Newsbites: His Dark Materials! Star Trek! Heaven Is for Real!

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Just a few quick newsbites today — all of which, as it happens, are about brand new TV shows that will be spin-offs or reboots of existing films.

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The Golden Compass not so magnetic after all

goldencompass-lyraBefore it came out in theatres December 7, I used to tell people that I hoped the film version of The Golden Compass would be great — and I hoped it would flop.

The original book — the first part of a trilogy known collectively as His Dark Materials — is a fantastically creative and engaging bit of fiction. It takes place in a parallel universe populated by witches and talking polar bears, a world where every human has a “daemon,” or an external, animal-shaped embodiment of the person’s soul. It also features some of the most suspenseful scenes I have ever read in a novel.

Unfortunately, the villains of the story are members of an all-powerful church known as the “Magisterium.” And the two books that follow — The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass — turn increasingly preachy as they reveal that the entire trilogy is ultimately about the death of the Judeo-Christian God, the eradication of the afterlife and the establishment of a “Republic of Heaven” that has no need of a King.

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Review: The Golden Compass (dir. Chris Weitz, 2007)

goldencompass-lyrabears“That’s some pretty fast work, Miss Lyra.” So says an impressed Texan aeronaut to a young English girl after she befriends a depressed talking polar bear, inspires the bear to strike back against some church-based bad guys, and persuades the bear to join her on a quest — all, seemingly, in a matter of minutes. But the aeronaut could just as easily be talking about The Golden Compass, the film in which all these characters appear.

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Comment: His Dark Materials: How the Grinch stole God

goldencompass-weitzLAST YEAR, many Christians went out of their way to caution their fellow believers against over-reacting to the movie version of The Da Vinci Code. Yes, the film put forth a deeply problematic view of Jesus and church history, but instead of protesting against it, Christians were encouraged to see it, discuss it with their friends and, in general, “engage” with it as part of their broader engagement with the culture.

This year, however, many Christians have begun to raise the alarm over the movie version of The Golden Compass, which comes out December 7. They have sent each other e-mails full of warnings about the “anti-religious” books on which the film is based. They have pointed their friends to websites that describe some of the story’s objectionable content. And there has been little, if any, talk of “engagement”.

What changed between last year and this? What is different about this movie?

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The Chronicles of Atheism

goldencompass-runrunrunWhen The Golden Compass hits theaters this month, many will be introduced to the works of Philip Pullman, a writer who detests C.S. Lewis’s fantasy world.

The story begins with a girl hiding in a wardrobe. It continues with a series of adventures in which the girl passes through gateways into other worlds, meeting witches, figures from ancient mythology, and talking animals along the way. Ultimately, it takes her into the afterlife and to an apocalyptic battle between supernatural powers.

Philip Pullman’s trilogy, His Dark Materials, has some striking parallels to C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia. Between protective beasts, snowy landscapes, and references to a prophecy only the girl may be able to fulfill, the ads for The Golden Compass — the first installment of Pullman’s series coming to the big screen on December 7 — look made to attract fans of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. New Line Cinema has also gone out of its way to link the new film to J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, which the studio also adapted.

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Harry Potter’s Christian fans come to his defense

John Killinger: God, the Devil & Harry Potter, St. Martin’s, 2002.
Connie Neal: The Gospel According to Harry Potter, Westminster John Knox, 2002.
John Granger: The Hidden Key to Harry Potter, Zossima, 2002.

CHRISTIAN Harry Potter fans, unite!

It has been over two years since Richard Abanes wrote Harry Potter and the Bible: The Menace behind the Magick, a scathing critique of just about everything to do with J.K. Rowling’s bestselling series about an orphaned English boy who goes to a boarding school for witches and wizards.

Since then, no one has really added to Abanes’s criticisms, but quite a few Christians have lined up to defend Rowling and her books against the accusation that they are simply trying to warm children up to the sort of real-life occultic practices that are forbidden in the Bible.

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