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With its rushed, jargon-pumped exposition, surplus of quarter-baked characters, stray narrative strands and generously dropped hints of things possibly to come, The Golden Compass is a movie that wears its franchise ambitions on its sleeve.
The Golden Compass isn't bad, it's cast is too good and it's too well made, but something fundamental to good storytelling - heart - has been lost, leaving a final product as icy and impossible to care for as Mrs. Coulter herself.
The Golden Compass is a blatant attempt to duplicate the success of the Harry Potter franchise. The only thing missing is richly imagined characters, a comprehensible story line, good acting, and satisfying special effects.