I didn't dislike The Golden Compass anywhere near as much as Laini Taylor did. But she makes some very interesting points in What Writers Can Learn From The Golden Compass, her blog post on the subject.
Chief among them: "What are the Gobblers doing to the kids?" she says, was the central question in the book. The movie didn't have a particularly strong storyline related to the Gobblers and what they were doing. Thus, when you found out what they were doing, it didn't have a lot of impact.
I think she's right about that. The movie was sort of chaotic with lots of cool stuff. But the story didn't stay on task, as I like to say. The writer wasn't careful to choose something to focus on and stay with it.
The armored ice bears carried the movie for me. But they weren't enough to cover up the absence of a serious storyline for a lot of viewers.
Link from A Fuse #8 Production.