Golden Compass, The

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Not recommended under 8, PG to 13 (Violence, Scary scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Golden Compass, The
  • a review of Golden Compass, The completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 26 December 2007.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not recommended due to violence and scary scenes
Children aged 8-13 Parental guidance recommended due to violence and scary scenes
Children over the age of 13 OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Golden Compass, The
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild fantasy violence, Some scenes may frighten young children
Length: 113 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Based on the book by Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass is the first of a trilogy. The story takes place in a parallel world where people’s spirits live outside their bodies in the form of small, talking animals, which can change shape. Lyra Belacqua (Dakota Blue Richards), is a twelve year old, adventurous orphan who resides at Jordan College where her ‘uncle’, Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig) is her benefactor. Lyra overhears the college master discussing with the Magisterium, an all powerful religious order that controls their world, Lord Asriel’s proposed expedition to research ‘dust’. This mysterious particle permeates their world from other worlds and the Magisterium will go to any lengths to prevent Asriel from going. 

Lyra is also troubled by rumours that children are being stolen by Gobblers. When Lyra is befriended by the beautiful but mysterious Mrs Coulter (Nicole Kidman), she is at first thrilled to accompany her on a trip to the North. However Lyra becomes increasingly suspicious that Mrs Coulter has something to do with the Gobblers.

Lord Asriel gives Lyra a gift of a golden compass, the only one left of its kind, in which she can see the truth. Lyra sets out on a quest with her golden compass to find and rescue her best friend Roger (Ben Walker), who’s been taken by the Gobblers. The quest leads her on an extraordinary journey where she meets Iorek (Ian McKellan), an ice bear, Serafina the witch (Eva Green). A tribe of Gyptians have been entrusted with her welfare and together they have to fight the forces of evil.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Warfare, supernatural powers.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Mrs Coulter’s monkey appears suddenly and starts to choke Billy’s daemon, which makes Billy choke too – this scene is particularly scary.
  • The monkey attacks Pan – Lyra’s personal daemon which also hurts Lyra and makes her scream.
  • Pan and the monkey fight over the golden compass; Pan flees through the window shutting the monkey’s paw in it, which also hurts Mrs Coulter.
  • Two large men capture Lyra in a net.
  • Gyptians shoot arrows at Lyra’s captors, setting her free.
  • Asriel is attacked and shot by a tribe of Samoyed people and their ferocious dogs.
  • A fight ensues and some men fall down a very deep crevice.
  • Golden beetles attack Pan and Lyra who hits back at one with a club.
  • Mrs Coulter hits the monkey hard.
  • A battle ensues between Samoyed men and Gyptians which involves shooting and spearing – no blood or gore.
  • Iorek comes into the battle and starts attacking men.
  • A huge battle involves Lyra and other children, guards, wolves, witches, bears, Gyptians and Samoyeds. There is shooting and spearing and when a death occurs the personal daemon vaporises in a mist.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Lyra is an orphan
  • The personal daemons change shape
  • There are a lot of graphic images that are quite scary for children in this age group such as: Iorek the bear, who is large and fierce and growls ferociously; the Samoyed tribes have fierce, snarling dogs; The bears in the Ice Palace are all large and ferocious, particularly the Bear King who looks very evil; Mrs Coulter’s monkey is very vicious; and several battle scenes.
  • The Gyptians are scary looking people, dark and fierce looking.
  • talk about a poison gown that burns you alive
  • talk of gobblers who steal children and gobble them up
  • Personal daemons, which are cute little animals, are often attacked.
  • Mrs Coulter’s personal daemon is a monkey that is quite vicious
  • Lyra escapes and runs through back streets, which are dingy and scary looking.
  • Iorek, the ice bear, runs through the town crashing into people and anything in his way. He comes crashing out of a building and growls fiercely at people.
  • Lyra enters a dark, creepy building to find Billy there, who’s bruised and bleeding.
  • Lyra is captured by Samoyed men and taken to the palace of the Ice Bears where she confronts the Bear King.
  • Iorek has to fight the Bear King to the death
  • Lyra has to cross a narrow ice bridge which collapses beneath her but she manages to get across

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by the above mentioned scenes.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Lyra prevents Lord Asriel from drinking a poisoned chalice.
  • Lyra is found hiding under a table at the experimental station. The guards squeeze Pan which makes Lyra pass out. She’s then put in a chamber to perform an intercission – separation of her and Pan – in which electric currents are passed through her body. She appears dead.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film.

Product placement

None of concern.

Sexual references

None of concern.

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Drinking of wine at dinner and at home.
  • Iorek the bear gets paid in whisky.

Coarse language

None of concern.

In a nutshell

The Golden Compass is an exciting fantasy film with spectacular graphics, which is likely to appeal to older children. It is too intense however, for younger children. The main message from this movie is that good triumphs over evil.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include self sacrifice, loyalty, courage and friendship. This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss the need to find alternative ways to face conflict rather than resorting to physical violence.