“His Dark Materials” Trilogy on Indefinite Hold? December 16, 2009

“His Dark Materials” Trilogy on Indefinite Hold?

The Golden Compass movie took in about $380,000,000 worldwide. By just about any measure, that would be considered a success.

So why are the sequels (The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass) not being made?

Because of the Catholic Church, say several people associated with the first film.

Asked what had happened to the two remaining films, [Sam] Elliott, 65, who played a Texan aeronaut called Lee Scoresby in the film, said: “The Catholic Church happened to The Golden Compass, as far as I’m concerned.

He added: “The Catholic Church … lambasted them, and I think it scared New Line off.”

Of course, Bill Donohue of the Catholic League is taking full credit:

Mr Donohoe [sic] said he was “delighted that the boycott worked”.

“I knew if we could hurt the box office receipts here, it might put the brakes on the next movie,” he told the Evening Standard.

“We?” How many Catholic League members are there…? Besides Donohue, I mean.

None of this is really news. Pullman himself told me he was aware the second and third movies were probably not going to be made nearly a year-and-a-half ago.

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  • Sackbut

    “Hurt the box office receipts”? Does $380 million worldwide count as “hurt”?

  • Betsy

    I’m not terribly disappointed no matter the reason. The books are wonderful but the movie simply could not do “The Golden Compass” justice. If children continue to read and delight in the books, the message will continue to get out and in a far more imaginative and meaningful way.

  • You’d think the extra attention that the Catholic league will bring to the 2nd and 3rd movies will INCREASE sales. I know I’d go just to spite them even though I didn’t really enjoy the first movie.

    I also agree with archaic term for a trombone in that $380,000,000 could hardly be considered hurt.

  • Leviathan

    I loved the movie, but loved the book more. Im glad the movie was out, because it convinced me to read the book. If the Catholic Church hadnt boycotted it, I wouldnt have know about it.

    But besides that, I dont think the church boycotting Da Vinci Code stopped them from making Angels and Demons.

  • Takma’rierah

    Yeeeaah, see, I’m still hoping for a re-make of the original movie. It was terrible and the only way to watch it is on mute. However, it is irritating to see the Catholics swaggering over it.

  • Richard Wade

    I don’t understand. The Golden Compass portrays a rich, powerful and ruthless hierarchy that tries to control and oppress the thoughts and opinions of all the people. Why does the Catholic Church think the story has anything to do with them?

  • Edmond

    I’m with Leviathan, I loved the movie, and loved the books more. The middle book was my favorite. I would love to see 2 and 3 made into films. A quote on Wikipedia shows that at least one of the producers of the first film is “adamant” about getting the others made. Let’s hope!

  • David D.G.

    Hemant: I believe that Bill’s last name is spelled “Donohue, not “Donohoe.”

    ~David D.G.

  • If they think the movie (which isn’t really direct in criticism of the church) made them look bad, their boycotting it did much worse.

  • BZ

    Not all the people who saw the first movie would necessarily be interested in a sequel though. This is simply anecdotal, but most of the people I talked to who saw the movie didn’t really care for it. It is possible that New Line put out some feelers and just didn’t find the interest to justify a 2nd and 3rd movie.

  • Trace

    It was the Stonecutters, not the CC.

  • I’m just reading the books for the first time now — about halfway through Amber Spyglass. What a joy they are to read! I want to make friends with a mulefa!

    But I can see problems not directly related to the RCC. The first movie ends about three chapters short of the end of Golden Compass and those last three chapters really change the whole tone of the book.

    As to the rest of the story, it’s hard to imagine how to get the story told without revealing — hmm, how shall I put this without spoilers — plot elements that might be unpalatable to a wide audience and which would be difficult at best and, if I’m anticipating how the plot ends correctly, inappropriate for young children even if the RCC and Bill Donohue had kept their mouths totally shut about the movie.

  • JD

    Obviously he’s delusional if $380M is a “hurt” figure. I wonder if he’s taking claim for hurting the DaVinci Code box office.

    Looking up his bio, wow. He’s like a fundementalist but in the Catholic way, though not so much so that he’s hidden himself in public for shame of having been divorced, last I recall, a very serious sin according to Catholicism.

