I also read a few reviews and they're rather varied. My take on it? Please read on...
|Ooh, Potter gets all intense, what with stubble now here to stay it seems.|
For once, in the whole franchise of the films, I felt like this one was most 'filmic' in its content. I was anxious after what I thought was an epic fail by Yates on Half Blood Prince (please see previous review here). So I didn't have huge expectations to be fair. I was pleasantly surprised. This time, it was a character story, it was full of gravitas, it gave Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint a chance to up their acting game. It slowed the pace down, it gave the story a chance to breathe and wasn't preoccupied with a whirlwind of spectacle and leaching substance as a result. While moments from the book were missing (should have had the bit when the Dursleys leave and Dudley shows his sweet side), the film, for once, stayed very true to it - and readers, don't forget, the middle chunk of the book where Harry and chums are camping lasts a long time. It drags and for good reason. It's the right storytelling device (for some it might not be in terms of plot but for story, it is). Why? Because the tale requires the atmosphere to be heavy, intense and itchingly frustrating; just like our heroes, we want results to happen. But the epic battle between good and evil isn't so simple. And Dumbledore isn't there with all the answers; our chums are left out in the cold; this was a great way to display their naivety, their perseverance and build up those endurance skills while testing their friendship and faith in each other. The story demands these events for character development, otherwise the epic end of Harry Potter wouldn't stand up as wonderfully as it does; it's supposed to be a struggle. This is the maturing process, people! I think if you aren't a fan of the books, this sub-matter is most likely going to go over you. No offense.
For those concerned with pacing, there's great movement in the first twenty minutes (awesome scene with the 7 Harry Potters) and the last twenty minutes. But brace yourself for some decent 'slow' cinema in between. If you canna stand it (which was clear by the idiot in front of me who kept checking his mobile every five minutes, hence flashing the light on the screen at me) then please, for the sake of those who spent hours and money making this film so you could enjoy, exit stage left.
Radcliffe came out strong; he looks better on screen anyhoo and methinks the glasses have something to do with it. Yates pulled a rather good trick out of his hat by having that sweet dancing scene in the tent because Watson and Radcliffe have always had good chemistry and it was strong suit to play. I actually had a lot of respect for Radcliffe when he starts to boogie; it's genuinely heartening. Rupert Grint has always done well, in my opinion and it shone through in the early scene where Ron convinces Harry to not pack and run so early. *NB* Also, the first time, in terms of script, less is more worked now that the cast has matured; the dialogue was a lot less 'telling'.
Other strong points were the gorgeous cinematography that allowed us beautiful scenes of Britain (mostly Wales) without having those infernal shadows in Hogwarts (of which I was getting tired off in the film versions - they kept getting more bleak and monotone - almost too heavy handed on the 'atmos'). Sound design - listen out for it, particularly the scene where Harry and co are running from the Snatchers. Helen Bonham Carter was superb as always and actually more menacing than Voldemort, who I always thought just looked too comical and camp to be fair. Why isn't his voice more 'evil'? Even his face doesn't afford for good play of shadow and light on his features. Bad character design for whoever did that. What was scary was that godawful snake. *shudder* The scene in the Malfoy residence was eerie because it was exactly how I imagined; I love it when that happens.
The film was very touching in parts; the opening sequence with Hermione and her parents (we get to see her bedroom!), Harry visiting his parents' graves, the end scene and the rather corny moment Ron has when talking about Hermione's voice leading him and the light in his heart. Was that in the book? Probably; never thought J.K. Rowling's strong suit was romance, anyhoo. Furthermore, the short sequence where Harry kisses Ginny was awkward - again. I fear they had several rather bad takes and just decided to edit it so that for the first five seconds of the smooch we just see the back of Harry's head and then it cuts to another strange angle where we see naff all either. Well Bonnie Wright isn't very strong anyhow, she just hasn't clicked as Ginny's Harry.
I read some reviews saying that the ending was really abrupt and random. Huh? It was fine. It's when the hour for our heroes appears darkest - there's been a death and the nemesis has now acquired the most powerful weapon. The stakes are at their highest; the ending makes perfect sense for a 'to be continued'. What more do you want? To see the next installment asap please! My faith in Yates has been somewhat restored.(ps mucho looking forward to more Snape!!!)