The film is based on a book originally published in the UK in 1995 — two years before Harry Potter — under the name Northern Lights. This work of young adult fiction is about an orphan whose titular golden compass (or "alethiometer"), like Wonder Woman's magic lasso, reveals the truth. What won't the nations of this fantastical world — or, true to the trilogy's roots in a passage of "Paradise Lost", worlds — do to possess, or destroy, such a powerful artifact?
Though any children's fiction is likely to be overshadowed these days by the behemoth of a boy wizard, Philip Pullman's book is not without its recognition: it earned a Carnegie Medal for children's fiction in 1995, and a popular poll of all 70 previous Carnegie Medal winners awarded Northern Lights top honors.
The success of other fantasy films this millennium has paved the way for more adaptations of this genre; I can only hope this movie serves to bring more people to the original work in a way I previously have not been. My popular knowledge of fantasy and fiction, accrued from a lifetime (albeit a short one) working in bookstores, visiting libraries, teaching high school English, and late nights deep in pages of such adventures, has not crossed my path with that of The Golden Compass. If I'm bold enough to be any indication, it's likely most people will acquaint themselves with this series via its cinematic form, not the undoubtedly superior source material.
I rarely read novels twice, be it the Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, or Harry Potter. So perhaps I'm not hardcore for the genre (though I'd beg to differ) and thus my ignorance can be dismissed. Nonetheless, I'd appreciate insight and advice from anyone more familiar with Mr. Pullman's works. Is the movie worth seeing? Should I read the book first? How excited are you for this adaptation — and the inevitable sequels, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass?