Rob Jenkins - 'Golden Compass' points wrong way

As a matter of fact, I have seen "The Golden Compass."

I state that up front to pre-empt the angry e-mails accusing me of criticizing a movie I haven't seen. You can still send angry e-mails - please do - just don't accuse me of that.

Anyway, who says people can't judge movies they haven't seen? I've never watched "Bratz" or anything starring Amanda Bynes, yet I can say with complete confidence that they're mindless and insipid.

(That loud noise is my server crashing under the load of livid, semi-literate e-mails from 14-year-old girls.)

But to get back to "The Golden Compass": I've seen it, but I won't be taking my kids - and not merely because I object to its themes, although there's that. Frankly, it just isn't a very good movie.

Taken purely as a representative of the science fiction/fantasy genre, it's not as enjoyable as "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" or the Harry Potter series and doesn't even belong in the same conversation with "The Lord of the Rings."

Of course, it's difficult to talk about this movie solely in terms of its cinematic merits. As you're probably aware, the film is based on a book by noted atheist Philip Pullman, part one of a trilogy apparently aimed at convincing children God doesn't exist and religion is evil.

Basically, it's the atheists' answer to C.S. Lewis's "The Chronicles of Narnia," only without the compelling plot line, interesting characters, and first-rate intellect.

As numerous reviewers have noted, the story's anti-Christian themes are de-emphasized in the movie, much like Nicole Kidman's and Sam Elliot's acting ability. One critic even went so far as to say she couldn't detect any religious elements at all.

Either she didn't look very hard or she doesn't know anything about religion (I suspect the latter). Actually, the film uses religious imagery frequently, always to portray faith in a negative light.

For instance, the bad guys - the "Magisterium" - all dress like Catholic priests, something no self-respecting individual with a modicum of fashion sense would do unless he were an actual Catholic priest. Also, Magisterium types refer darkly to subversive ideas like individual freedom as "heresy."

The message, if watered-down, is still clear enough not to be lost on young people: religion is evil and oppressive, not to mention oppressively evil. (Ironically, the Orwellian society depicted in the film more closely resembles Soviet-style atheistic totalitarianism than anything organized religion has wrought in the last three centuries.)

And that's why I won't be taking my kids to see "The Golden Compass." Though I seriously doubt they'll morph into little atheists after one viewing, it's still true that media do exert an influence, however subtle.

Besides, it's just not a very good movie. And if we start letting them watch bad movies, next thing you know they'll want to rent "She's the Man."