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
0 out of 5
Positive messages
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

2 stars

An the award for the most boring children's fantasy movie in history goes to...The Golden Compass. And boy, did it earn it. How in the world can a movie featuring talking, FIGHTING polar bears, be this dull? The only bit of mild interest came in the beginning, as I was learning about the world and its mythology. After that, it was just a parade of one uninspired and completely predictable scene after another. I'm not asking for some revelatory cinematic experience, but The Golden Compass felt like a movie a that I had already seen fifty times before, and never particularly liked in the first place. None of the CGI or special effects were particularly eye-catching, and at times I thought that the armoured bears looked almost bad. I wouldn't be surprised if most of the effects budget was spent on the swirling golden Dust that seemed to pop up every few minutes. The majority of the actors seemed completely miscast or incapable. Daniel Craig was ok for the five minutes he was in the film, but to say that Nicole Kidman (who I usually have a strong inclination to like) was on autopilot would be an understatement. The kid they have playing Lyra was decent in some scenes, and completely lost in others. Eva Green was wasted on a throwaway character (though I assume she would have been focused on more in subsequent movies). The rest were a total disaster of odd, clichƒ, or ridiculous. This was the perfect example of how NOT to do a book adaptation. Either The Golden Compass was utterly unsuited to film, or the book was placed in the hands of people who had little idea of what to do with it. I'm leaning towards the latter.

- lewiskendell, Tuesday, May 18, 2010

2 stars

There's something that's so bad about this movie that it's almost funny. Whether it's the obvious attempts at presenting atheism to a young audience or large battles between CG polar bears, you're never left thinking that it has any significance in film or storytelling. I would say the only thing that kept me watching it was Nicole Kidman, who managed to really give a good performance.

- ythelastman89, Thursday, February 4, 2010

3 stars

I watched this long time ago. I remember enjoying it.

- 3niR, Friday, January 29, 2010