Groups that protest movies before they are released in theaters are like the guys bombing through a school zone at three in the morning for no reason at all on their souped-up Rice Rocket’s: seriously, slow down!
I’m all for activism, especially in the name of bad culture (the basic point of this site is to tear bad culture a new one), but until the movie comes out and everyone has seen it and been given the time to formulate an opinion, there’s no point getting up in arms about it.
The Golden Compass, like every other controversial religion-themed movie in the history of cinema, is gonna get its day in the sun. New Line didn’t spend $150 million to shelve their potential new franchise because some fundamentalists are waving a sign and screaming bloody murder. That tactic never works, just ask the WGA. (Added to that, protesting only bring more publicity to the thing. Da Vinci Code probably grossed an extra 40-50 million worldwide based solely on people seeing the protests and wondering what the big deal was.)
History proves that the only thing that really affects the legacy of a movie is its quality. For all the hoopla surrounding The Passion of the Christ, two years later no one even talks about the film. Because it wasn’t very good. Making Dogma got Kevin Smith death threats until the movie came out and the protesters realized the movie was pro-faith (and also, pretty awesome – like any movie with a Salma Hayek strip scene wouldn’t be?). Hype, whether drummed up by the studio or by a bunch of well-meaning but narrow-minded yahoos, must be backed up by merit.
The complaint about The Golden Compass is that it is anti-Christianity and anti-God. I cannot refute those claims. Author Phillip Pullman has gone on record as saying as such. He wrote the novels as a direct attack on C.S. Lewis’s pro-God Narnia series. So Christian activists have a point about the purpose of the work. That being said, the book was a huge hit. So it obviously connected with more than a few people. A multi-billion dollar corporation thought it good enough, and mainstream enough, to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to adapt the series for the screen. The His Dark Materials trilogy of books, despite (or maybe in spite of) its beliefs, is beloved, and you can’t take that lightly. You can attack the intent, but not the merit.
A controversial piece of art can only be fairly criticized when it’s not very good. If it’s superb, it can’t be argued with, no matter what political or social or religious take it has on the world. The Harry Potter series is rabidly anti-Republican, but is so well-done that no one even dares whisper a negative thought about it. Christians seethed at the depiction of the church in The Exorcist, but that’s one of the greatest horror films of all time, so no fight there. Classic / Controversial works of art ALWAYS outlast their criticisms. Because the work transcends the paranoia, fear and emotion of its time.
New Line would never put forth this much effort to release a movie that would polarize the country. They want to make money, and the end product will reflect that (and if possible, it might also be good, though the “make money” point is first and foremost). I guarantee you Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig did NOT sign up for this movie as a way to take a shot at the church, or to have their popularity called into question because of their association with an anti-God movie. They signed up to make some bank, and secondarily, a good movie. I’m sure everyone involved understands the intent of the source material, and will approach it delicately, and most likely, obtusely. This will not be like a Left Behind movie. We will not get preached at by Chris Weitz (the director of American Pie) of all people! After all, this is a movie with 500 CGI effects. So can we please have some perspective about what the movie represents, independent of its source material?
More to the point, who cares if the book (and by association, the movie) is anti-God? There have been more than enough pro-God and pro-Christianity movies made (as well as all other forms of art). And besides, hello, what nine year-old kid (the real audience for this flick) is going to see the movie because of its take on God?
It doesn’t work like that.
The Golden Compass is not going to change ANYONE’S mind about religion, one way or the other. No suggestible teen will sit in a theater, watch Nicole Kidman be bony and have a revelation that God is bullshit. Just the same way I didn’t slog through Passion and go “Man, I didn’t believe in Jesus Christ before, but now that I’ve watched Jim Caviezel get Donkey Punched for two hours, Judaism can fuck off. I’m a true believer now!”
My reasons for going to see this movie, like I’m sure that of nearly everyone else, have absolutely NOTHING to do with God, Christianity or the like. I’m not going for a CGI-enhanced sermon against the big man (or woman) upstairs. I’m not going to be patronized to for having faith. I’m not going to nod my head in agreement because I’m of a different faith than the one that is purportedly being bashed.
Furthermore, I’m not going to see James Bond grow a beard and glare into the middle distance of a green screen. I’m not going to see hotass hottie Eva Green play an albino flying witch who doesn’t get naked. I’m not going to see the how creepily plastic Nicole Kidman has become.
I’m going for one reason and one reason only:
Hot bear on bear action!
I’d see any movie that had two bears fighting, regardless of what it’s about. Anti-American Muslim celebreation movies, Anti-Jew rant flicks, Pro-Arab propaganda films, Native American Kevin Costner movies, Commies cinema, Nazis war movies, Reese Witherspoon romcoms, who cares as long as two grizzly beasts are throwing down in the snow! Would I see a nine-hour, multi-part epic about Dianetics and the wonders of Scientology if it had two Brown Bears fighting for the right to eat a Stacey Carosi-era Leah Remini? Let me form my answer using a complex mathematical equation:
Hell + yeah = HELL YEAH!
So on the matter of the Golden Compass anti-God controversy… sure it’s probably derisive to the beliefs of a huge number of people, and offensive to an entire religious group, but c’mon(!), it has giant Polar Bears in battle gear dropping dimes on each other! What’s so wrong about a movie that promotes THAT value system? I say nothing.
So forget all the hoopla, and go if you wanna go. Go if the movie looks interesting or fun or just a good dark place to make out with your ladyfriend for two hours. But don’t go or not go because someone tells you that something in the movie may make you rethink about your place in the universe. That’s dangerous. That’s how shit like Alvin and the Chipmunks gets made.
And we definitely can’t have that.