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The Golden Compass

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message 1: by Robert (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:05PM) (new)

Robert | 111 comments Okay, I'm going to open this up because I'm sure it's going to generate some comments eventually. I saw the film tonight and... despite some initial reservations about what might happen to a book I adore, I'm not ashamed to say that I loved the movie. At first it zooms through so much of the story that while I was enjoying it as a set of illustrations to the book, I wondered if anyone who hadn't read Pullman's book would be able to follow it. According to the people who saw it with me - none of whom had read it - that's not the case. The comparison I would make - and excuse me if this seems a little esoteric - is to operas that try to compress long or complicated stories into a simple three-act structure (Prokoviev's "War and Peace", for example). Once you accept the heightened pace, with so many different mythologies fighting for attention (think of the first "Star Wars" ) the characters manage to hold their own. I'll withhold any further comment for now, but I hope to hear from anyone else out there who shares my admiration for the Pullman trilogy.

message 2: by Bronwyn (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:05PM) (new)

Bronwyn | 4 comments I can't wait to see this movie!!! I'll let you know what I think. When it comes out on the 7th. I loved the series so much, I hope it lives up to my expectations.

message 3: by Lindsey (new)

Lindsey | 1 comments I originally read The Golden Compass for a YA class I was taking and hated it, mostly because of the teacher and not the book. I heard the movie was coming out and decided to give it another shot. I loved it! With all of the new religious based arguements against it I felt like I should reread and determine what was harming our nations youth. To tell you the truth I still haven't fuigured it out. I get that the Church is ultimately like the Oblation Board but do kids really make that association?

I loved the movie. I didn't like the ending but I did enjoy the adaptation. Robert, I also wondered if nonreaders would understand it and apparently my friend did.

I am trying to finish up some other things in order to finish the series but I am reeling others into the series one by one!

message 4: by Natalie (new)

Natalie (natshellok) | 1 comments Lindsey, I totally don't care to get into THAT can of worms but, just to answer your question, I am told that the "harmful" aspects really culminate in the third book. I have heard people say that we are "lured in" by books one and two and then hit with the really "anti-theist" stuff in book 3. FWIW, the author himself pretty much intentionally started the controversy and it seems to me as if it was a big publicity ploy. JMHO!!

message 5: by Coyle (new)

Coyle | 6 comments To be fair, the religous stuff seems complicated at first, but it's really pretty simple. Pullman set out to write an atheist version of "The Chronicles of Narnia" using aspects lifted from "Paradise Lost" (with Satan as the hero rather than the anti-hero). And honestly, I think he did a fantastic job. He tells a great story- which is well captured by the movie. Even more, he seems to truly understand that it really is a battle between human rebellion and the sovereignty of God- much more than other atheist champions like Christopher Hitchins or Richard Dawkins.
But I also think he fails where every atheist intellectual fails- he does not provide a good alternative. He gives his argument against God, but doesn't give an argument for anything more specific than vague notions of "love" and "freedom." He has created a good story, but no philosophical or theological substance (which I suppose is the problem with trying to prove a giant negative).

message 6: by Robert (new)

Robert | 111 comments I respect Coyle's remarks, but he makes the common mistake of suggesting that atheism is no more than a reaction to theism. The assumption that religious ideas deserve priority unless refuted - or because the person offering them claims infallibility - is difficult to defend. Why is it up to atheism to provide an alternative? I may not know why there are differences between genders or species, but that doesn't mean that I have to assume that women were created from Adam's rib and that the zoological diversity in the world can be attributed solely to the conservation efforts of Noah (but thanks for the penguins!).

message 7: by Coyle (new)

Coyle | 6 comments Robert, you certainly don't have to assume any of those things- and I totally agree about the penguins! :)
But, "Why is it up to atheism to provide an alternative?" -It's not like theists are going to. But even more than that, it really isn't enough just to be against something. If there is no God, where do human beings find their meaning, place their hopes, and what do they work toward in their lives? Pullman seems to have been saying that the answer to these questions is not "God" but rather "human freedom" and "love" (apparently mostly sexual love). And as far as that goes, despite how well told his story is I don't think he worked those things out very well.

message 8: by Robert (new)

Robert | 111 comments But again I would question the assumption that theism gets first place and atheism is simply "being against something". And I am sure that theists of all stripes as well as atheists are all equally capable of finding meaning in their lives, just as they are all equally capable of appreciating their children, a good book or a decent meal. (If anything, there is an unfortunate tendency of some religions - or their self-proclaimed spokespersons - to negate the meaning and hope of life in favor of a less-certain afterlife...) As meaning goes, "human freedom" strikes me as being about as good an answer as anyone else has offered...

message 9: by Coyle (new)

