When I first heard that a film was being made of The Golden Compass, the first novel in Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy -- and that it was being adapted as a family film -- I thought to myself, "Hmmm ... I wonder how they're going to pull THAT off." Then I heard the planned release date -- just in time for Christmas, 2007 -- and then I sat back and waited for the inevitable storm of controversy that would start swirling as soon as Christian groups got wind of the film and its storyline.

The other day, Fox had this story about Christian groups claiming The Golden Compass is a "stealth atheism campaign" aimed at children, which starts out, "A children's fantasy film that stars Nicole Kidman and features a little girl on a quest to kill God has some Christian groups upset over what they believe is a ploy to promote atheism to kids." The story goes on to note that New Line has taken most of the "godless" elements out of the film and that the studio has made a film that focuses on the "entertaining fantasy" elements of the story.

The opener of the Fox article is annoyingly misleading right off the bat; The Golden Compass is not a story about a little girl on a quest to kill God, it's about a little girl, Lyra (played by newcomer Dakota Blue Richards in the film), on a quest to find her friend, who's been kidnapped by Mrs. Coulter (played by Kidman in the film). Lyra is never on a quest to kill God, she's on a quest to find out why children are disappearing, and in the process she becomes involved with a plot concerning her uncle, Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig) and Mrs. Coulter, and a mysterious substance called "dust" that may or may not have something to do with sin.

The plot involves (in the books at least) one side (the Church) trying to rid the world of sin by committing atrocious acts against children, while the other side, headed up by Lord Asriel, which is trying to stop them, are not clearly the "good guys" either. Unless someone has substantially changed the plot for the film to something that is certainly not in the book (and I doubt that, given that New Line would like this film to be marketable), saying this story is about a little girl trying to kill God is both misleading and irresponsible.