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The Golden Compass Review Critics


Dave White Profile

… in a crazy fire-engine hurry … Read full review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 3.0

    out of 100

    Mixed or average reviews
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 100

    out of 100

    Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert

    A darker, deeper fantasy epic than the "Rings" trilogy, "The Chronicles of Narnia" or the "Potter" films. It springs from the same British world of quasi-philosophical magic, but creates more complex villains and poses more intriguing questions. As a visual experience, it is superb. As an escapist fantasy, it is challenging.

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  • 50

    out of 100

    USA Today Claudia Puig

    Disappoints with its lack of character development and convoluted storytelling.

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  • 50

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly Owen Gleiberman

    The Golden Compass is a snowbound mystical-whizbang kiddie ride that hovers somewhere between the loopy and the lugubrious.

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  • 50

    out of 100

    Wall Street Journal Joe Morgenstern

    Looks magical, seethes with elusive profundities and makes remarkably little sense, though the murkiness makes perfect sense on a shallower level.

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  • 70

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter Kirk Honeycutt

    A "soft" epic, a film touching on childhood fantasies with sturdy, unwavering characters driven to evil or good. More "Harry Potter," in other words, than "Beowulf."

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  • 75

    out of 100

    Chicago Tribune

    It’s pure introductory adventure, meant to immerse readers in Pullman’s richly complicated fantasy universe.

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For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Pause for kids 12 & under

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.

  • 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?

The good stuff
  • message true0

    Messages: Deception abounds on all sides: Lyra is instructed to lie to Mrs. Coulter and spy on members of the Magesterium. But even as she uses ruses, the film celebrates her spirited nature and resistance to authority. Heroic figures are loyal and valiant; villains are dastardly, scheming, and dressed to alert you as to their evil intentions. Lyra's intentions are always good, even if the consequences of her actions aren't.

What to watch for
  • violence false2

    Violence: Weapons used in battle scenes include guns, arrows, swords, clubs, chains, hooks, and explosions. Lyra witnesses an attempt to poison her uncle; in a brief scene, children are frightened and grabbed by shadowy thugs. When Lyra escapes Mrs. Coulter, she's chased by several security men; confrontation between rebels and security guards (who have snarling Dobermans) is tense, but the guards back off. Warriors accompanied by snarling wolves shoot at and capture Lord Asriel, leaving him with bloodied face. Two mechanical bugs hunt and attack Lyra and Pan. In a fit of anger, Mrs. Coulter hits her monkey daemon, causing it pain. A violent severing of child and daemon in a laboratory causes visible pain and screams from both subjects. A very intense fight between two polar bears includes some graphic and disturbing violence (one bear whacks off the other's lower jaw, then drops him dead).

  • sex false0

    Sex: Nothing explicit, but the fear of children growing up and becoming rebellious during the transition from preteen to teen insinuates a concern with puberty and sexual awareness.

  • language false0

    Language: Minor language includes a few uses of "hell."

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not applicable

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false2

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Polar bear Iorek Byrnison appears drunk and drinking.