I haven't read the books, but I did come across them at Powell's several years ago and bought them for Fran. The description sounded right up her alley. As she digested the pages, she'd try to describe the characters and story details to me. I knew the story must be good--that's when I talk about a book to anyone who will listen. So I assume it's the same for others.
As soon as we heard the DVD went on sale, we checked Netflix and added the movie to our queue.
I don't think I've been as entertained and "held" in a fantasy film since Dune. While I loved Dune, I had moments when I began comparing it to the book. I noticed Fran experienced that during Golden Compass, but since I didn't read the books I stayed tuned to the screen.
Nicole Kidman played her part well and the young actress, Dakota Blue Richards, was amazing. The cinematography was beautiful, but my favorite part was Iorek Byrnison, the armored bear who was loyal to Lyra.