The Golden Compass was the first book I ever read for myself as a child. It challenged the way I thought about the world and the psychology of people in general. It inspired me to dream about things I never had before, a made me love fantasy in a way simplistic children's book still don't (Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Eragon...etc. they all sucked). Those books never made you think, they never erased the line between black and white, good and evil. In His Dark Materials, no character is completely good, nor completely evil. This series surpasses all of those in a way that nobody seems to really appreciate or understand. If I ever had children, these are the books that I will give them.
However, the movie... :/
The movie itself was kind of rushed and the writing for it was just horrible. But that aside the actors did such a wonderful job with what they were given. The score ruined parts of the movie and made it more melodramatic and campy. But the part where the bear storyline was amazing. The scene where the bears fight to see who's king was very well done and surprisingly reflective of the ominous nature of the book with the old bear king's jaw was ripped off. I was kind of sad to see the book's serious nature and violence tossed aside. The violence in the book was really tasteful, yet trilling and realistic at the same time. Death in the movie is completey ignored and toned down for the american censors.
But despite all of that:
I loved it, despite the flaws in its conversion from page to screen. Don't go into it with high expectations and try to take it as it is and you'll enjoy it and be inspired. I know I was. Above all if you haven't, read the book. Pullman's universe becomes to dear to you, 9 years after I first read it, no book has topped His Dark Materials.