Philip Pullman was so inspired by the Chronicles of Narnia that he decided to make his own imitation of C.S. Lewis' fantasy series. Except, where Lewis wrote to inspire people toward healthy spirituality and reconciliation with God, Pullman writes to promote mysticism and discourage people from seeking God. Like C.S. Lewis, Pullman gears his magical tales for younger audiences. Except, where Lewis wrote to expand children's imaginations and encourage innocence, Pullman wrote to impress his intellectual cynicism on young people.
Pullman's writing ability as well as the cinematography of the Golden Compass are top notch. The movie was designed to make millions, obviously. But the substance of the story is cliché at worst, uninspired at best.
In the Golden Compass, all humans have little spirit friends called "daemons," personified by animals. This, in a nutshell, demonstrates the unoriginality of man-made spirituality. Pullman can come up with new daemons to whatever extent God invents new animals.
Pullman, an intellectual, couldn't help deifying intellectualism. The "free-thinking" academics of the story were the only people in town who would step up to the plate and take a swing for free-will and free-thought. This makes sense from Pullman's perspective, as someone who is a plumber by trade might join a plumber's union in order to uphold the rights of plumbers everywhere.
Pullman demonstrated this general rule: Godless people's ability to detect cliché is handicapped by their tainted, self-destructive passions.
I suspect that Pullman has been burned by religion. He uses the Golden Compass to portray an insidious religious establishment, which he calls the "Magisterium." According to Pullman, this establishment, made up of "the authorities," is the source of all evil.
The tragedy here is that Pullman's negative experience with the Catholic church might have driven him toward a healthy, genuine spirituality if he had only asked God for help directly. But, instead of reconciliation, he opted for bitterness and cynicism. This was the weaker thing to do. It is easier to embrace hopelessness and doubt rather than trust God.
By the looks of it, he not only doubts God, he also doubts his choice to doubt God. Why else would he go to such lengths to justify himself? He went as far as writing a series of books that culminate with the death of "god".
Pullman is distracted by man-made religion. Man-made religion is not of God. That's why it's called "man-made." After finding this out he could have sought out the Truth directly. Instead he decided to sit around and pout.
Pullman has been deceived by his own bitterness and regret. He is so thoroughly led astray that he equates sin with goodness. According to his story (this surfaces more in his later books), when people rebelled against god, a supernatural substance called "dust" was introduced into the world. This dust is the source of all good things, free will in particular. The Magisterium doesn't want anyone to know about this wonderful spiritual substance. So, according to Pullman, the church wants to eliminate sin, but this is bad because sin is actually the best thing that's ever happened to people. As soon as the people in the Golden Compass story rediscover this dust and embrace its life-giving power, they will be free from the stifling oppression of the Magisterium.
Again, the tragedy here is that Pullman started to discover the truth about man-made religion: It distracts people from genuine spirituality. His disillusion almost drove him to find Life; instead he found death disguised as Life.
Pullman, like any godless person, admires rebelliousness. This is shortsighted and foolish. A rebellious man does not know who he is. He only knows who he is not. God will tell people who they really are. Most people, however, choose to worship anything but God because they want to define themselves. This is imitation freedom.
The Golden Compass is discouraging because it is uninspired. Some works of men were meant to be. Some creations are brought to life by a pure, fiery passion to create. This is not easy, mind you. An inspired vision requires sweat and labor to manifest either on paper, on screen or on stage. But it takes hard-headed coercion to bring uninspired work to fruition. Any task undertaken apart from or deliberately against God must be forced into existence by manly stubbornness. Such work is exhausting to the person working as well as discouraging to anyone who might behold this work.