  • Cris

    I love the books, but the movie did not do justice to the book at all. I mean, it changed the ending! By not including the last couple crucial chapters, they basically made it so that making a sequel would be very difficult, regardless of the Catholic Church’s opinions.

  • David D.G. — You’re right. The article got it wrong and I took their cue. All fixed now. Thanks!

  • Liudvikas

    I am really angry about them not making the sequel, but it is as much fault of the studio as it is of nutjubs protesting it.
    The studio screwed up by not following the book. Best scenario would be for a remake to happen.

  • Jen

    I don’t fall asleep during many movies (Twilight was one) but the Golden Compass was awful, awful, awful. Bears? Whatever. Nicole Kidman? Whatever. Souls as tiny ani…whoa, sorry, started nodding off again. To be fair, I have never read the books, and I vaguely meant to, though the movie did not make me want to.

  • Becky

    @ Jen – it gets much better; trust me!

  • I don’t know about this. The catholic church has boycotted many things, from films, to books, to Madonna and many of them have been successful despite the boycott, or even got more publicity. The catholics complained and boycotted The DaVinci Code, and there we have Angels and Demons. Same thing with Harry Potter.

    The catholic church is at it’s usual role of getting offended at anything, but to blame it directly for the lack of plans to make a sequel is too much.

  • Make the movies, don’t release them in the USA and then let’s hear how popular Bill and his crusaders are. New Line – get some balls will you!!

    Of course it’s just one actor’s opinion and one idjit’s crowing.

  • Pseudonym

    All big-budget fantasy film budgets are taking a hit due to the economic crisis. No studio is paying $180 million to make a film right now without some expectation of a high return on investment. TGC didn’t perform well enough, especially domestically.

    Maybe the Catholic Church had something to do with it, but I personally doubt it.

  • Jen: You’re missing out! Seriously!

    When I first heard the GC was being made, I thought to myself “how the HELL are they going to make books 2 and 3?” So, this comes as little surprise. I do think perhaps Donahue is attributing FAR more credit to himself than he deserves. The fact of the matter is that while the first book could slip by as relatively “harmless” fantasy, the seriously consciously gets more subversive in ways that (unfortunately) are not palatable to American filmgoers as a group.

  • Autumnal Harvest

    . . .I thought to myself “how the HELL are they going to make books 2 and 3?”

    Yeah, me too. I also wondered somewhat how they were going to make book 1. It’s not just the anti-religious messages, which become too blatant in books 2 and 3 to be worked around. It’s also that kids movies are supposed to be upbeat and fun; maybe a little scary along the way, but with a happy ending, not with a horrific, tragic, ending, as happens in books 1 and 2. They dealt with it in book 1 by toning down the anti-religious message, and entirely removing the ending, but I’m not sure how they would keep doing that in books 2 and 3.

    Some skepticism about the actor’s statement would probably be warranted. The actor has pretty obvious motivations to blame the Catholic church, rather than the poor reviews and poor box office performance of the movie.

  • weas

    Great, catholic censoring. So much for “freedom”.

    I rather enjoyed the movie. More-so than Narnia. Truthfully, so much flew right over my head in the books that the movie was a welcome, less indepth enjoyment.

    I was hoping for sequals too. I really wanted to see how they would continue, and the graphics were pretty.

    Alas, Catholic church is pretty into removing freedom. No-one was forcing them to watch it, and I certainly did not register a sudden influx of atheists after it was released…


  • keddaw

    The catholic boycott of condoms are really hurting that business too.

  • Chris

    I’d be very worried to be part of a religion that would rather I didn’t watch something, even if it is under the guise of something as positive sounding as a “boycott”. Talk about mind control.

  • Sean Wills

    I seriously doubt it’s religious pressure that’s stopping the other movies from getting made. Sure, they pulled in $380 million, but that’s still less than the studio was hoping for (they were trying to turn it into ‘the next big thing’, which certainly didn’t happen).

    Also the movie was pretty terrible.

  • Takma’rierah

    Jen: The movie was a pale copy of the original. When you read the books, the dæmons really are very cool and sort of make you wish you had one; in the movie they did a bad job of getting across that they were the same person and how important they were, having them almost just like talking animals that follow them around. In the book, however, you really feel that there’s a connection, to the point where it is honestly a bit horrifying and sad when you encounter people who’s dæmons have been messed with. Really everything in the movie was flat compared to the vibrancy of the books.

  • Chris

    Slight problem – how old would Dakota fanning be when the third one would come out? I think the time that it took for Golden Compass to gross $380 million may have doomed it. It was a spectacular failure domestically.

    Also, it does matter that the movie kind of sucks.

  • @Chris

    Dakota Fanning did not appear in The Golden Compass. It was Dakota Blue Richards. Dakota Fanning just appeared in New Moon and next year is going to be in “The Runnaways”.

  • laterose

    The sad thing about adapting those books (which I started reading when I was eleven; before the whole trilogy was even written, and it was recommended to me by a christian teacher of mine), is that they really need to be made by an independent film maker to get the story right. But it will need a large budge to get the effects and look right. So it’s basically impossible.

  • laterose

    By budge I mean budget.

  • Chris

    Ha wow, oops, my bad. Guess it’s been a while since I’ve seen it.

  • Max F. Exter

    The books are the best fantasy written in the last two decades, period. The movie, not so much. I won’t say that it was terrible. Heck, the casting was rather brilliant and the one thing that I expected them to screw up, the daemons, worked. Unfortunately, the pacing was wrong, many of the effects unpolished, the ending removed, the themes toned down, and the soundtrack… dear god (heh.) it wasn’t quite Jericho in its awfulness, but it was pretty close. Particularly the end theme of someone singing “Lyyyyyyyyyra!!!”

    The good news is, filming costs are coming down. These books will be filmed some time in the next 20 years, independently. They’re too good not to be.

    – me –

  • Bowl of Snakes

    I take full credit for the box office problems of Will Ferrell’s Land of the Lost, thanks to my nation-wide boycott campaign because of the mis-characterization of Sleestaks.

  • Neon Genesis

    What irritates me the most about this is that they were planning on making the second and third films stay closer to the books and were planning on releasing a director’s cut version of The Golden Compass which restored the original ending from the book. Apparently, they did film the ending to the book but decided to move it to the beginning of the second film because they wanted to have a more optimistic ending and weren’t sure if a second film was going to be made. I still hope they’ll at least release a director’s cut version on DVD with the original ending and the cut scenes restored.

  • Ashley

    When the first movie came out, the catholic church (which my family is part of but not me) sent out fliers saying it was trying to brainwash people into atheism. Obviously they’ve never read the books, to know that they’re hardly pushing anything on anyone.

  • Heidi

    You know, I suddenly want to go re-read the books.

    I didn’t hate the movie. Obviously it wasn’t as good as the books, but I still kind of liked it. That said, I could have done without Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, two of my least favorite actors ever.

    And no way did the church have anything to do with the next two not getting made. If the studio thought it could make a lot of money, they’d milk the controversy for publicity.

  • I’m looking forward to reading the books. I saw the first movie and found it to be nearly incomprehensible.

  • As a big fan of the books, I was a little disappointed in the movie, especially about where they ended it. However, I can easily see how someone who hasn’t read the books would be either completely lost, completely confused, or completely annoyed. As Jen said… “Bears?”

    Though the 2nd and 3rd books would be some tough movie-making, I know I’d go see them… but my $11 isn’t going to cut it for the executive producer. 😉

  • The Pint

    I absolutely loved the books and was excited when I heard they were making the Golden Compass into a film with a great cast, but after seeing the film… meh, I think old Bill’s taking far too much credit for his boycott’s effect on the franchise. The film failed well on it’s own merits. It just felt like the producers were trying to rush another fantasy novel-adaptation franchise and just assumed that the fans would see the movie regardless of how well it was done. The visuals were great (that ice-bear battle was nicely done) and the actors well-chosen (can’t lose with Sam Elliot or Daniel Craig), but that script adaptation was poorly done and needed no help from Bill’s little boycott to fail. And that ending was just atrocious. I had read somewhere that they had filmed the original ending but that it had tested poorly and was cut to be used at the beginning of the Subtle Knife, if it was going to be filmed as well. It would have been nice if they’d actually had the stones to keep the original ending in.

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