Box art for The Golden Compass

The Golden Compass

children & family, drama, sci-fi & fantasy

In a wondrous parallel world where witches soar the skies and Ice Bears rule the frozen North, one special girl is destined to hold the fate of the universe in her hands.

Rotten Tomatoes® scores

  • Critic Score
  • Audience Score

common sense

PAUSE for kids age 12
0 out of 5
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
3 out of 5
0 out of 5
Positive messages
0 out of 5
0 out of 5
3 out of 5

Ambitious fantasy is too intense for young kids.

what parents need to know

Parents need to know that this action-packed fantasy based on the first book in Philip Pullman's best-selling trilogy will feel threatening to young children. Animals and kids are in constant peril, and young kids will be upset by the threatened separation between the animals (daemons) and their humans. There are also many tense, violent scenes (chases; fierce, growling animals; shooting), as well as a fairly graphic battle between two enormous polar bears (one knocks the other's jaw off). And there's a major clash between children and adult troops that includes guns, arrows, swords, clubs, chains, hooks, and explosions. The main character is a 12-year-old girl who goes up against evil forces to save her friends. Although some religious groups have urged a boycott of the film based on its allegedly anti-Christian content, there is no specific language or imagery related to Christianity.

what families can talk about

  • Families can talk about whether this is really a movie for kids. It's been promoted as a family film; do you think that's accurate? What elements of the film might make it too intense for younger audiences? What values does it emphasize? Families can also discuss the concept of the daemons. What does a daemon represent? Why is the idea of being severed from their daemon so upsetting to the movie's characters? Also, if you've read the book the movie is based on, how do you think the two compare? Which do you like better and why?

movie reviews from Rotten Tomatoes®

Top Critic Reviews

Rotten: A mishmash of half-baked ideas, loud special-effects and disjointed imagery.

- Adam Graham, Detroit News, Friday, December 7, 2007

Rotten: I realize that when you make a book into a movie you cannot include every single detail, but it seems like Weitz purposely tried to take all of the magic out of the story.

- Adam Tobias, Watertown Daily Times, Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fresh: This plot may sound somewhat ludicrous on paper, but Pullman has created a logical, well-thought-out world that Weitz has brilliantly translated to the big screen.

- Alonso Duralde, MSNBC, Thursday, June 24, 2010

Audience Reviews

1 star

Unless Christian critics were complaining about the quality of the film, I don't see why they were so upset. Of course, I see the rather innocuous parallel, which condemns organized mind control, but this could just as likely refer to governmental bodies as it does religious. Regardless, as a film, The Golden Compass fails to entertain. The major flaw is the script's incredibly expository dialogue. The characters fail to be motivated to speak by any intention except to explain obscure, unimportant details to the narcoleptic audience. The ending of the film is worse because very little is resolved. I won't give anything away, but suffice to say that this film only serves to set up a sequel, which I hope will never come.

- hunterjt13, Sunday, October 17, 2010

3 stars

Great fantasy movie. A bit like the Chronicles of Narnia - full of talking animals and special effects. Nicole Kidman is her usual frosty self. Daniel Craig didn't feature much in the movie. Children are kidnapped from their families and need to be rescued by the heroine - an orphan girl with special abilities to read the golden compass. Unfinished ending so definitely open for a sequel.

- thmtsang, Sunday, January 8, 2012

2 stars

To be honest I just didn't follow this, its like a cross between 'LOTR', 'Narnia' and 'Harry Potter' and frankly I'm getting so bored of it, there're just all the same. There's nothing new here as its all been done with 'Potter', magical animals, spirits, witches etc I just can't see how it can be rated. Sure the effects are nice and the animals look cool but that's it. The cast is pretty awful, or at least Kidman and Craig anyway, the rest is a top notch bunch of English actors but again that has been done with 'Potter' and 'LOTR', its seems to be the same classical English actors repeating themselves in a variety of silly fantasy films. I'm sure kids will like it, maybe, it is long and I think its boring so maybe not. Without knowledge of the book its all double dutch haha and I have never heard of it before the film. Best bit was the polar bear fight er...and that's it, I could almost see a legion of elfs and Hobbits coming over the hill hehe 'yawn'.

- phubbs1, Thursday, February 9, 2012