I'll admit it's hard to judge the first third of a story. If they had made the 2 sequels I'd have watched them. Since that will never happen, I want that 114 minutes back.
Roger Ebert loves it, gives it 4/4 stars and closes with this:
I think "The Golden Compass" is a wonderfully good-looking movie, with exciting passages and a captivating heroine in Lyra. That the controversy surrounding it obscures its function as a splendid entertainment. That for adults, it will not be boring or too simplistic.Everybody else on the planet seems to disagree with him. Wired.com says,
Fans of the books will likely find New Line’s film version of The Golden Compass to be a disappointingly paper-thin rendition that barely scratches the surface — then, for good measure, chops off the ending.Moria notes that "with The Golden Compass only recouping a third of what it cost to make at the box-office, the result ended up putting New Line Cinema into bankruptcy". Slant Magazine gives it 1 1/2 out of 4 stars and uses the phrase "depths of dullness". Salon.com calls it "utter, soulless crap".
But those who haven’t read the books will likely be even worse off, as I’m not sure they’ll have any idea what’s going on to begin with.
Rolling Stone concludes, "The studio is threatening two sequels. Please make them stop." Empire's verdict: "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." EW gives it a C and calls it a "kiddie ride that hovers somewhere between the loopy and the lugubrious".
Stomp Tokyo blames the director. TimeOut calls it "Bland, bloodless and bereft of magic". Rotten Tomatoes gives it 42%.
I'm including this in the Once Upon a Time Challenge Quest on Screen as a fantasy film.