This movie is based on Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, and premieres tomorrow. I haven’t read the original series, but it’s come under significant criticism from religious groups like the Catholic League who argue that the film “sells atheism to kids” (There’s a a good summary of the controversy, with refs, at Wikipedia). Not having read the books, I can’t comment on the fracas, but I am in general skeptical (the ridiculous brouhaha about The DaVinci Code comes immediately to mind). What interests me more however is the movie, and from the looks of it, it’s in every sense the heir to Lord of the Rings with respect to epic scale and visual feast. The first five minutes of the film are online at Yahoo and are a must-see. A pair of positive reviews at AICN – by liberal Harry, and by conservative Massawyrm, who addressed the controversy, also are worth reading. Standing alone, this film is incomplete; in a sense it’s like Fellowship of the Ring which is really act 1 of a 6-hour movie. But that’s the price we pay for a truly epic scale.
Intriguingly, it seems that Prince Caspian, the sequel movie to The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is also in the works. It’s interesting to see this new film genre of child-friendly epic fantasy is evolving, and is populated not just with classic literature (two of the Inklings!) but also with more modern works like Pullman’s and of course Harry Potter – and how they come at the questions of faith and freedom from opposite directions, yet all converge.