First Person Life

2007-10-29

The Next Big Movie! (It's worse than you can imagine!)

Fans of fantasy come to life may be astounded by the next big fantasy trilogy coming out of Hollywood. The first of the movies will be arriving in theaters just in time for Christmas.

The movie boasts stunning scenery, spectacular special effects, and several big-name stars. It is also partly produced by one of America's premier producers of Children's Books, Scholastic Inc., as well as the company that produced and distributed the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Newline Cinemas.

It has all the makings of the next blockbuster fantasy! Except...

No one can possibly miss the Christian thematic elements of C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia. The books and the movies they spawned all have numerous parallels with the Christian message. From the introduction of Jadis, the evil queen, into Narnia by two unwitting children, representing the Fall of humanity from the perfect created state, to the sacrificial death of Aslan, the Lord of Narnia, on behalf of another treacherous child, the book uses the story of Christianity as the basis for it's fantastic journey.

Not as clearly thematic, but still a virtuous portrayal, Lord of the Rings is another book with a certain Christian nobility about it. The virtues of Christianity shine clearly, even if the underlying world is presented with too much emphasis on free will and a dualistic understanding of good and evil. Yet, the lines are clearly drawn. There is a fundamental right and wrong, good and evil exist. The structures of the world generally exist to put in check the evil of an invading force. Self sacrifice as well as a sense of duty and honor are fundamental themes. In spite of its theological shortcomings, LOTR is still a good movie that imparts the nobleness of virtue.

Philip Pullman, the author of the trilogy which Newline and Scholastic have partnered to turn into the next big fantasy feature film trilogy, has nothing good at all to say about Lewis or Tolkein.

An article in The New Yorker characterized Pullman's views this way:

    “ ‘The Lord of the Rings’ is fundamentally an infantile work,” he said. “Tolkien is not interested in the way grownup, adult human beings interact with each other. He’s interested in maps and plans and languages and codes.” When it comes to “The Chronicles of Narnia,” by C. S. Lewis, Pullman’s antipathy is even more pronounced. Although he likes Lewis’s criticism and quotes it surprisingly often, he considers the fantasy series “morally loathsome.” In a 1998 essay for the Guardian, entitled “The Dark Side of Narnia,” he condemned “the misogyny, the racism, the sado-masochistic relish for violence that permeates the whole cycle.” He reviled Lewis for depicting the character Susan Pevensie’s sexual coming of age—suggested by her interest in “nylons and lipstick and invitations”—as grounds for exclusion from paradise. In Pullman’s view, the “Chronicles,” which end with the rest of the family’s ascension to a neo-Platonic version of Narnia after they die in a railway accident, teach that “death is better than life; boys are better than girls . . . and so on. There is no shortage of such nauseating drivel in Narnia, if you can face it.”


Pullman goes on to claim that Lewis wasn't even Christian, claiming that because the greatest Christian virtue is charity and that Chronicles readers wouldn't see that through the books, that it, therefore, isn't Christian. A hollow argument given an incorrect presupposition, but pointing out the characteristic vapidity of Pullman's conceptualization of the universe.

Pullman despises the concept that humanity has lost its innocence and good storytelling is an attempt to take us into a world where things are clearer. For Pullman, "growing up" - the throwing off of external authority and strictures - is the most important thing.


    “The idea of keeping childhood alive forever and ever and regretting the passage into adulthood—whether it’s a gentle, rose-tinged regret or a passionate, full-blooded hatred, as it is in Lewis—is simply wrong,” Pullman told me. As a child, Lyra is able to read a complicated divination device, called an alethiometer, with an instinctual ease. As she grows up, she becomes self-conscious and loses that grace, but she’s told that she can regain the skill with years of practice, and eventually become even better at it. “That’s a truer picture of what it’s like to be a human being,” Pullman said. “And a more hopeful one. . . . We are bound to grow up.”


I will likely blog more about this in the future... but for now, I leave you with this quote from the "New Yorker" article, which gives a good idea of how Christianity is treated by Pullman:

    Pullman’s heroine, Lyra Belacqua, is a pre-adolescent girl who erroneously believes that she is an orphan. She has been raised in a slapdash fashion at Oxford, by the scholars and staff of the venerable (and fictional) Jordan College. The novels are set in an alternate version of this universe, in which people travel by zeppelin and refer to electricity as “anbaric power.” It is a church-burdened world, in which the Reformation led to consolidation, not schism, and the Papacy was moved from Rome to Geneva by John Calvin. This Church is responsible for the kidnapping of Lyra’s best friend, whom she vows to rescue; the exile of her father, whom she sets out to find; and, eventually, the homicidal pursuit of Lyra herself. In “His Dark Materials,” the Church is run by a cabal of celibate men who are obsessed with sin and its eradication. The Church employs torture and a doctrine of “preëmptive penance”—a program of self-flagellation that provides its adherents with a kind of get-out-of-Hell-free card, forgiving them in advance for such politically useful sins as assassination.



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Additional Information:

"Life and Letters: Far From Narnia - 2005 "New Yorker" piece on Philip Pullman, the Author of the "His Dark Materials" trilogy. [WARNING: Contains lewd artwork]
An atheist's 'Narnia' knockoff - by World Net Daily movie reviewer Dr. Ted Baehr
"The Golden Compass: Unmasked" a video by Bill Donahue of the Catholic League regarding the movie.

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