I went to see The Golden Compass last week - the film of the book with the same name (although sometimes called Northern Lights). I mentioned the trailer before, and though tit looked great, but wasn't sure what to expect of the movie itself.
I read the book some time ago so remember the story in broad sweeps but don't remember the specifics - thankfully the film was laid out in a similar fashion. A quick discussion with my friends afterwards (who have re-read the books recently) tells me that basically they took the story and abbreviated things considerably. From my own memory I am sure the time in Bolvangar took place over several days (weeks? months?) where in the film it's squashed into about ten minutes.
Of course edits and abbreviations are necessary for pretty much all book to film translations. Thankfully The Golden Compass is more Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter than, well, any of the Bourne movies for example.
The Golden Compass cast great - I love all these recent movies that have been casting English actors as English people, rather than casting Americans with dodgy accents (I'll gloss over Nicole Kidman for now ). I think a lot of this stems from the fact that many of the best Fantasy stories are English (or European) in origin - if not by author then in the basis of the setting. Medieval English history is a perfect background for much of the epic fantasy that goes around so it stands to reason that English actors would be the best for these roles... and fantasy seems to be having quite a resurgence in recent years... so bring it on!
One of big surprises of The Golden Compass book comes right at the end of the story (the last three chapters) but these are left off in the film, possibly being moved to a sequel... if one should ever be made. From what I remember these 3 chapters have a lot more weight in their original stories than they will in the film since the role of Roger is smaller than I remember.
The scenery and special effects are all wonderful to simply stare at, and the story is remarkably faithful. Naturally it all moves at a pretty swift pace as there's a lot to pack in.
I thought that Dakota Blue Richards was very good as Lyra Belacqua giving her just the right tomboy-ish attitude whilst still making her likeable.
My favourite part of the movie has to be the daemons. They've been integrated really well and Pantalaimon, with his shape changing abilities, makes me wish I could have one (If I had a choice I'd have Pan in snow-white ermine form). The polar bears are also worth a quick mention. Iorek Byrnison is voiced by Ian McKellen - one of my favourite actors, and the polar bear fight is pretty ferocious - one of the highlights of the film.
Personally I would like to see the trilogy completed, but then I don't like to see things like this left open. I want to see the entire thing realised.