Beware - there be spoilers here.
I just saw the Golden Compass. I haven't read the book, but from where I'm standing, the "protect your poor innocent children from this evil movie" hype over the movie is sorely misguided and unnecessary.
* This is a good vs. evil movie, just like any other good vs. evil movie. And the evil people are not Catholic in this movie. Maybe they severely watered down the book, but there is no anti-religious message I could detect.
* The Magesterium bad guys seem a bit one dimensional to me. They're bad because they want to control everyone and have all the power, and that's pretty much it. They try to keep aspects of reality quiet, because it would spread dissent, and people would be harder to control, and they dress up their efforts as attempts to help people be happy. The evil chick that beats up her own daemon, cuz when you're evil, you got issues, and that's about as deep as it goes. Maybe I missed something, but I didn't figure out why they were performing the Nazi-like experiments of cutting children away from their daemons.
* When a person is killed, their daemon dissapears in a gentile shower of sparks. But if this is athiest propaganda, they need to get themselves a better PR person, because there isn't any accompanying message about a lack of an afterlife. The movie allows a rational conclusion to be drawn that souls move on, just like we religious folk believe they do here. Just like Harry Potter, there just isn't much spirituality or anti-spirituality to be found. The closest thing we seem to have to a genuine faith belongs to the witches - and the only thing we really know about their faith, is that their prophecy about the little girl seems to be coming true.
* There is pretty clear message on the topic of out of wedlock births. Any resultant pain or discomfort in the parent's or children's lives as a result of not having married parents, is the fault of the culture that frowns on such an arrangement.
* The movie definitely considers itself the first installment. The cool battle at the end is a clear portent for bigger things to come.
I wont' be taking my 6 yr old to see this movie, for the same reason I won't take her to see Harry Potter or LOTR. A bit too violent, with confusing plot twists that would go over her head.