Coyle | 6 comments I think the only reason theists keep getting first place (other than that they've been around longer) is because theists say "we believe x". Atheists tend to only say "we believe not x" but struggle with "we believe y."
While no one is arguing that atheists can't appreciate children, books, food, or any other good thing in life, Christians (I can't speak for other theists) appreciate these things in a different way. They understand them to be the gift of undeserved mercy and love, rather than the result of either random physics or cold and blind fate.
My point about Pullman was just that he tells the story of "not x" very well (in terms of plot and character), but doesn't do much towards explaining "y."
One question I did have from the books (and it was pretty important, so I assume it will be in the later movies too): is dust supposed to be sentient?

message 10: by Jess (new)

Jess | 1 comments It seems there is an overarching myth that atheists are cold, unloving people simply because we choose to believe that science is more valid than theism. A lot of atheists I've met and spoken with are the exact opposite and most of them are humanists. Pullman is in fact making your 'y' argument: when things die, they become part of the universe. They decompose and the material that once made up their bodies is reused in other natural ways. Which is what atheists believe. He portrays it beautifully in the books. I agree with Robert - what sort of alternative should atheists be providing? If you don't need to believe in a higher power, atheism is your alternative. If you do, then atheism isn't for you.

message 11: by Jim (new)

Jim | 45 comments either you believe or you don't.

what's the big deal unless there is an underlying pre-existing animosity , fight over the same resources etc-

for the life of me I can't understand why any one really cares whether I believe in a rock, Nature, Jesus, Buddha etc, Kimley, or even that Tosh/Allison are my vision of what a Supreme Being should be unless I did something to them or I have something they want.

message 12: by Coyle (new)

Coyle | 6 comments Jess, I agree with you that atheists as individuals aren't automatically cold or unloving. But do you really think that Pullman's portrayal of what happens after death is something to look forward to? That the destruction of the individual -even if the material of the body is recycled- is something that we can structure our lives around? Is the best we'll ever get the little bit of occasional pleasure we experience in this life?
In this case, atheism as a philosophy is much colder than Christianity, which offers the possiblity of eternally increasing joy and delight.
And I think Pullman is a great example of this failing of atheism- the absolute high point of the books, the happiest any of the characters are or can be, is when Lyra and Will are together in the grove. Leaving aside the moral problem of children that young in that kind of situation, that moment really is the happiest they will ever be. Everything leading up to that is struggle and strife, and Pullman suggests that everything following that will also be separation and misery, ending only end with their identity being dispersed into the ether at their deaths.
But we are not built to be content with fleeting pleasures or a temporary emotional high- we are capable of being satisfied by nothing less than the joy that comes from knowing the infinite God himself. Pullman's atheism attempts to remove that possiblity and replace it with a passing and insufficient physical sensation.

message 13: by Robert (new)

Robert | 111 comments Even if we go with the notion that the cornerstone of any religious thought is its view of the afterlife - a point I'm not fully accepting - or that theism and a belief in the afterlife are synonymous, there's still a flaw to this argument. Yes, you may very well find the Christian view of Heaven more appealing than the idea of the finality of death. Some may prefer the idea of the Islamic afterlife, or the prospect of reincarnation (which, although clearly a punishment in Buddhism and many other religions, still looks very attractive to many Westerners). Some may even like the idea of hanging around as a ghost to scare old friends or help mentor a teen-aged Winona Ryder through her awkward Goth stage. But the fact that these views may be more appealing or pleasant than others has nothing to do with their validity.

message 14: by Robert (new)

Robert | 111 comments There's an interesting article about movie adaptations in the New York Times, much of it dealing with "The Golden Compass"..

message 15: by Coyle (new)

Coyle | 6 comments Robert, you're right that the afterlife is not the sole cornerstone of most religions, I was just arguing that Pullman doesn't present a very appealing alternative to the Christian idea of heaven. No one is a Christian or not a Christian based on what they think and feel about heaven; membership in the Christian faith is based solely on whether or not the claims of Jesus Christ about himself are believed and embraced.

message 16: by Coyle (new)

Coyle | 6 comments That is an interesting article, though I was a bit surprised that she admired people for rewriting great works with different themes and plots, and then ended with a criticism of New Line for "leaving out everything that gives Pullman his bite." Isn't that what they were supposed to be doing- retelling his story in a way that's not wrong, just different?

message 17: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan | 8 comments This was interesting, too:

message 18: by Robert (new)

Robert | 111 comments I think the author was taking an outsider's position that the studio had weakened Pullman's book in their retelling, unlike the other adaptations she named. I haven't seen "Beowulf" so I can't really judge her other claims.
And I have no problem with your definition of Christianity ..but there are a lot of other strains of thought that use the name for far less sensible views. (And in many cases dwell quite a bit on the afterlife, the Apocalypse, etc...see,for example, the recent "Left Behind" fad.)

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