Young adult movie franchises have become the biggest thing in the film industry over the course of the last decade and a half. It all started with Harry Potter way back in 2001 and what followed was adaptions of Twilight, The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze Runner and many others. Collectively these films have raked in billions of dollars for the film industry, you may turn your nose up at them but its looks like they are here to stay for the near future at least.
The Golden Compass isn't the worst Young Adult movie adaptation neither is it the best, it is however the most disappointing. Phillip Pullman's series of books are breathtaking in imagination and scope and deal with weighty themes which the studios felt will not do well with an American audience. The Dark Materials are deeply critical of organised region and the studio felt this would not sell well at all to an American audience (Christian groups were very vocal in their criticism) and demanded the religious themes of the book to be toned down for the film. So what we got was a pretty but shallow adaptation of novel which debates complex themes for a young audience.
For me the best Young Adult franchise of modern times is The Hunger Games (Harry Potter follows a close second). The Hunger Games franchise discusses themes of government, rebellion, totalitarianism in a way that is easy digestible for teenage audiences. The franchise is head and shoulders above other series such as Twilight, Divergent and The Maze Runner.
For those United Kingdom dwelling citizens who are the same age as me it is likely that you'll know Louis Sachar's novel Holes rather well (you might have studied in the US as well...I wouldn't know). The film adaptation is an enjoyable one and it also features Shia Labeouf when he wasn't such an insufferable arsehole.