What a rush! I really loved Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. To me it was as imaginative a creation as Tolkein's universe, and I say that about very few things. The news that they were making movies of the series was welcome, while knowing that in the wrong hands it would be a disaster.
Fortunately, the right hands were found. The movie matches the book for imagination. The director is Chris Weitz, who is also credited with the screenplay. All the production values are superb. The casting is wonderful (I'm already beginning to run out of superlatives). Nicole Kidman was born to play Mrs. Coulter (the friend I saw the movie with said Pullman was prescient in creating a nasty blond named Coulter), Daniel Craig great as Lord Asriel (though he'll have more to do in the later movies), and Dakota Blue Richards is a great discovery as Lyra. Round out the cast with Derek Jacobi, Christopher Lee, Jim Carter (whom I don't remember before but was marvelous as Lord Faa), Sam Elliot, Ian McKellan as the voice of the bear, Iorek Byrnison, and many more, and you have a terrific viewing experience. Much has been made of the dress Nicole Kidman is wearing when first seen, but all the costuming is of this quality. The special effects are a eye-catching and feel an integral part of the story, not the whole reason for the movie. Making a fighting armored bear look realistic was a major challenge all on its own, and all the animals were well-handled.
What can I say? I liked the movie. ;-).