The Golden Compass is a fantasy film based on Northern Lights (published as The Golden Compass in the U.S.), the first novel in Philip Pullman's trilogy His Dark Materials, and was released on December 5, 2007 by New Line Cinema. It stars Daniel Craig, Nicole Kidman, Eva Green and Dakota Blue Richards. The project was announced in February 2002, following the success of recent adaptations of other fantasy epics, but troubles over the script and the selection of a director caused significant delays. At US$180 million, it was one of New Line's most expensive projects ever, and its middling success in the US contributed to New Line's February 2008 restructuring [Wikipedia]
The story concerns Lyra, an orphan living in a fantastical parallel universe in which a dogmatic theocracy called the Magisterium threatens to dominate the world. When Lyra's friend is kidnapped, she travels to the far North in an attempt to rescue him and rejoin her uncle.
Before its release, the film received criticism from secular organizations and fans of His Dark Materials for the dilution of the religious elements from the novels, as well as from some religious organizations for the source material's anti-Christian and atheistic themes. The film met with mixed reviews, however it did gain both an Academy Award and a BAFTA for visual effects; and, despite not meeting expectations at the U.S. box office, was commercially successful taking in over $372 million worldwide to date.
In a parallel universe a person's soul resides outside the body in an animal-like form called a "dæmon", Europe is controlled by an authoritarian organization called the Magisterium. In Oxford, orphaned Lyra Belacqua, a ward of Jordan College, tells tales of the "Gobblers", whom she and her friends believe are responsible for several local children's disappearance. Visiting the college is Lyra's uncle, Lord Asriel, who, against official Magisterium doctrine, is presenting evidence that particles called "Dust" exist. After Lyra saves Asriel from an assassination attempt by a Magisterial representative, the college funds his expedition to the far north to investigate the Dust substance. He believes it originates in a parallel universe and enters a person's body via their dæmon. Fearing the effects of Dust, the Magisterium has been experimenting on children to discover a way to inoculate others against it.
After Asriel departs, the college is visited by Mrs. Coulter, who offers to take Lyra north as her assistant. Before leaving, the college Master entrusts
Lyra with an alethiometer (the film's titular Golden Compass). This device is able to reveal the answer to any question asked by a trained user. It is the last one in existence since the Magisterium banned them. Though unable to operate it, Lyra accepts the gift, promising never to reveal she has it, and takes it with her to Mrs. Coulter's home. When Mrs. Coulter arouses Lyra's suspicions by delaying their journey, Lyra discovers that Mrs. Coulter is head of the General Oblation Board, the "Gobblers" who have been kidnapping local children. She also discovers that her best friend Roger and her Gyptian friend Billy Costa have been taken by the Gobblers to the north.
Mrs. Coulter learns of Lyra's possession of the alethiometer, but Lyra escapes. The "Gobblers" pursue her, but she is saved by the Gyptians: a nomadic boat people. They are travelling north by sea to rescue the kidnapped children, including many Gyptians ones. Lyra travels with them and begins to understand the alethiometer's use with help from a Gyptian wise man, Farder Coram, and a witch queen, Serafina Pekkala, who appears during the journey and tells Lyra that the children are being held in a research facility, known as Bolvangar, now shunned by all living things. At a Norwegian port, Lyra befriends aeronaut Lee Scoresby, who advises her to hire Iorek Byrnison, an exiled prince of armoured polar bears. Iorek is employed as a metalworker after he was tricked out of his armour by the local townspeople. Lyra uses the alethiometer to discover the armour's location, which Iorek recovers. He pledges his service to Lyra's cause, and the Gyptians hire Scoresby to aid their trek north.
The alethiometer guides Lyra to Billy Costa, who has escaped from a Magisterium research station. She finds him dazed and lacking his dæmon, and returns him to the Gyptians. The group is attacked by Samoyeds who capture Lyra. She is taken to the armoured bear king, whom Lyra tricks into fighting Iorek for the throne. Iorek kills him and reclaims his kingship. He carries Lyra to Bolvangar, but the two are separated by a collapsing ice bridge. Lyra pretends to be lost and is welcomed into the station by Magisterium scientists. She locates Roger and instructs him to have the other kidnapped children prepare for escape. Lyra discovers that the Magisterium scientists, under the guidance of Mrs. Coulter, are performing experiments to sever the bond between a child and their dæmon. She also learns that Asriel is engaged in his research farther north and that assassins have been sent to kill him. After being discovered eavesdropping by the scientists, Lyra is taken to a room where they begin performing the separation procedure. Before it is completed, Mrs. Coulter enters the room and rescues Lyra, taking Lyra to her quarters.
Mrs. Coulter explains that the separation procedure is necessary because Dust begins to flow into a child via the dæmon when puberty begins, and says that it causes "bad thoughts" as children near maturity. She tells Lyra that she halted the procedure on her because the device is not yet perfected and sometimes causes death. She comforts Lyra and feels that it's time she knew the truth - she is her mother and Lord Asriel is her father. When Mrs. Coulter asks for the alethiometer, Lyra incapacitates her and escapes.
Lyra destroys the separation machinery, leading to a series of explosions which begin to tear down the facility. Lyra leads the other children outside, where Magisterial guards block their escape. A battle ensues when Iorek, the Gyptians, and a band of witches led by Serafina Pekkala arrive. The guards are defeated and the children are rescued. Rather than returning south with the Gyptians and the rescued children, Lyra and Roger instead travel north with Lee Scoresby, Iorek Byrnison and Serafina to find Lord Asriel. Serafina posits that the Magisterium does not just want to control their world, but "every world in every universe"; however, Lyra is certain that, once she delivers the alethiometer to her father, the two of them will be able to make things right. [Wikipedia]