At the beginning of the trailer for The Golden Compass, New Line boasts about its wildly successful Lord of the Rings franchise. (Interesting, since their president has nothing good to say about Peter Jackson, and won’t let him make The Hobbit.)
As the trailer opens, we see the Ring of Power.
And then, to promise us something of equal importance, New Line displays the One Ring transforming into the “aletheometer,” an instrument in The Golden Compass that supposedly “tells the truth.”
The implication is obvious. The stories, says New Line, stand on equal ground.
The first is a story that is illuminated by the Christian faith of its writer. The second is a story that was written with the intent of encouraging children to reject the Christian convictions of C.S. Lewis (and, by association, Tolkien too). One stands in glory. The other was crafted to discount the foundation of the first. “I suppose technically you’d have to put me down as an agnostic,” said Philip Pullman to The Telegraph. “But if there is a God and he is as the Christians describe him, then he deserves to be put down.”
So, yeah… this trailer demonstrates just how blind New Line is to the nature of its own product.*
I do find it ironic that the trailer includes a character telling young Lyra that she was “meant” to have the aletheometer, as if that’s a good thing. When the trilogy culminates with the heroes siding with the villains and ganging up on God (at the end, Pullman decided to cloud the issue a bit, but by then his agenda has become painfully clear) to murder him, who, then, “meant” for her to have it? If they don’t mean that it’s God’s will, what higher power are they appealing to? Philip Pullman’s trilogy concludes with a re-staging the fall of humankind in the Garden of Eden as a triumph of the highest authority of all… the human will. If anybody “meant” for Lyra to do anything, it would have to be the God that her fellow heroes kill in the end.
The Lord of the Rings reveals, resonates, grieves, and offers hope. It affirms the benevolence of “a greater will at work” than our own, and observes that without that heavenly hope, humankind is doomed to fail. It works through the power of myth, and through suggestion. His Dark Materials, on the other hand, makes its agenda clear by having its characters come right out and say things like “Christianity is a lie.” Its occasionally enthralling flourishes of imagination are ultimately done in by obvious anti-Christian propaganda, and a frightening glorification of that rebellious impulse within the human heart. It categorizes all concepts of authority into That Which Must Be Overthrown… thus elevating our own unstable and flawed will to the level of God.
Heaven help those who don’t see the difference.
As I work on my own fantasy saga, I sincerely hope I am not distracted by any particular agenda… beyond telling a good story, that is.
For more on Philip Pullman, his novels, and his views, check out any of these pages: