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

3 stars

Stylish, slick, and unfortunately troubled by another studio forcing a writer and director to try and cut a movie down so its more income friendly. In the end you get some quality acting and some sweet visuals. Heres to the sequel getting a shot.

- jmanard52, Thursday, June 5, 2008

2 stars

This movie took the book, removed all parts that might be in any way objectionable and served up the sum of its parts in a morsel that is palatable to the mainstream. I know that this is a movie review and not a book review, but having read this trilogy it is difficult to ignore the total disregard for the philosophy, intelligence, and courage inherent in the actual series. Watching this movie pained me. Sacrificed on the altar of CGI our story is chopped up and delivered at such a frantic pace that I do not know how anyone who did not read the books could even understand it. We have taken the brave swagger of Lyra and turned it into Pippi Longsticking. They jump from scene to scene with no regard to how they come together much less the chronology from the books. All important messages to be conveyed are either removed or diluted to a point where they are pretty much unrecognizable. We have in this movie a simplified children's story that hardly an adult could understand due to its total mistreatment in the scattered telling. Instead of the profound we walk away from this movie with the thought "That kinda looked cool" running through our heads. I am so sick of Hollywood catering to the religious wrong. How about some original thought? I am saddened and hope that this will be redone someday to do it justice because the actual series, "His Dark Materials" by Pullman is fantastic. and begs, no, demands to be told properly.

- Camus123, Sunday, December 28, 2008

3 stars

Among the better of the recent glut of popular modern fantasy franchises to get movie treatment. Thanks to some well-done source material, it has a good deal of interesting, and unique, plot elements to play around with. That said, it could have been more tightly controlled, because much of it still feels like there are too many interesting ideas being casually referenced, a common result of distilling a book into a screenplay. To people unfamilar with the books, as I am, it is far too obvious that I am looking at cinematic Cliffs Notes, as opposed to a stand-alone movie. This is painfully apparent with the cliffhanger ending... although, that implies some tension at the end. Rather, it's just as if the movie took a commercial break, and decided to roll credits. Despite it all... the Polar-Bear vs. Polar Bear fight scene. Out of all the over-the-top "Oh, Snap" moments to view with your slightly morbid family relations this holiday season, make this the one. ----- Review Ends Here. Read on only for a biased defense of the movie against hard-line religous criticism Ok, apparently a pretty vocal group have been giving themselves fits over this one due to the "god killing" ideas supposedly oozing out of this movie from every orafice. Point 1: The movie admits to the concept of a soul. Alot more spitiuality and morality than say, '300', which it seems alot of the people who despise this movie want to have babies with. Point 2: The God-Killing theme NEVER APPEARS in this film. Point 3: Even if it did, from what I got out of the film, having NEVER read the books, is that the eventual theme is more about predestination versus free will. So, in the end, if your kid is old enough to watch a Polar bear totally wailing on some dudes, they are old enough not to get brainwashed. Honestly, the cute furry chipmunk-spirt-companion-thing isn't going to tell your kid to go arson down the nearest church. If we are going to demolish movies for being original, and maybe siding with different choices, then why watch movies in the first place? Are we so jaded that we cannot enjoy a Polar Bear ripping off another Polar Bears jaw, because some dude who came up with it thinks differently than us? No. Polar-Bear on Polar-Bear action is awesome nomatter the moral overtones. So stop the whining and bawling, you fear-mongers. If your kid hasn't gone Wiccan from Harry Potter, they sure as hell wont become Animist god-killing Scientists from this one.

- dhetteix, Wednesday, January 21, 2009