Mixed or average reviews - based on 33 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 10 out of 33
  2. Negative: 3 out of 33
Watch On
  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. A demanding blend of spectacle, drama and exposition of ideas.
  5. 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.
  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. 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.
  10. 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.
  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. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Impressively rendered but oddly uninviting adventure.
  15. The Golden Compass is a snowbound mystical-whizbang kiddie ride that hovers somewhere between the loopy and the lugubrious.
  16. 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.
  17. Has many of the virtues of a faithful screen adaptation and many of the predictable flaws.
  18. Reviewed by: Deborah Day
    Ultimately fails as a film in its broad strokes and inadequate scene development.
  19. 50
    For all the complicated backstory, weighty themes, action set pieces and fanciful production design, the film is oddly unengaging.
  20. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Disappoints with its lack of character development and convoluted storytelling.
  21. Looks magical, seethes with elusive profundities and makes remarkably little sense, though the murkiness makes perfect sense on a shallower level.
  22. 50
    An innocuous, passably entertaining effects extravaganza.
  23. 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.
  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. 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.
  26. 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.
  27. 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."
  28. 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.
  29. 40
    Not only did those so-called "demons" take the form of animals, but they actually talked!
  30. 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.
  31. 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.
  32. 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.
  33. 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.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 328 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 42 out of 167
  1. WarrenE.
    Jan 4, 2008
    I think the reason for low US gross is number one it stars a GIRL (Most male reviewers panned it and female reviewers loved it) and it I think the reason for low US gross is number one it stars a GIRL (Most male reviewers panned it and female reviewers loved it) and it requires you to think which is something of a lost art here (we keep electing crooks who are stealing us blind). I do not think the Christian Nazis are the problem as they do not go to Hollywood movies anyway. The only reason I went to see it was that the Pope said that I should not. Until then I thought that it was just another mind numbing fantasy for children like Lord (Bored) of the Ring. I fell asleep during the first LOFR movie and have not watched any of the sequels. GC was two hours long but only seemed like an hour. I have gone back and seem it twice more. Once to catch the details I missed the first time and again to analyze the story. I hope the sequels will not have to be dumbed down even more for the US audience just to get a higher box office. Full Review »
  2. CocoaF.
    Jan 5, 2008
    I loved the Golden Compass, it was action filled in every scene, I loved the Golden Compass.
  3. MaxW.
    Jan 3, 2008
    A visually beautiful film, that unfortunately tried to do too much in too short a space of time. Obviously elements of the book had to be A visually beautiful film, that unfortunately tried to do too much in too short a space of time. Obviously elements of the book had to be left out, otherwise the film would be too long, but the director failed to capture the suspense in the book. This left the brilliant actors very little to work with and develop their characters, despite many strong performances on their part. The ending was typical Hollywood, in that the sad ending in the book is completely missing. An enjoyable film, but could've have been great. Full Review »