‘Tis a while since I read His Dark Materials trilogy, but having just seen the first film in the series, I wonder if I read the same book that Chris Weitz (American Pie) read at all. On a superficial level it’s all there – the alethiometer, the daemons, the armoured bears – but either I thought it was about something else altogether or its had its heart ripped out (like Ragnar Sturlusson in the book and not, significantly, in the film). Essentially it’s been converted into an action film, with anything vaguely puzzling or troubling explained before it happens. The explicitly religious nature of the magesterium is gone altogether and the violence is cartoon violence, with deamons popping. Bizarrely here’s not a drop of blood in the sanitised bear fight, and the only evocation of the brutality of the book was a momentary expression on Eva Green’s face as she sunk her dagger into a magesterium soldier. I had thought that a film that the Catholic League boycotted couldn’t be bad, but the truth is it just isn’t a good film. The pacing is poor – it feels padded whilst seeming rushed – and it hurtles towards an ending that has apparently been cut altogether – it just stops. There’s a wealth of star talent (Kidman, Craig, McKellen, Jacobi, Lee and many others) who have earned the spurs in other films. Dakota Blue Richards is a convincing presence, but the direction is leaden and in an effort to spend the special effects budget, the producers haven’t noticed the intercession – a little cut – that has separated the film from its intellectual engagement and enjoyability.