I thought the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops’ rave review of The Golden Compass was remarkably short-sighted. (You can still read the review in this cached page at Google.)
Basically, the reviewers — Harry Forbes and John Mulderig — seemed delighted by the film. They all but dismissed any hubbub over Pullman’s views, and took a “wait and see” stance regarding the sequels.
Clearly, they were not paying attention to the abundant information about the content of the books, nor were they bothered to comment on the kind of story that develops upon the foundation established in The Golden Compass. Either they weren’t paying attention, or they decided that it didn’t matter (which would be much worse).
It was especially painful to see that rave gleefully snapped up by New Line’s publicity department and employed in promotions of the film, suggesting that the movie contains nothing that should concern Christian moviegoers. (In fact, they took a glowing review and jumbled a couple of lines from it to make it sound like an even stronger endorsement.)
The review caused quite a stir among Catholic bloggers, who were dismayed.
Amy Wellborn reported on those laughable ads which basically said, “Please, proceed into the theater, there’s nothing to discuss.”
Pete Vere’s response was noted in this article about the plea to fire Forbes.
And Mark Shea, of course, threw in considerably more than “two cents.”
Now it’s true that the film version of The Golden Compass has softened Pullman’s attack on the church. It’s also true that the book makes only a few jabs at Christianity. The sequels are where the agenda is sharpened like a not-so-subtle knife. But to give this serious issue so little attention in a review intended for¬†Christian families and communities seems to me to be grossly irresponsible.
This has thrown fuel on the fire for those of us who have long believed that Steven D. Greydanus reigns supreme as the finest Catholic film critic writing today. Greydanus’ reviews — including his piece on The Golden Compass — are so much better than the USCCB’s, and so much more thoughtful. By comparison, Forbes’ reviews seem to be little more than disposable summaries with a couple of token observations about the quality of the artistry. Why choose the Catholic equivalent of Gene Shalit over the Catholic equivalent of Roger Ebert?
I’ve been reading the USCCB’s reviews for¬†a decade now, more out of curiosity than anything, wondering if there will ever be a day where I am actually impressed or enlightened by one of them. I’m still waiting. I find wiser Christian-perspective interpretations and more challenging artistic analysis on fanboy chat rooms than I do in the reviews published by the Catholic News Service. By contrast, I always come away from Greydanus’s reviews inspired, challenged, and impressed.
A few minutes ago, a friend sent me this link, which states the case oh so well.
…could it be?
Is it a Christmas miracle?
The USCCB just withdrew their Golden Compass review!
Is this a sign that things are finally changing for the better? Might someone finally decide to give Greydanus’ contributions the attention and the platform they deserve?