The Golden Compass was a rather interesting film that seems to be inspired by the “Chronicles of Narnia” but without the Christian influences. The movie is around the premise that there exist a multiverse with parallel earths with the story taking place in a parallel earth where the Magisterium rules over the world. In this world the Magisterium resembles the medieval Catholic Church with a neverending quest to eliminate independent thought and Original Sin.
The story involves a girl named Lyra who is thrust on a quest to first liberate her friends from the Magisterium. In her quest she learned more about her parents, the truth about the Magisterium, and her father’s, Lord Asriel, goals in addition to meeting new friends. Daniel Craig stars as Lord Asriel who defies the Magesterium to learn more about the multiverse, while Nicole Kidman is the evil Mrs. Coulter who is out to kill anyone who opposes the Magisterium.
Much of the controversy surrounding “The Golden Compass” is the original novel’s relentless attacks on organised religion, particularly the Catholic Church. The film implies that the Catholic Church is a dogmatic organisation that is out to restrict progress and independent thought by discouraging new ideas on their established beliefs. The film portrays the Magesterium as even going out of their way to develop experiments to destroy children’s inner innocence, which are represented by animal avatars called daemons.
Institutional religion is criticized by some of the characters. For example, Ruta Skadi, a witch and friend of Lyra’s calling for war against the Magisterium in Lyra’s world, says that “For all of [the Church’s] history…it’s tried to suppress and control every natural impulse. And when it can’t control them, it cuts them out.” (see intercision). Skadi later extends her criticism to all organized religion: “That’s what the Church does, and every church is the same: control, destroy, obliterate every good feeling.” (By this part of the book, the witches have made reference to how they are treated criminally by the church in their worlds.)
In any event, it was an entertaining film although the ending only left me wanting to see the sequel, “The Subtle Knife”.