Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: no, the movie was not as good as the book, and we can’t really draw comparisons there. But I will say that it was more spot on than other movies have been (admittedly, not hard to do) and there were some moments that worked incredibly well. And the moments the film didn’t do justice to were laughably incompetent—so laughably that I was almost okay with it (at least at two in the morning).
I want to preface all of this by saying that if you have not read the book, you are just not going to know what is going on in this movie. The script had a lot of fan service, lifting certain especially memorable scenes from the books word for word. There was also blatant introduction of characters never before seen in the movies, as well as careless references to fairly obscure details of the Harry Potter universe (i.e., bowtruckles) and the use of some spells that I had only ever seen before in the HP video games (flipendo?). I also thought the plotlines regarding how the ministry was corrupt might have been hard to follow at times if you didn’t already know what was going on, but since I have read the books so many times I cannot be sure.
I’m going to spend most of this review going over the positive points of the film: we all know there are a million nit-picky things that could be found wrong with it, so it’s hardly any use to list them all. One of the best parts of the film for me was finally getting to see Fred and George Weasley shine a little bit more. The script writers seemed to have finally realized that it was a stupid idea to only have them speak in unison, and as a result the twins presented in Deathly Hallows were much less annoying than they have been in previous films and much more like the duo that I loved from the books. It was also a nice surprise to FINALLY get to see Bill Weasley, although Domhnall Gleeson was perhaps a little bit of a horrible actor.
Another strong point was that violence and gore were not shied away from simply because half of the target audience is under the age of ten. The scene where Muggle Studies professor Charity Burbage is tortured by Voldemort and sobs for mercy before being murdered (and being fed to his snake) was easily as terrifying as any moment in any of the previous Potter films. The gaping hole in George’s head after his ear gets cursed off and Ron’s splinching are other moments when parents were probably regretting bringing their small children to the film. I noticed an interesting tactic used was to intersperse these moments of tension and violence with bits of comic relief not originally in the book. They were amusing to watch, and I haven’t yet decided if it bothers me that they detracted from the gravity of the situations in which they were used.
But from this side of 3 a.m., I am perhaps most grateful for the fact that Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s extended camping trip was cut way down. I can barely stay awake during that part of the book, let alone watching it on a twenty foot screen. I felt that some of the clarity as to why Ron left and then returned was lost, but I didn’t really miss it. All and all, there is much to be commended about the first half of the adaptation of the final installment of the Harry Potter saga.
When it comes to parts that sucked, I really only want to talk about one great/horrible moment, and that comes when Ron is about to destroy the locket horcrux. At first it seems that everything is pretty canon; Harry speaks parseltongue to open it, the voice of Voldemort says it wants to eat Ron’s soul, and terribly beautiful phantoms of Harry and Hermione appear to remind Ron why he is a loser. BUT THEN these apparitions begin a naked CG make-out session, and THAT is what finally drives Ron to destroy the damn thing? It was shocking, it was amusing, and was scarring. I don’t know about most of you guys, but I like to keep sex and Harry Potter separate. Anyway.
In the end, if you are a fan of Harry Potter (and haven’t taken the noble stance to never watch one of the films) then you are going to see this movie regardless of what this review says, if only because it is so satisfying to pick out the ever so many ways in which the producers/screenwriters/director inevitably got it all horribly wrong. That being said, I think most fans will be pretty pleased with the way this one turned out, and looking forward to the next installment in July. If you are not a fan of Harry Potter…why the hell are you reading this?