Saturday, December 8, 2007

New Line Cinema's New Movie is NOT The Hobbit -- or is it?

An unlikely hero is chosen for a quest to unknown wild regions and obtains a golden object which helps assure success. No, I am not talking about Bilbo Baggins, but Lyra Belacqua. Lord of the Rings fans had been hoping that we would be seeing a film titled The Hobbit from New Line Cinema by now. Instead, this holiday season New Line released The Golden Compass, based on Philip Pullman's book originally titled Northern Lights (re-titled The Golden Compass for the U.S. Edition). The Hobbit it is not, but there are some interesting parallels.

Despite the fact that The Golden Compass is based on a novel by an avowed atheist, it takes on pretty much the same framework as most heroic quest stories. The reluctant hero finds himself involved in circumstances beyond his control and it is discovered that he has special abilities that are needed for the Quest. Bilbo was purposefully chosen by Gandalf to help the Dwarves recover their treasure because he saw traits in the Hobbit that even Bilbo did not know he had. Lyra was chosen for her quest because of her special ability to use the Alethiometer (The Golden Compass). Along the way both heroes learn lessons of courage that they will need later in the Quest.

I have not read the Pullman books, so I can't really comment on most of the controversy that has arisen. If the books did not exist, the movie would play like any other fantasy or science fiction movie because most of the religious themes have been subdued. Like Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings, the movie comes off as just another victory-for-the-little-guy-over-the-authoritarian-powers-bent-on-controlling-everyone story. In fact, the ending very much parallels the ending of the original Star Wars movie (Episode IV: A New Hope). Good triumphs over Evil; what more can we ask for in a Fantasy/Adventure Film?

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