Hollywood opens fantasy film amid controversy over atheist themes

2007-12-07 12:52:55 xinhuanet

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 8 (Xinhua) -- New Line Cinema's new fantasy film "Golden Compass" opened Friday in U.S. and Canadian theaters, after the adaptation of a controversial novel sparked the ire of at least one religious group.

Although it is often said that Hollywood likes any kind of publicity, that may not be the case with the film starring Oscar-winner Nicole Kidman and latest James Bond actor Daniel Craig.

It is unlikely the film would repeat box office successes of the past Hollywood adaptations of fantasy books, like the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy by New Line itself and Warner Bros' "Harry Potter" series.

U.S. religious group the Catholic League has called for boycotting "Golden Compass" due to the atheist convictions of the author of the book. It's the kind of action not usually taken against a movie, not even for last year's controversial "The Da Vinci Code."

British best-selling writer Philip Pullman is the author of the book which the film is based. He wrote a trilogy of books in the series entitled "His Dark Materials," namely "Golden Compass," "The Subtle Knife" and "The Amber Spyglass."

Catholic League officials said they seldom call boycott against a movie, but this time they really thought parents should keep their kids from the movie.

Industry observers are not sure how the controversy surrounding "Golden Compass" would affect the film's box office prospects. Some people say the league's protestations should matter little as it comes to attracting large audiences to the fantasy film geared toward children as well as "tweeners," the group generally 10 to 14 years old.

"Golden Compass" closely resembles Disney's 2005 release "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" in that it features a fantasy world that includes talking animals that are the invention of computer animation.

But "Narnia" is widely considered a pro-Christian film, while "Golden Compass," at least the novel that it is based, is apparently bent towards atheist themes, film critics said. "Narnia" have taken in about 740 million U.S. dollars in worldwide receipts for Disney.

Whether the religious group's protests will factor in remains unclear. The league raised concerns about "Da Vinci Code" last year, but didn't call for a boycott. The film ended up taking in some 760 million dollars in the worldwide market.

Some movie industry analysts said "Golden Compass" will likely attract the normal crowds that would come out for a fantasy-action adventure release, as there is always the possibility that publicity surrounding the film ignites the curiosity of audiences.