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Anders

The Golden Compass

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I'm going to cross link this post in the Literature section.

Here's the newest on the film and stage adaptations of "His Dark Materials".

A movie director will be hired in the next month or so and filming should start in about a year. With a skittish eye, perhaps, on the power of religious groups in the United States, New Line's executives say they will probably insist that the books' repudiation of religion be softened into more of a meditation on the corruption of power in general. Mark Ordesky, executive vice president and chief operating officer of New Line Productions, said in an interview that "the real issue is not religion; it's authority

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Anders wrote:

: Interesting. I wonder if in the same way the Narnia films will be softened

: of their Christian message. Somehow I would expect so.

Do we KNOW that the Narnia films will be softened? In any case, Narnia is already pretty metaphorical in its approach to the religious question, whereas Pullman comes right out and depicts the death of God and has other characters explain why faith is stooopid. Pullman's books will need a LOT more softening than Lewis's if the films are to exist on some equal level.

I wonder also if the same Christians who would go ballistic over changes to Lewis's books might turn around and praise New Line for toning down the film's anti-religious biases. The revisionism and conservatism of Hollywood are bad in one case, but not in the other?

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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I wonder also if the same Christians who would go ballistic over changes to Lewis's books might turn around and praise New Line for toning down the film's anti-religious biases. The revisionism and conservatism of Hollywood are bad in one case, but not in the other?
Yes. Because Lewis's message is true, and Pullman's is a lie from hell.

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Mark Ordesky, executive vice president and chief operating officer of New Line Productions, said in an interview that "the real issue is not religion; it's authority — that's what's really the driving issue here."

I wonder if vice President Ordesky has ever had a problem with anyone in his company questioning his authority. And i wonder if they still work there.

-s.

Edited by stef

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SDG wrote:

: : I wonder also if the same Christians who would go ballistic over

: : changes to Lewis's books might turn around and praise New Line for

: : toning down the film's anti-religious biases. The revisionism and

: : conservatism of Hollywood are bad in one case, but not in the other?

:

: Yes. Because Lewis's message is true, and Pullman's is a lie from hell.

So we encourage revisionism and conservatism when we don't like the source material, and we encourage something else -- something that suits our own agendas -- when we do like the source material? Something about that seems 'off' to me. I have heard a lot of Tolkien fans complain that the Lord of the Rings films would have been better if only Peter Jackson had stuck to the books, and I have heard them go on and on about how Hollywood always has to dumb things down and reduce the stories it adapts to safe narrative formulae and proven movie clich

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So we encourage revisionism and conservatism when we don't like the source material, and we encourage something else -- something that suits our own agendas -- when we do like the source material? Something about that seems 'off' to me.
What seems "off" to me is considering opposition to an attack on God a matter of "our own agendas."

Pullman -- who has rightly observed that Lewis would probably have regarded him as doing the devil's work -- has an "agenda" that is objectively evil and ought to be suppressed. (Actually, the films ought not to be made at all, since no matter how unobjectionable the films finally are, they will inevitably send new readers to the evil of the books. But granted that the films must be made, they should not give additional resonance to Pullman's evil agenda.)

Lewis's message, or "agenda" if you like, is redemptive and meritorious, and ought NOT to be suppressed. Indeed, it would be a travesty to do so. I cheerfully admit that suppressing the anti-God message in Pullman might also make a travesty of his work; but his work is a moral travesty to begin with and the films are already a travesty, and so I have no objection to that.

Pullman, of course, would say precisely the opposite. But he is wrong and I am right.

I have heard a lot of Tolkien fans complain that the Lord of the Rings films would have been better if only Peter Jackson had stuck to the books, and I have heard them go on and on about how Hollywood always has to dumb things down and reduce the stories it adapts to safe narrative formulae and proven movie clich

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SDG wrote:

: : So we encourage revisionism and conservatism when we don't like the

: : source material, and we encourage something else -- something that

: : suits our own agendas -- when we do like the source material?

