After hearing through the grapevine that The Golden Compass was a poor filmic rendering of Philip Pullman's wonderful fantasy trilogy, I'd assumed that we wouldn't bother watching it. But the boy has this habit of wanting to watch movie versions of certain novels even if they're supposed to be bad. So I wasn't terribly surprised when he brought home The Golden Compass on DVD. But I was surprised that I liked it as much as I did.
The books were criticised by many sensitive Christian folk for it's anti-Church theme. Fair enough, because it's true. But I don't see the point of taking away that emphasis in the film. Everyone who's read the books is likely to be disappointed that the film version is goes "lite". Anyone who hasn't read the books will probably still enjoy it, but probably most of the latter avoided the books because they'd heard it was anti-Christian - in which case, they wouldn't bother to see the movie either.
Apart from the removal of all references to the word "Church", the movie pretty much follows the first book (which in NZ is called "Northern Lights"), except for the end. The book ending would have been a real downer if they'd put it in the movie. But I do hope that the event in the book ending i.e. what happens to Lyra's friend Roger, is included in the next film. Because that bit is reveals so much about Lord Asriel's true nature.
The armoured bears are well realised, as are the land- and cityscapes of Lyra's world. The girl who plays Lyra, I found a believable and likeably rascally heroine. I triumphantly recognised the witch queen as played by Eva Green from Casino Royale, but the boy found it weird to hear Gandalf's voice coming out of the armoured bear's mouth. The role of Mrs Coulter though, seems tailor-made for the likes of ice-queen Nicole Kidman.