The story takes place on a parallel universe where everyone possesses a dæmon, a shape-shifting animalistic manifestation of their soul. Our tale begins when young Lyra Belacqua (Dakota Blue Richards), an orphan residing at Jordan College, Oxford, secretly enters the Retiring Room, despite resistance from her dæmon, Pantalaimon (Freddie Highmore).
Hiding inside the room, she espies someone attempting to poison her uncle, Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig), and stop him revealing the existence of mysterious elementary particles called Dust. Lyra warns her uncle, preventing his murder, and he tells the scholars about his findings.
When her friend Roger is kidnapped by the mysterious Gobblers, Lyra vows to rescue him and gets her chance when Mrs. Coulter (Nicole Kidman), a powerful figure in the Magisterium, offers to take Lyra away from Jordan College to become her apprentice. Before she leaves, the Master of the college gives her an alethiometer, a mystical device resembling a golden compass and which he says can give the answer to any question posed it. But the Magisterium and Mrs. Coulter know of the existence of the alethiometer and have very definite plans for both it and Lyra.
I was a bit wary about going to see yet another children's novel made into a film as we seem to be being flooded by them lately. However, this isn't quite as silly as the first Harry Potter movie and it has a fairly decent story behind it. Besides, it was the Christmas break so it's kind of expected.
It's always difficult transferring books to film because of the time constraints but it comes with a pretty good cast including Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Sir Ian McKellan, Tom Courtenay, Ian McShane, Sam Elliott and Christopher Lee and, along with some very good CGI visual effects bringing the dæmons and the ice bears to life, it tells a very watchable tale. I wouldn't recommend it for very young children though as there is a fair level of violence
I haven't read the books but, going by this film, the story seems capable of holding an adult audience as well as any Harry Potter book did so they may be worth checking out as well. Hopefully the sequel will be as good. It's called The Subtle Knife and is due for release in 2009.
Genre: Adventure, Drama, Family, Fantasy, Thriller
My Rating: 7/10