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God is Cut From His Dark Materials

The UK’s Times Online is reporting that references to God and the church are being eradicated from the film version of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy.

I suppose things like this can be expected when a movie is adapted from a book. I personally don’t think it automatically spells doom for a movie to sway from the original text and this is one adaptation that I look forward to since I enjoyed the books so much.

[Link via LocusMag]

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

9 Comments on God is Cut From His Dark Materials

  1. I had also heard rumors that God was to be cut from the film version of C.S. Lewis’ THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE. If there ever were two philosophical foes, it is Lewis and Pullman; and yet I deem that both are being served poorly by pithing their words and leaving the husks.

    The core audience for any such film are the fans of the book. The fans like the book because of what is in the book. Had the book been able to reach a wider audience by being less controversial (read, “bland”), I suspect the author would have written it that way.

    Those who were offended by the philosophy in Pullman’s book (as I was) will not go to see the movie in any case (as I will not).

  2. Good points. Although, I still think film is a different enough medium to warrant some changes. Simply put: some things work better on paper. As an example, look at the 1984 Dune movie (directed by Peter Lynch and starring Kyle MacLachlan). In the book, the scores of internal dialogues that Herbert put in worked to good effect. Having them italicized helped identify them for what they were. In the movie, however, the voice-overs were just…well…lame. Of course, showing Sting sporting a space bikini bottom didn’t help the movie either. 🙂

  3. I’ve never read the books so this is just one uninformed person’s opinion but, from what I’ve seen, the God/Church thing is a big part of the story. Taking it out of the movie would seem, to be, to change the story from what the author intended. They ought to just put the ‘Inspired By’ tag on it.

    As for Dune, I thought the whole Sting thing was the highlight for Kevin…

  4. Having just read CS Lewis’ works (to my 5 year old) I think you could take the references to the divine being out of those books and you’d be fine for a movie. The fundamental story elements appeal to a young audience and the adults (who really were the only ones who could see that anyway.)

  5. Having excised movies from my life, I laugh when I read stuff like this. There is no saving Hollywood. Let it sink.

  6. The adaptations made to a story due to the strengths and limitations of the medium are one thing; changes made to a story due to the peculiar (and unpleasant) philosophical outlook of Hollywood are another.

    This has nothing to do with the limitations of the film genre: both LORD OF THE RINGS and HARRY POTTER we done as faithful adaptations. STARSHIP TROOPERS, on the other hand, was done by someone who obviously hated his source material, faithless to the point of parody.

    It has everything to do with the philosophy of Hollywood. For example, my six-year-old and I just watched Hann Barbara’s 1969 stop-motion animated SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN. It has the normal things meant to appeal to children: songs, slapstick humor, a penguin sidekick (penguin sidekicks are a plot element that appear in my own books). However, at the end of the tale, when an aging Santa decides he can only afford to to give toys away one night a year, the night he picks is “the holiest night of the year”.

    Likewise, in CHARLIE BROWN’S CHRISTMAS, as Charlie broods over the commercialization of Christmas, his love for the holiday is restored by Linus, who explains the meaning of Christmas by giving a speach where he quotes the Gospel of Luke.

    No one in the Hollywood establishment would make or approve these cartoons today. The philosophy of Hollywood even within my lifetime has turned from friendly to the Stars and Stripes, Mom, Apple Pie, Church, Hearth and Home to unabashedly hostile, e.g. the philosophy of AMERICAN BEAUTY, PLEASANTVILLE, FAHRENHEIT 9/11.

    God and the Magesterium of the Catholic Church are the bad guys in HIS DARK MATERIALS. The plot makes no sense outside of that basic conflict. Likewise, in THE LION THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE, you cannot tell the story stripped of the Christian allusions without stripping the sacrifice, death, and resserection of Aslan: the central event of the story is an image of the central event in the Gospel story.

    (As far as I recall, there is no obvious mention of any Supreme Being in the Narnia tales, aside from hints of “The Emperor Over the Sea”; there is no reference to Christ aside from a single paragraph at the end of VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER, where Aslan appears in the form of a lamb, and hints that he is known on Earth by other names that the one he wears in Narnia.)

  7. I have mixed feelings about this. Since the entire plot is based on religion, it seems absurd to remove it. However, the plot of the books is complicated enough for adults to understand – there’s no way it can be presented in a movie in a way that is accessible to young adults or even the general public. I hope they at least keep some of the philosophical undertones, though.

    There is also precedent for movies adapted from books that changed the story dramatically but worked well in the new medium… Do Androids Dream OF Electric Sheep / Bladerunner comes to mind. They totally stripped the philosophy of Mercerism from the movie but I think that was an appropriate decision.

    It’s a shame movies won’t address real issues, though.

  8. God is in the details. If they excise God from the movies they won’t be the “Dark Materials” movies they’ll be garbage.

  9. More news. The director quit.

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