The film, starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, is based on a best-selling novel by Philip Pullman, has been slammed as anti-Christian by Vatican newspaper l’Osservatore Romano, bringing comparisons with 2005’s controversial The Da Vinci Code.
In a long editorial the newspaper criticised the film and the British author of the fantasy adventure Northern Lights, from which the film is adapted.
“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 comment piece added that “honest” viewers would find the film, which is proving a hit with festive audiences, “devoid of any particular emotion apart from a great chill.”
In Pullman’s fantasy world, created in the His Dark Materials trilogy, the Church and its governing body, the Magisterium, are linked to cruel experiments on children aimed at discovering the nature of sin. The Church also attempts to suppress facts that would undermine the Church’s legitimacy and power.
Chris Weitz, director of the Golden Compass, still received stinging criticism from the Vatican despite stripping his film version of all references to the Church in a bid to avoid offending religious audiences.
The condemnation from Church leaders follows calls from some Catholic groups in the United States for a boycott of the film, claiming that even a diluted screen version might draw people to read the bestselling trilogy.
The American-based Catholic League urged Christians not to see the film, saying that its objective was “to bash Christianity and promote atheism” to children.
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”.
It labelled the movie “the most anti-Christmas film possible”, adding that it was “consoling” that its first weekend ticket sales were a disappointing $26 million.
The film’s distributers, New Line Cinema, had reportedly hoped the film would pull in between $30 million and $40 million.