I went to go see the movie the Golden Compass last night with a few friends, and was phenomenally impressed by it at every level. As someone who has not read the books (The Golden Compass was based on the book ‘Northern Lights’, renamed ‘The Golden Compass’ in America) I don’t have a basis to compare whether it followed the book exactly or not. But the movie did succeed in making me really want to read the book, part of a trilogy. The Golden Compass first came to my attention through Facebook, specifically through a “Boycott the Atheist Movie!!!” Facebook group that a few old friends were trying to get me to join. After checking out the Facebook group and a synopsis of the movie, I actually became extremely intrigued and decided to go see it. It sounded like a beautiful story.
While I won’t give away all the details of the plot (you can go find spoilers elsewhere if you are intent on it), the movie’s themes had nothing to do with atheism and everything to do with being a free-thinker. The heroine (and yay for having a heroine!) is a precocious girl named Lyra who doesn’t quite fit into the rigid and dogmatic school where she is being taught. She’s inquisitive, adventurous, and *gasp* questions the status-quo. This includes the ‘rulers’ of her world, the Magisterium, who wish to stifle individuality and free will as a means to maintain their stranglehold of control. Lyra becomes unwittingly mixed up with the Magisteriums plans, as she and her golden compass are at the center of a prophecy about the fate of her world.
In addition, another major theme is friendship and how love binds us to one another. Every person in Lyra’s world has a spirit animal (called a ‘daemon’) which follows them everywhere and embodies their soul. This animal changes shape as a child grows up, settling on a form in puberty as a sign that the child’s personality has solidified. The bond between the daemon and the person is a uniquely close one–they feel what the other feels and when the person dies, the daemon vanishes into dust.
This is a beautiful story with awesome special effects and terrific acting (a string of A-listers.) While the controversial stuff has been gutted from the movie, likely to avoid such banal boycott calls like are occurring anyway, what remains is still a captivating fantasy about one child who decided not to be ordinary, to question authority, respect friendship and to make her world a better place through wit rather than force. In the end, I joined the “Support the Golden Compass” Facebook group. Hope my friends don’t mind.
For more about the Facebook hullaballo, this blog covers the issue nicely.