Michelle Orange, Village Voice:
In drawing and quartering much of the novel’s intent, Weitz ends up with a film that feels not just unfinished but undone.
Nick Schager, Slant Magazine
Weitz crams his story full of magical terms and concepts with a rapidity that leaves things confusing and thus meaningless.
Stephanie Zacharek, Salon:
I can think of no more dispiriting experience this holiday season than seeing the crestfallen faces of several of my colleagues as they trundled out of a screening of Chris Weitz’s adaptation of The Golden Compass. Those faces said it all: Their faith had been shattered; there was nothing left to believe in; God must surely be dead. How could a book they’d loved so much be turned into such utter, soulless crap?¬†¬†
The great bummer is that the movie version of The Golden Compass is unlikely to inspire anyone to read anything. Most of what’s magical about Pullman’s novel has been mechanized, obviously at great expense: It must cost a heap of dough to make animal figures look like they’re talking, and there’s barely an instant in The Golden Compass when you can’t hear the money gears turning. This is the kind of movie that was made by throwing dollars at stuff, as opposed to using imagination, thought or even just common sense. Whatever complex or interesting ideas might have been found in the source material have been watered down, skimmed over, mashed into nonsense or simply ignored.
The action sequences are the only outstanding aspect of this less-than-golden adaptation, which is ultimately undermined by its strictly tinny storytelling.
James Berardinelli, ReelViews
Constrained by a rushed feel and too little character development, this movie never seems to flow quite right.
Cole Smithey, ColeSmithey.com
Weitz’s spotty filmic adaptation never locates a throughline to the convoluted narrative.
Todd McCarthy, Variety
The prevailing tone is cold, which has nothing to do with the frigid settings of the second half, and the pic doesn’t invite the viewer to enthusiastically enter into this new dramatic realm.
Joshua Tyler, CinemaBlend.com
Whether or not you’ve read the books you’ll enjoy The Golden Compass on some level, but it feels rushed.