Vatican blasts "Golden Compass" as Godless and hopeless

VATICAN CITY Wed Dec 19, 2007 8:33am EST

Cast members, from L-R, Dakota Blue Richards, French actress Eva Green and British actor Daniel Craig pose during a photocall for U.S. director Chris Weitz's film ''The Golden Compass'' at the 60th Cannes Film Festival May 21, 2007. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Cast members, from L-R, Dakota Blue Richards, French actress Eva Green and British actor Daniel Craig pose during a photocall for U.S. director Chris Weitz's film ''The Golden Compass'' at the 60th Cannes Film Festival May 21, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Yves Herman

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican on Wednesday condemned the film "The Golden Compass," which some have called anti-Christian, saying it promotes a cold and hopeless world without God.

In a long editorial, the Vatican newspaper l'Osservatore Romano, also slammed Philip Pullman, the bestselling author of the book on which the family fantasy movie is based.

It was the Vatican's most stinging broadside against an author and a film since it roundly condemned "The Da Vinci Code" in 2005 and 2006.

"In Pullman's world, hope simply does not exist, because there is no salvation but only personal, individualistic capacity to control the situation and dominate events," the editorial said.

The film, which premiered earlier this month in the United States and stars Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, is an adaptation of Pullman's acclaimed novel "Northern Lights."

The Vatican newspaper said "honest" viewers would find it "devoid of any particular emotion apart from a great chill."

In the fantasy world created by Pullman's trilogy, 'His Dark Materials', the Church and its governing body the Magisterium, are linked to cruel experiments on children aimed at discovering the nature of sin and attempts to suppress facts that would undermine the Church's legitimacy and power.

In the film version all references to the Church have been stripped out, with director Chris Weitz keen to avoid offending religious cinema goers.

Still, some Catholic groups in the United States have called for a boycott, fearing even a diluted version of the book might draw people to read the bestselling trilogy.

The Vatican newspaper said the film and Pullman's writings showed that "when man tries to eliminate God from his horizon, everything is reduced, made sad, cold and inhumane."

The U.S.-based Catholic League, a conservative group, has urged Christians not to see the movie, saying that its objective was "to bash Christianity and promote atheism" to children.

The Vatican newspaper called the movie "the most anti-Christmas film possible" and said that it was "consoling" that its first weekend ticket sales were a disappointing $26 million.

New Line Cinema, a unit of Time Warner Inc, had hoped the film would pull in between $30 million and $40 million. It is doing better overseas but New Line sold the foreign distribution rights to help cover the movie's cost.

(Additional reporting by Dean Goodman in Los Angeles and Mike Collett-White in London; Editing by Charles Dick)

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