 10,000 “beaten” girls…).
But the world of the Compass is finely realized as a slightly post-Victorian Britain somewhere between My Fair Lady and WWII. Sort of steampunkish, too. And it was humorous to me to see Daniel Craig and Eva Green in a movie together right after Casino Royale.
Anyway, some of my cents worth…
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