: : Something about that seems 'off' to me.

:

: What seems "off" to me is considering opposition to an attack on God a

: matter of "our own agendas."

Well, if we MAKE it our agenda, then it IS our agenda, yeah. Mind you, I am not saying that we should NOT oppose an attack on God. I honestly do not want to defend Pullman's agenda, and indeed, I find portions of his trilogy insulting and disappointing (especially in the third book, which is a HUGE let-down after the storytelling genius of the first two), not to mention mean-spirited towards people of faith. I also find Pullman quite cowardly, since in his extensive, multi-faceted appropriation and deconstruction of Christian mythology and history, he never, not once, not ever, gets around to even ADDRESSING the subject of Christ (was Christ just a misunderstood spiritual leader in Pullman's world? or was he part of the evil plan that the "Authority" foisted on the world? Pullman never has the balls to say one way or the other). And when I read stuff like that one quote from director Nicholas Hytner ...

It's astonishing how uncompromising it is in introducing kids to an alternative mythology of death . . . how it finds a harsh consolation in the notion that death is death and that the worst possible thing, the most desperate thing, is that there is some kind of afterlife. It's thrilling to see kids as young as 9 and 10 sitting, riveted, by that and feeling perhaps relieved by the notion of oblivion.

... I get the chills. And this is how I feel BEFORE the story goes before the cameras and is turned into a huge movie franchise that will give Pullman's ideas just that much more credibility. So I am not at all trying to defend Pullman or any of his works here.

And yet. I do believe in playing fair. So if we are going to endorse a double-standard -- that is, if, rather than tell Hollywood to respect the integrity of the books they adapt and the wishes of the fans of those books to see faithful adaptations made of those books, we would rather tell Hollywood to butcher all the non-Christian books while remaining faithful to the Christian books -- then let us be honest and open about that. And let us admit that, in saying this, we are NOT playing fair. But I, myself, don't know that I could endorse such a double-standard.

: I guess it all depends on whether a faithful and true adaptation would be

: better, or worse, than safe narrative formulae and proven movie cliches.

Since you have expressed your preference for the proven movie clich

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SDG wrote:

: What seems "off" to me is considering opposition to an attack on God a

: matter of "our own agendas."

Well, if we MAKE it our agenda, then it IS our agenda, yeah.

I'm not sure I understand this usage of "agenda." To me the word connotes a particular sort of issue that is of importance only or largely to a particular class of people with a particular vested interest of some sort, especially when such a vested interest interferes with judicious judgment or the greater good. When a politician is a consistent advocate or opponent of a specific industry, we might consider that an "agenda." But when a politician consistently advocates freedom of speech and equal treatment under the law, that would usually be considered a principle or a belief, not an "agenda."

If someone has it in for God, and uses their art to attack him, that may be an agenda. I would not use the word for someone who is critical of this endeavor.

And yet. I do believe in playing fair.

That's your agenda, eh?

Seriously, what do you mean by "playing fair"? Do you want a level playing field between good drama and bad drama? Between racism and equality? Between treating the beliefs of a large mainstream religion with a level of respect and deference and trashing them?

Certainly, in terms of legally protected free speech and freedom of religion, Christianity and Pullmanism enjoy legal protection -- but they are not in any larger sense equal, either objectively or (what may be more relevant here) in socially intersubjective terms. To make a movie based on a book by a writer who is Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, what have you, so that the movie is respectful of and generally congenial to the writer's religious beliefs, should be a reasonably acceptable undertaking, socially speaking. To make a movie based on a book by a writer who has contempt for Christians, Jews, Muslims, and/or Buddhists so that the movie reflects that writer's hostility should NOT be a socially acceptable undertaking.

So if we are going to endorse a double-standard -- that is, if, rather than tell Hollywood to respect the integrity of the books they adapt and the wishes of the fans of those books to see faithful adaptations made of those books, we would rather tell Hollywood to butcher all the non-Christian books while remaining faithful to the Christian books -- then let us be honest and open about that. And let us admit that, in saying this, we are NOT playing fair. But I, myself, don't know that I could endorse such a double-standard.

