So I liked the movie. I seem to be very much in the minority on that score, but I understand why: It's because I am one of the few people for whom I think the movie is actually meant.
What do I mean by that? I mean that this is a fandom movie. This is a creation that is designed for people who are already familiar with the world of the books, who know what canon is, and that the movie isn't it. For people who don't want the movie to be a substitute for the book. The book will always be better; the movie can only be flashier.
And what do I mean by all that? Well, that is how I respond to a few complaints:
"They watered down the controversy." Not really; they just didn't spell it out for you. If you know it's there, it's still there in a big way. In fact, I think it is very appropriate that no one says CHURCH BAD in this movie, because Lyra still hasn't figured out what exactly is good and bad yet. It's not until the second or even the third book that the protagonists can really put a name and a face to what they're fighting.
"Daniel Craig was barely in it." That's because that's his character; he's more of a driving force, an ideology, than a person. And if you're going to see it for the celebrities, you're going for the wrong reasons, and I don't expect you to be satisfied.
"Mrs Coulter didn't do anything evil." That's because that's her character. Like Asriel, she is a driving force. Part of what makes her so scary is that you never see her doing anything evil; you only see other people doing evil things, as per her bidding, and realize that the evil and the beauty are the same person.
In fact, the only objection that I agree with is that the dialogue was stilted in places. Yet even this I can respond to, in two ways, because different parts were awkward for different reasons.
1. That's what happens when you take book dialogue and say it out loud. The way people talk in books isn't the way they talk in real life. So basically the writers can either be true to canon, or make it sound natural, but not both. And returning to my whole idea that this is meant for people who are already familiar with the books (and the dialogue within them), I think they made the right call.
2. That's what happens when you have to explain things to people who don't already know them from reading the book. Those scenes felt awkward because the movie as a whole had a tone of assuming that the audience already knows what's going on, and so when that pattern is broken with exposition, it feels weird.
In summary: Never judge a book by its movie. The opposite, however, is a good rule of thumb.