Before I say ANYTHING about the Golden Compass, I want to make it clear, in fairness, that I slept through about half of it. But that's actually part of my review: It literally put me to sleep.
A lot of my criticism about this atrocious film can be attributed to my disdain for fantasy films on general. For a long time, Fantasy was an avoided film genre, for the simple reason that it was nearly impossible to achieve the level of special effects you needed to make a fantasy film look good.
Oh, how I long for those days.... the days when they made up for the lack of style with substance. "Willow" and "The Dark Crystal" come to mind.
Now to be sure, there are some smart fantasy films coming out today, too... LOTR, the first Narnia film... DO NOT lump this fresh steaming turd in with THOSE films! Place it in the "Eragon" and "Beowulf" category instead.
I literally don't even know where to start, or where to go with this. That's ok too, because neither did the film. It was all over the board from start to finish. Characters appeared and disappeared, leaving you feeling empty, but leaving the impression they were somehow supposed to be important. At one point I woke up and saw the Coca-Cola Polar Bears wrestling. At another I emerged from my slumber to see what I can only assume to be the climatic battle scene (Don't all fantasy films end in a climatic battle scene?) being waged between a bunch of kids and what looked to me like the evil flying Monkeys from the Wizard of Oz. Or maybe they were Sun Tzu's army. I couldn't tell and didn't care. Everytime the tide seemed to turn against the kids, they'd look off in another direction and see someone or something sweeping in to save the day. After the third pack of reinforcements arrived just in the nick of time, credulity was strained, even for a fantasy.
Another complaint I had was the destestable little girl protagonist. I assume the filmmakers thought they were creating an adorably precocious character with her open defiance and brattiness. They weren't; they created a kid you hated. You really don't feel any desire for her to win deep down in your gut; you kind of want to see her get her come-uppance instead.
The problem with the main character, and indeed the movie, can be summed up in one particular exchange. The antagonist (Nicole Kidman) asks the little girl to give her the compass, and the little girl's answer is an angry, selfish "I don't want to!"
That's the motivation behind the girl, and the driving theme behind this atrocious movie. Nothing is done because of a pursuit of some higher good, or noble purpose; it's all about chasing after what you selfishly want to do. In this flaw, the anti-religious themes of the movie, and the book it's based upon, were barely masked, if they were at all.
Maybe Catholicism or Christianity wasn't mentioned by name, but everything you have ever learned as a Catholic or Christian was openly attacked. "The Magistrate" substitutes for your religion here, and thus your religion exists to control you; it seeks to hide the truth from you; it wants to stop you from doing what YOU want to do. Anyone who thought they could somehow slip this by the Christian parents who take their kids to see these movies really did think they were selling their product to a bunch of idiots.
Well, look at the box office returns, and tell me who the real idiots were. Rule number 1 of movie-making should be "Don't insult your target audience."
I give The Golden Compass a 1 on a scale of 1 to 10. It would rank a 0, but once again, I'm a man, and Nicole Kidman looked hot in that dress.