Critics are mixed on The Golden Compass, praising the controversial film's special effects but complaining about a lack of engaging storytelling. "The film is dominated by computer-generated effects and they're most of its problem— they don't give us anything to emotionally attach to or invest in," wrote Paula Nechak in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
The movie is an "impressively rendered but oddly uninviting adventure," said Variety's Todd McCarthy. The fantasy adaptation, which has taken flak over the author's atheist convictions, stars Nicole Kidman in a tale of a girl swept into a muddled mystical conflict. Slate's Dana Stevens sums it up as "a tepid, jumbled Hollywood fable whose final message seems to amount to little more than 'Follow your dreams,' or worse, 'Stay tuned for the sequel.' "