Of course the book is better than the movie.
The book: I enjoyed reading Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass (book one of His Dark Materials). It's a compelling fantasy adventure. The action scenes in the novel held me rapt. The characters were so likeable - especially the fierce and magnetic Lyra. (How much do I like Lyra? I want to name one of my future daughters "Lyra"!) And I love love love the dear relationship between a human and his/her daemon. (I want a daemon of my own!!!)
The movie: It's always a treat to see a book come alive on the big screen. And we can always count on New Line Cinema to offer a visual feast. The casting was brilliant. Nicole Kidman as Mrs. Coulter, Daniel Craig as Lord Asriel, Dakota Blue Richards as Lyra, Eva Green as Serafina Pekkala, Sam Elliott as Lee Scoresby, Ian McKellen as the voice of Iorek Byrnison, and Kathy Bates as the voice of Hester = WOW. But the bottom line is, I am disappointed by the film adaptation of The Golden Compass. I guess it's just impossible to cram the richness and complexity of the story into a short movie. They tried to. But they failed miserably. The unfolding of the plot in the movie was so awkward and uninspiring. I don't think viewers who haven't read the novel will appreciate the genius of the story. Also, with daemons being so important in the universe of His Dark Materials, daemons and their wonderful relationships with their humans should have had more "screen time."
I'm watching the movie again though - for the exciting action scene at the end and for the great acting. And there is always hope: the second and third movies (for The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass) will probably be much better. :)