Philip Pullman's acclaimed His Dark Materials trilogy of novels, following the adventures of young Lyra Belaqua, seemed ripe for movie adaptation, a possible successor to sagas such as the Chronicles Of Narnia and the Harry Potter adventures for tweens and teens looking for fantastical adventures. However, only the first book has been given the cinematic treatment, with the other two indefinitely delayed due to either complaints from the Catholic Church (one group describing it as 'atheism for kids' for its theme of the failings of organised religion) or, more likely, a disappointing performance at the box office.
When you watch the movie, it's not hard to see why the film didn't attract moviegoers in their millions. The plot, for starters, is both head-scratching and dull: in a parallel universe that looks a bit like Victorian England, young Lara (Richards) embarks on a journey to find her kidnapped friend that also involves her dashing uncle Asriel (Daniel Craig), the sinister Mrs Coulter (Nicole Kidman), a polar bear voiced by Ian McKellen, various Daemons (mystical animal pals that are each person's soul or conscience or something) and some magical stuff called Dust.
It all looks very impressive, from snowy wastes to the spires of Oxford, but no amount of CGI can dress up the fact that all the best bits of Pullman's book seem to have been abandoned in favour of a really irritating voice-over that just links one character to the next without giving any of them very much to do. Craig is barely given enough time to get his coat off before he is despatched in search of a better movie, while Kidman looks so pale you wish the adventure was taking them to a Caribbean beach rather than the North Pole. Only Sam Elliott (as pilot Lee Scorseby) looks like he's having fun, but maybe he's just laughing at the silliness of it all.
Is The Golden Compass suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
Younger viewers may find the bear fight scary.
There are a few intense scenes in which Lara has to escape danger that may bother sensitive children, especially one in which she is attacked.
If you like this, why not try: The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe, Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, Eragon, Willow, The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring,