Mixed or average reviews - based on 33 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 10 out of 33
  2. Negative: 3 out of 33
  1. 100
    A darker, deeper fantasy epic than the "Rings" trilogy, "The Chronicles of Narnia" or the "Potter" films. It springs from the same British world of quasi-philosophical magic, but creates more complex villains and poses more intriguing questions. As a visual experience, it is superb. As an escapist fantasy, it is challenging.
  2. Represents the year's biggest gamble - and it delivers the year's biggest and most ambitious fantasy.
  3. Reviewed by: Tasha Robinson
    It’s pure introductory adventure, meant to immerse readers in Pullman’s richly complicated fantasy universe.
  4. If Weitz's Golden Compass feels, at times, too crammed with exposition and big set pieces, the film nonetheless works far more successfully than the first Potter pic - the leaden "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" - did translating its source material.
  5. A demanding blend of spectacle, drama and exposition of ideas.
  6. 75
    Weitz doesn't manage Pullman's feat of being rational and magical simultaneously. But he rapidly and intelligently opens up Pullman's world.
  7. A "soft" epic, a film touching on childhood fantasies with sturdy, unwavering characters driven to evil or good. More "Harry Potter," in other words, than "Beowulf."
  8. There are significant stretches of talky tedium, more than a few “huh” moments for neophytes – especially whenever anyone starts nattering on about Dust with a capital D – and the ending plays abruptly, but there’s plenty here to hang a franchise on.
  9. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    At times you feel Weitz flipping the pages and dog-earing wildly, and that's a shame: This is a movie that needs to be lengthy and discursive, the better to duck into the back alleys of its invention. A visionary is required. This director isn't one.
  10. 63
    One key missing element: the world in which this story takes place never feels unique. We aren't drawn into it the way we were with Middle Earth or Hogwarts. In fact, with all the airships flying around, there are times when it feels like an extension of Stardust.
  11. Ultimately satisfying and successful version of the opening volume of the celebrated "His Dark Materials" trilogy.
  12. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    There's something missing, beyond the iconoclastic theology, in this perfectly OK, blandly underwhelming superproduction. The movie lacks an elevating passion, a cohesive vision, a soul. It's as if The Golden Compass has misplaced its artistic compass. Somebody stole its daemon.
  13. 58
    The Golden Compass does manage the job of bringing Pullman's world to the screen. With luck, any future entries will try harder to get the job done right.
  14. 50
    The Golden Compass comes close, and its originality cannot be denied, but it never quite crosses over into your heart. It stops at your eyes.
  15. 50
    For all the complicated backstory, weighty themes, action set pieces and fanciful production design, the film is oddly unengaging.
  16. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Disappoints with its lack of character development and convoluted storytelling.
  17. Reviewed by: Deborah Day
    Ultimately fails as a film in its broad strokes and inadequate scene development.
  18. The Golden Compass is a snowbound mystical-whizbang kiddie ride that hovers somewhere between the loopy and the lugubrious.
  19. The film is dominated by computer-generated effects and they're most of its problem -- they don't give us anything to emotionally attach to or invest in.
  20. Has many of the virtues of a faithful screen adaptation and many of the predictable flaws.
  21. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Impressively rendered but oddly uninviting adventure.
  22. Looks magical, seethes with elusive profundities and makes remarkably little sense, though the murkiness makes perfect sense on a shallower level.
  23. 50
    An innocuous, passably entertaining effects extravaganza.
  24. The Golden Compass is a blatant attempt to duplicate the success of the "Harry Potter" franchise. The only thing missing is richly imagined characters, a comprehensible story line, good acting, and satisfying special effects.
  25. 40
    Not only did those so-called "demons" take the form of animals, but they actually talked!
  26. Reviewed by: Olly Richards
    A crushing disappointment for fans and a scuppered opportunity for a cinematic event. That the first book has been so mishandled doesn’t bode well for the (already greenlit) more complicated ones to come.
  27. 40
    Whatever complex or interesting ideas might have been found in the source material have been watered down, skimmed over, mashed into nonsense or simply ignored.
  28. Reviewed by: Michelle Orange
    In drawing and quartering much of the novel's intent, Weitz ends up with a film that feels not just unfinished but undone.
  29. Reviewed by: Dana Stevens
    A tepid, jumbled Hollywood fable whose final message seems to amount to little more than "Follow your dreams," or worse, "Stay tuned for the sequel."
  30. The movie simply delivers too many colorfuls for its own good, none of whom establish a true emotional identity, and thus it isn't moving, it's busy. Busy, busy, busy.
  31. 38
    Me, I just think it blows. What does it matter if you spend millions on a movie - love the talking, battling bears! - if the effects are cheesy, the story runs off on tangents and after watching the movie fail utterly to be the next Lord of the Rings, you just want to go home.
  32. 38
    Five minutes before The Golden Compass started, I was wondering when it was going to start. Forty minutes into it, I was wondering exactly the same thing.
  33. The final sad joke is this: Weitz took a wonderful story about the danger of severing a soul from its otherwise empty body and did that very thing to his source.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 315 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 42 out of 165
  1. Jul 14, 2014
    a very disappointing adaptation. the last time i felt dejected halfway into the movie was with tim burton's PLANET OF THE APES, before which this film feels like a total abomination. despite Dakota Blue Richards' Lyra and Nicole Kidman's Mrs. Coulter, and the visual effects, this film really is nothing. probably the fact that i read the book first and loved it made all the difference and in fact, i suggest you all do the same. avoid this film if you can and read the book. the book has a proper narrative with exemplary character development and plotline, all of which this film lacks. the only thing keeping this film together is the visual effects and nothing more. Full Review »
  2. Jan 31, 2014
    This movie was breathtaking and beautiful. It was supposed to be a trilogy but unfortunately due to the economic crisis in 2008, the sequel was eventually cancelled. Moreover, the church went against the movie for an invalid reason. Overall, it was a good movie no matter what you haters claim... just go look at its Box Office rate. Us, the fans, are gloating over the haters because this movie was such a success financially. Full Review »
  3. Oct 1, 2013
    As children's escapist fantasy goes, the film is not terrible, but does have an unfinished air about it. Also suffers from occupying similar ground as the Narnia, Potter and Rings films (over saturated), extra marks for bagging Kate Bush to sing on the credits. Full Review »