Monday, December 10, 2007

Golden Compass Bends a Needle at Box Office

The compass tried hard to head financially north, but it's not looking good. The needle is visibly bent.

Golden Compass Executives had anticipated that opening weekend would pull in 30-40 million at the box office. While it topped the box-office this weekend, it netted only 26.1 million this weekend for the opener, with only 8.8 million on opening day. It cost $180 million to make. Emphases in all of these quotes are mine...

Rolf Mittweg of New Line Cinema, which released Compass, concedes that the religion controversy might have had an effect. But he points out, "Historically, that tends to be ineffective — look at The Da Vinci Code. No one was supposed to see that, either." - Source: USA Today - Dec 9, 2007

Compare that to Chronicles of Narnia which raked in 65 million on the weekend it opened. Pullman, the author of His Dark Materials, upon which the first book in the trilogy The Golden Compass is based, has publicly criticized C.S. Lewis' works. In fact, Pullman loathes Narnia:

I loathe the 'Narnia' books," Pullman has said in previous press interviews. "I hate them with a deep and bitter passion, with their view of childhood as a golden age from which sexuality and adulthood are a falling away." He has called the series "one of the most ugly and poisonous things" he's ever read..

The numbers in the coming weeks will probably make or break whether movies based on the second and third books are made. That is where it will be far more difficult to conceal the anti-religion/anti-Catholic nature of His Dark Materials.


Ok, which is it? Christians are upset because it is anti-religion. Promoters dance around the question of whether it is anti-religion. At the same time, the anti-religious, are upset that the movie has been sanitized of the anti-religion. The UK's National Secular Society - an organization of atheists, agnostics, and other non-believers, has this on their site about The Golden Compass (my emphasis in bold and in red)

On the day of the premiere of The Golden Compass, Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society (of which Philip Pullman is an honorary associate), commented:

“We knew from the beginning that the producers of this film intended to leave out the anti-religious references. We think this is a great shamethe fight against the Magisterium (Pullman’s thinly-disguised version of the Catholic Church) – is the whole point of the book. Take that away and the most original and interesting element of the story is lost.

The director, Chris Weitz, has said that he needed this initial film to be financially successful in order to be able to make the next two in the series. It is the next two that would be the real problem if the scripts were to be true to the books, because it is the later books that bring the anti-religious themes to the fore. However, if the franchise takes off, perhaps the makers of the subsequent movies can be a little braver than they have been with the first one.

OK - now, I understand. Perhaps declaring, "My books are about killing God" is not the best sales pitch. But, we are glad he was true to himself in making that declaration so we could all be very clear about his agenda.

In the meanwhile, Catholics can only hope that at least one or two movie reviewers at the USCCB will be looking for new work, where they can review each movie, "purely on its own cinematic terms".

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