Friday, December 07, 2007

Another brief thought: I keep reading reviews of Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials series that get a very basic plot point wrong. Yes, they are a sort of atheist's answer to Narnia. Yes, there is a main character who is more or less out to "kill" "God".

But that character is not portrayed in a particularly positive manner. And while many reviewers are correct to include the caveat that the "God" that is killed is not the actual creator, but merely a pretender who has claimed credit. But they often leave out the fact that the "God" of the books is not immortal, and has been held at the brink of death for eons by his regent, and that this regent is quite unambiguously evil. And the event these reviewers call his death could just as easily be considered a liberation from prison.

Also, and this isn't really all that big a deal, the church in the first book isn't the Roman Catholic church. "The Magisterium" is a possible worlds version of the church in which the reformation never happened, and it combines the worst elements of Calvinism and Catholicism into a perfect storm of joylessness and repression. Personally, I found this to be the most fascinating part of the books, as the Magisterium, like all great villains, is a fully realized and complex character.

But I've talked to many others who've read the books, and I'm not sure everybody else thought it was an interesting as I did.

1 comment:

Jack said...

Hey, Mike. You've summed this up very nicely, and I agree with you about the Magisterium. One way the movie gets it very wrong is that it's chock full of exposition about Lyra's world. Pullman is much, much more subtle; he drops hints and assumptions and leaves it to the reader to construct this alternate history out of details like Pope John Calvin and the fact that the papal seat is in Geneva. His method is like that in the first Star Wars movie--present a fully realized world and people will play along, just out of fascination.

Besides this I thought the film was okay. It takes about an hour to get through all the setup and exposition to the point where things get moving. The Panzerbjorn fight is jaw-dropping (hyuk hyuk).

Bought myself a toy alethiometer at Toys R Us yesterday. Awesomeness.