Imagine a villain who's like a female Darth Vader, only more evil, and she'll invoke the worst nightmares for children since the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. This is how Guardian critic Peter Bradshaw has described Nicole Kidman as Mrs. Coulter in his review of The Golden Compass (aka His Dark Materials: Northern Lights, as it's titled in the UK), which he's given a rating of four stars. As if that's not appealing enough, he also claims the character is Kidman's "juiciest" role since To Die For. According to Bradshaw, it seems Kidman is the main reason to see the movie. His only other highlight is the look of the movie's universe, which he calls "wonderful" and "Gilliamesque." He also points out how it's obvious the movie is aiming for association with Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia. Well, that isn't very surprising.
For a "four star" movie, The Golden Compass, according to Bradshaw, sounds like a mess plot-wise. Aside from looking nice, the movie's universe is apparently "crowded" and "alienating" and the audience is expected to get used to it as best it can, despite a lot of missing background material included in the book. Also, it's apparently more "absurd" than the source novel. Of course, confusing plots and universes aren't always a bad thing to audiences -- just look at the Pirates of the Caribbean series. What could be bad for the movie's box office is its violence; Bradshaw claims a significant polar bear battle could be too much for younger viewers. I have a good feeling that other critics will be less favorable considering the faults that this review seems to address, but of course even with terrible reviews, The Golden Compass could be a hit -- again, just look at the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.