All those fundamentalist Christians quaking in their boots that a blasphemous movie has just hit the box office before before the most important season commercializing Christ, can take a sigh of relief. The first book in the trilogy is only faintly tainted with anti-Christian and anti-Catholic sentiment, and that taint has been removed with a very deftly hand in the movie version of the book. So you need not fear that you are going to burn in hell for seeing this movie or letting your kids see it.
The movie itself is about the fastest paced movie that I have seen in a long, long time. It did flow through my mind as I watched it whether viewers who had not read the book could keep up with the pace, but the members of my adult family who had not read the book seemed to have enjoyed and understood the movie.
The movie is traditional fantasy without the religious side commentary. It depicts a quest with allies and opponents and lots of bloodless fighting. Magical creatures. A fight against good and evil, and a fight against tyranny and for freedom. With the producers having deftly removed the allusions made in the books that the Church is on the wrong side of these fights, its a good rollicking fantasy movie.
The producers did not stint on acting talent with this movie. The child actors of course are new and do a very good job -- better in many instances than the child acting in the Harry Potter movies. The adult actors seem to all be veterans.
The movie, under the circumstances, is very faithful to the book. Unlike the movie version of Eragorn, The Golden Compass pays attention to detail and gets it right nearly all of the time. There are a few variances and condensations. Am not sure how you could have packed any more of the story into the movie than they did, so I believe the director and producers are to be applauded rather than condemned for leaving out some non-essential parts of the story. I only noticed one major change, namely who slipped the poison into the decanter of Tokay left for Asriel -- but it is easy to see why the change was made as it would have taken too long to explain why the head of the Jordan College was trying to kill Asriel rather than the Magisterium. The party scene with Mrs. Coulter got chopped up as well, but with no real damage to the flow or story line.
The armored bear was awesome as were the zeppelins. But Lyra...well that child actor deserves an Oscar or something, she was simply wonderful.
For those who have not read the book or seen the movie. The Golden Compass is a fantasy movie in which a young girl has control of a special instrument which various forces covet and various people both good, evil, and questionable are attempting to steal. The girl is attempting to rescue her friends and make her way to her father to deliver what she thinks he needs. It describes an ultimate contest between nature and science, where all of nature is sentient with talking bears and animals and witches and spirits -- and science is all cages, antiseptic laboratories, energy and procedures. By the end you are cheering the bears, witches, talking animals, and stubborn insolent children -- and as all holiday movies should, it, unlike the book, ends on a high happy note.
The only question that remains is, how on earth are they going to sanitize the next two movies without breaking faith with the books. Guess its a matter of Faith.