This might seem like needless nitpicking when there are so many other problems going on, but this type of overexplanation is endemic to the whole film, which begins with a lengthy expository voiceover from Eva Green's witch character Serafina Pekkala explaining parallel worlds and daemons and Dust -- all concepts that the book, in its delicate construction, allows us to more or less figure out on our own. Pullman's book, and the series it handily sets up, deals with extremely complex themes and set dressing, from a monarchy of armored polar bears to a theocratic organization that basically rules the world, wishing to suppress any notion of parallel worlds in which its iron fist may not exist at all. To fit all of that into one movie -- which was actually cut from two hours-plus to a more kid-friendly two hours -- was an exercise in futility anyway, and this compression of the story removed any teeth it had.
That's the thing about this whole book series: We won't know if the creators of the film -- or of the show, for that matter -- truly get that they're adapting a story about a broken family arguing about which one gets to kill God in order to bring freewill to the multiverse unless they get to the much weirder second and third installments. The Golden Compass was such a failure because it erased many of the metaphysical aspects that make the book series so rich, so that it could appeal to as wide an audience as possible. A story about a young girl who falls headfirst into a quest to stop religious zealots from robbing children of their literal souls became a fantastical yarn of a young girl who rides in a bunch of boats and befriends giant bears and sees the whole thing as a grand adventure, more in line with 2005's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe adaptation than the more adult-oriented The Fellowship of the Ring movie.
It's so frustrating because it's undeniable that the movie looks wonderful: The cast, made up of blockbuster talents like Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, is enviable; even Pullman himself conceded that he should have made Mrs. Coulter (who, as he wrote her, has black hair) blonde in his books. Not to mention all the computer-animated bears and airships and daemons and ice-scape visual effects that won the movie its only Academy Award (and the expense of which effectively killed New Line Cinema). But The Golden Compass is an adventure movie that isn't supposed to be just an adventure movie, a coming-of-age story for young adults that hints at explorations of religion and free will that only grown-ups would fully understand. Philip Pullman's books treat the children who read them with a very mature, adult sensibility that trusts them to figure some things out on their own; the movie, in its self-conscious desire to cram in everything it can while satisfying no one, can't stop holding our hand.