It makes no sense to treat the issue as if the fidelity / butchery axis were the only legitimate axis along which to cut the issue, and to insist on treating all source material with idea-neutrality. Not all ideas are created equal.

: I guess it all depends on whether a faithful and true adaptation would be

: better, or worse, than safe narrative formulae and proven movie cliches.

Since you have expressed your preference for the proven movie clich

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SDG wrote:

: : And yet. I do believe in playing fair.

:

: That's your agenda, eh?

More of a method and thus a principle than an agenda, I'd say. smile.gif

: Seriously, what do you mean by "playing fair"?

I think I explained this in the rest of my post.

: To make a movie based on a book by a writer who is Christian, Jewish,

: Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, what have you, so that the movie is respectful

: of and generally congenial to the writer's religious beliefs, should be a

: reasonably acceptable undertaking, socially speaking. To make a movie

: based on a book by a writer who has contempt for Christians, Jews,

: Muslims, and/or Buddhists so that the movie reflects that writer's hostility

: should NOT be a socially acceptable undertaking.

So what happens when the writer's beliefs entail views that arguably show contempt for certain other views? (And are you confusing the beliefs in question with the people who hold those beliefs? If Pullman's books, rooted in his own beliefs, were only contemptuous towards Christianity, but not towards Christians, would they then become "socially acceptable"?)

: It makes no sense to treat the issue as if the fidelity / butchery axis were

: the only legitimate axis along which to cut the issue, and to insist on

: treating all source material with idea-neutrality. Not all ideas are created

: equal.

But as you yourself say, if the ideas in question are really that bad, then they probably shouldn't be adapted and publicized and marketed like this to BEGIN with.

: Although you would apparently call me something almost as bad? sad.gif

[ blink ] What ever gave you the impression that I would do that?

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So what happens when the writer's beliefs entail views that arguably show contempt for certain other views? (And are you confusing the beliefs in question with the people who hold those beliefs?

No, I'm not confusing the two, but I'm dealing with the more cut-and-dried latter scenario because (a) it's more cut-and-dried and (cool.gif seems to be what we're actually dealing with here.

f Pullman's books, rooted in his own beliefs, were only contemptuous towards Christianity, but not towards Christians, would they then become "socially acceptable"?)

Hopefully not, but they would become less unacceptable.

But as you yourself say, if the ideas in question are really that bad, then they probably shouldn't be adapted and publicized and marketed like this to BEGIN with.

True, and if you can tell me how I can stop these movies from going forward altogether I will gladly do so. Failing that, I will do all I can to encourage New Line to emasculate Pullman's offensive ideology as far as possible.

: Although you would apparently call me something almost as bad? sad.gif

[ blink ] What ever gave you the impression that I would do that?

I just meant that your crack about my supposed "preference" for "the proven movie clich

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SDG wrote:

: True, and if you can tell me how I can stop these movies from going

: forward altogether I will gladly do so. Failing that, I will do all I can to

: encourage New Line to emasculate Pullman's offensive ideology as

: far as possible.

Y'know, I actually don't have any interest in contradicting you on this particular point. My point all along has simply been that people who take this approach can NOT then turn around and make a passionate argument to the effect that those who would adapt a book into a film must stay true to the vision of the original text, as though they were defending that principle in and of itself. Based on your comments on Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, I don't think you're really one of the people I had in mind.

: I just meant that your crack about my supposed "preference" for "the

: proven movie clich

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And it looks like the director will be ...

Chris Weitz!?

Say this for the guy -- he's nothing if not eclectic. He and his brother Paul co-starred in Chuck & Buck, they co-wrote Antz, and they co-directed three very different films: American Pie (needs no introduction), Down to Earth (the remake of Here Comes Mr. Jordan and Heaven Can Wait starring Chris Rock), and About a Boy (which I recently watched again, and loved all over again).

