Harsh, maybe, but this film really doesn’t live up to the Pullman novel(s). First time around, we tried to watch this in the company of teens who hadn’t read the book, but they didn’t really grasp it & got bored very quickly.
Overall, this film seemed curiously quite hollow and emotionless at its core & I can’t help feeling that there was a real and unresolved conflict between Hollywood’s desire to latch onto another ‘epic adventure’ kids’ story and Pullman’s central atheistic message, which surely wasn’t ever going to play well in the US. With respect to its theme, it’s pretty much the anti-Narnia. The religious criticism element was certainly played down as much as possible (Nicole Kidman in particular seems to have tried to dissociate herself from it), to the detriment of the logic and the passion of the story.
True, the special effects are spectacular and the acting is mostly decent if a bit disengaged in places. Lara’s wandering accent in particular proved a bit of an irritation, but perhaps it’s a bit much to pick on her for this, after all, she’s a young girl taking on a weighty role in a fairly serious-minded film.
Can’t help wishing I’d just re-read the books instead, though.