Review: The Golden Compass

I hadn’t intended to watch this one because it didn’t sound all that interesting to me, and also because it didn’t sound like there was any reason for the controversy it has aroused amongst Christians.

My wife, however, put it in our Netflix queue, and it duly showed up. She thought it would be something I’d want to watch, so watch it I did. On the first point, I would have to say it was more interesting than I expected. Let me note that I haven’t read the books, so I cannot compare the story as some have in their reviews. On the second, I see even less reason for this to be controversial than I did before I watched it.

The movie features a very oppressive church like organization, known as the magisterium, and the young heroine goes against this with the aid of a bunch of magical creatures, witches, devices, and such. I find it mildly interesting that a movie that purportedly espouses atheism carries on its conflict with various magical (or supernatural) creatures and even includes a prophecy. Of course, that is simply a product of the genre.

If I hadn’t been told that the author was an atheist, I would have imagined that the book was about a tyrannical church organization, and might have a broader lesson against organized religion generally. In fact, I think that is what most people will take from it. To go to the opposite extreme in terms of literary style, I would consider Atlas Shrugged, which many Christians enjoy despite a much more explicit and integral atheistic message.

Thus I would simply take this as a fantasy movie and let philosophical debates fall where they may. As such I find it of about average interest. It is fun from time to time, but does not really leave one in doubt very often. The story line is good and the characters are generally interesting, but fall short of unique. The acting is again fine, but not great.

It’s the sort of thing I would normally expect to put in my Netflix queue which costs me nothing extra to watch. Then I enjoy it quite a bit.

In my view it’s good but not great. Numerical rating: 3

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