But wait a minute -- weren't the Weitz brothers in talks to adapt ANOTHER fantasy series, i.e. Michael Moorcock's Elric Saga, not too long ago?

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I'm actually encouraged to see this film getting handed from one director to the next. I hope that indicates they're seeing through the hype to the problems with the story...

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This story says that Weitz will also write the script, which means Stoppard's script probably won't see the light of day. Interesting.

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from TheOneRing.net:

In the same way we're keeping an eye on the Narnia films, we're following the "His Dark Materials" film project because we know it's of interest to many LOTR readers. Yesterday, industry insiders leaked news that Tom Stoppard's script for "The Golden Compass" had been "junked," and director Chris Weitz ["About a Boy"] was tipped to take over on the writing. Industry sources described him as a "huge dork-level fan of the books [who] wants to do them justice." He's won praise for his understanding and direction of the boy character in "About a Boy." The ability to write convincingly about teenagers would be an advantage in "The Golden Compass."

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Having not read the books could anyone give me a quick synopsis from a Christian perspective about what they find objectional in the trilogy. It would be nice, as a parent, to know what to expect when one of the kids comes home with the book someday.

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I personally have had some great discussions regarding the books, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I am a little bit frightened of this talk of 'suppression' but I shall attribute it to fear of indoctrinating children.

In general, I find the message of the books to be anything but subtle and my philosophy is nowhere near developed enough for me to take a strong stance on the author's. But opinions differing from my own rarely make me this angry, even if they do directly contradict a belief of my own.

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An HDM fan site has posted this interview with director Chris Weitz.

Chris Weitz: The darker aspects

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On the score of religion, let me say that I think HDM is, in fact, not an atheistic work but a highly spiritual and reverent piece of writing.
Edited by Shantih

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Shantih wrote:

: Pullman's work is *profoundly* spiritual and the man himself is as thoughtful and

: well considered as any theologian I know.

Yeah, an atheist friend of mine was very disappointed in the books because they weren't materialistic enough -- all that stuff about "particles of consciousness" was too spiritual for her. (Personally, I wonder if the problem may be, in a sense, not so much materialism vs. spiritualism as Platonism vs. Aristotelianism -- at a certain level, I think the Christian notion of "personhood" HAS to begin with the great, grand, ultimate Persons of the Godhead, who bestow their personhood to beings like themselves; whereas Pullman's notion of personhood begins with particles, or particulars, none of which has any particular identity on its own but which combine into a larger emergent property which eventually dissolves; it is this emphasis on atomistic building blocks that is essentially anti-Christian, I think, and whether those building blocks are material or spiritual is beside the point.)

: You know the real tragedy here? It's not that these films will be made, or that

: Pullman's work will continue to reach a wider audience. It's that *he's* the guy

: writing the profoundly challenging spiritual books whilst we the Christians have

: sat back and allowed ourselves to produce unmittigated crap . . .

Y'know, I used to make these sorts of arguments myself, but I've grown past this inferiority complex, I think. You can still find Christians producing profoundly challenging books. The question is not whether anyone is producing the art, but what happens to that art once market forces take over. And just about every attempt to produce a "roaring lamb" that will go out into the broader culture ends up resulting in yet another product for the Christian ghetto, like, um, Roaring Lambs.

: And we wonder why people take Pullman more seriously than Christian literature?

I wasn't aware that anybody had suggested people shouldn't. I AM aware, however, that some Harry Potter fans are miffed that Pullman gets more respect than Rowling (indeed, The Hidden Key to Harry Potter author John Granger has a theory that Rowling based Gilderoy Lockhart on Pullman, but that seems like a stretch to me).

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Y'know, I used to make these sorts of arguments myself, but I've grown past this inferiority complex, I think.  You can still find Christians producing profoundly challenging books.  The question is not whether anyone is producing the art, but what happens to that art once market forces take over.  And just about every attempt to produce a "roaring lamb" that will go out into the broader culture ends up resulting in yet another product for the Christian ghetto, like, um, Roaring Lambs.

No, sorry, I don't buy this at all. By "producing the art" I don't just mean making it but I also mean doing it in the secular marketplace even if that means forcefully rejecting offers to have things carried in Christian media, bookshops and the like. (The death for any piece of art wishing to influence more than just a handful of Christians)

One of the problems is the ghetto factor. The other is that, once the work is "out there" and embraced by the rest of the world as interesting, exciting and challenging then guess who comes down to hit it as heretical or the like? Yes, it's the Christian media. G.P. Taylor (personal hero of the month), writer and member of the clergy, experienced this phenomonon here in the UK when he self published Shadowmancer rejecting all offers from Christian publishers and marketing his book for the real world. When the national press picked up on the fact he was a vicar they were surprised and intrigued. When the Church Times / Tablet (British relgious press) picked up on it they started bringing out the "Demon!" stick because he dared to produce something which raised issues such as paganism, witchcraft and even child abuse. (Nevermind that the *aim* was the demonstrate how and why these things are terrible)

Let's not try and pretend we're not the ones at fault here. I'm rather bored of passing the buck onto Hollywood or the publishing world or whatever. I mean: to conclude that they're market driven economies dictated by profit not content is not really the most profound conclusion to have ever been made right? Clearly our conventional wisdom isn't doing the job. Therefore it's us who have to try differently.

Bringing this a little more back towards the topic. One of the interesting outcomes of G.P. Taylor's success is that when the film right negotiations came up recently he had no idea what to do with them. So he made some *outrageous* demands like complete script and casting control, just to see what would happen. And guess what? He got them both. Hollywood is desperate for these big childrens' franchises at the moment. So much so that Taylor got a much better deal than Rowling or Pullman! Now there's some food for thought.

Phil.

Edited by Shantih

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(Personally, I wonder if the problem may be, in a sense, not so much materialism vs. spiritualism as Platonism vs. Aristotelianism -- at a certain level, I think the Christian notion of "personhood" HAS to begin with the great, grand, ultimate Persons of the Godhead, who bestow their personhood to beings like themselves; whereas Pullman's notion of personhood begins with particles, or particulars, none of which has any particular identity on its own but which combine into a larger emergent property which eventually dissolves; it is this emphasis on atomistic building blocks that is essentially anti-Christian, I think, and whether those building blocks are material or spiritual is beside the point.)

Thought I'd do this bit in another post...

Yes, that's pretty good. I think Pullman's sympathies lie in the roots in Greek philosophy, and his resentment is of the Christian upsurping of it. The role of the Authority, then, becomes the desire to control the finished products. Pullman's 'theology' is rooted in the idea that the work of the Church in history has been to supress emotion, feeling and the whole glory of living. So he greatly respects the Platonic theory of ideas and that there are both earthly and spiritual realities, but resents how Augustine 'christianised' that idea into the concept that the spiritual things are 'good' and the earthly things are 'bad.' And so therefore condeming mankind into hating their own lives and waiting for how glorious heaven will be. Which is, of course, his main beef with Lewis since this is apprently what goes on in The Last Battle. It isn't but, through upbringing and several bad experiences with the Church, this is the impression Pullman has been left with.

Phil.

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Bringing this a little more back towards the topic. One of the interesting outcomes of G.P. Taylor's success is that when the film right negotiations came up recently he had no idea what to do with them. So he made some *outrageous* demands like complete script and casting control, just to see what would happen. And guess what? He got them both. Hollywood is desperate for these big childrens' franchises at the moment. So much so that Taylor got a much better deal than Rowling or Pullman! Now there's some food for thought.

Food for thought, indeed. The issues in Taylor's book may be challenging, but as a book, it doesn't seem nearly as well written, nor are the characters as engaging as those in Rowling's or Pullman's--or even Lewis or Tolkien. Should translate well to the screen, though! Oh sorry--is my cynicism about Hollywood showing? dry.gif

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