WARNING: I will attempt to be grown up in this review but some squealing may occur.
I worship Michael Goldenberg. I want to have David Yates's babies. Where have you two men been for the past four movies? This is possibly the most best Potter adaptation ever, even compared to PS/SS, which remains the benchmark as far as book fidelity goes.
Firstly, I have to take my hat off to the designers: the look and feel of this film was superb and perfectly fit the book. The title has faded from gold to silver and now looks like rainwashed steel or chrome, all pretence stripped away. The set up for the Dementors was truly creepy: when I saw the ice creep over the underpass lights, I caught my breath. The 12, Grimmauld Place set was just fabulous: damp, rank, dilapidated and brown with bitter memories. Special mentions for the room of the family tree with its burn marks and its creepy portrait of Bellatrix. I liked Sirius's shabby-chic brown velvet and even the dressing gown looked right in the context of having just detransformed. Speaking of which, very pleased to see they used a real dog for Padfoot this time, heck I was pleased to hear the name 'Padfoot'. The fact it looked like a wolfhound-lurcher cross was a bonus. Lucius Malfoy was sartorially sharp and cold as glass. I love Jason Isaacs, he really makes Malfoy "the most evil man in the world" as Mark Kermode once said. The Room of Requirement was amazing: all the mirrors and chandeliers really gave you a sense of light and space, a safe place, which made it all the worse when Umbridge blew the wall apart. Speaking of the Toad, her office was delightfully awful, with the abundance of pink, the coloured kitten plates (BLERGH) and she also had a cameo brooch and ring with them as well. She even managed to add a touch of pink to her Wizengamot uniform, which was a great touch. But the best set has to be the Ministry of Magic in all its facets: the amazing tiled hall (wish we'd seen more of the fountain), the eerie Prophecy room, with that blue glow from the spheres. I may be one of the few people who actually liked the Veil Room. Neville, Luna and Harry's fascination was really well-played but where was Ginny?
So much for the setting and now onto the characters: I definitely appreciated Moody's line of, "Don't break formation if one of us dies." Yeah, that's really going to assure Harry, Moody. XD Kingsley's brief lines were great at portraying his dignity, although I really pictured him as a black Briton, not from Africa, but I respect the decision and it did make him stand out. Tonks's mismatched clothes and 'mood' hair were also memorable, though I do wish there had been some mention of her ability to change as something special, because it goes unremarked and non-readers will think that any witch or wizard can do it. And no Tonks/Lupin interaction makes me sad. But they definitely got across her quirkiness, clumsiness and friendliness, which is what matters. My dad suspected that Helena Bonham Carter raided her own wardrobe for bellatrix. Unkind but she definitely looked the part and completely put my mind at rest with her performance. I was a big Helen McCrory supporter and mourned when she had to bow out, but HBC really blew me away. Again, quoting my dad, "She didn't do a lot but she made an impact." I agree that it's sad Rodolphus got cut, but he doesn't actually do much in the book and he was included on the family tree.
I adored Neville in this film (having him find the Room of Requirement was great) even though his parents looked NOTHING like I pictured them but then they never have been described properly, even in their present state. The only real problem is that the script never actually stated what had happened to them: the film skirted around the issue. Even Neville only said that they'd been tortured. I think that the point should have been made they were permanent invalids - though it did lead to that wonderful exchange of "How's Mum and Dad?" "Better - now they're about to be avenged!" Matthew Lewis, you're so perfect.
I am more a fan of Bonnie Wright than ever. She was wonderful in this film, with all her little facial expressions, her movements and gestures (plus, I love her voice). And Evanna, beautiful Evanna. I'm only sorry that we didn't have you before. My only gripe about Luna is that they didn't even try to bring up the contrast between her and Hermione. (WHAT was Hermione doing introducing her? Again, where was Ginny? How would Hermione even know Luna? *sigh* But Emma Watson did act that bit very well.) And Daniel Radcliffe was good, but then I knew he would be after seeing Equus.
I have to tip my hat to Imelda Staunton, of course, but then I always knew she was going to be fantastic. I found it very difficult to watch her. When the scene in her office began, I actually bit down on my knuckles because I knew what was coming. That scene sickened me the first time I read it and I still have a great deal of trouble getting through the parts of OotP with Umbridge. It was a terrible, claustrophobic scene and was adapted very well. I'm more convinced than ever that Scrimgeour didn't know about that quill, especially because it allows me to imagine the bollocking he gave Umbridge for ruining a great PR opportunity for the Ministry. Just think of the pain she'd feel on being accused of sabotaging him: wonderful, isn't it?
However, it's a shame that most of the other teachers barely got a scene each. The lack of McGonagall putdown is another thing that makes me sad and Hagrid had two scenes, then disappeared. I know they prepared for that in the scrip, which is more than previous directors would have done, but it was still abrupt. And for a book with so much Snape, they certainly did a good job of airbrushing him out of the movie, though Alan Rickman is always memorable. I thought the Occlumency plotline was actually done well, since it moved the film along and it also made me feel, for the first time ever, that film Snape is a really nasty guy. He never gave Harry one break and his memory, far from making feel sorry for young Snape, actually just made me feel he was a hypocrite for saying that Harry whined about how unfair his life was. In fact, my exact thoughts were Pot. Kettle. Black. Take a good look in the mirror. However, the lack of Lily makes me sad again and once again, the movie left Harry's feelings about his father unresolved. This is a bad pattern that started in PoA and has only been reinforced with each subsequent movie. We didn't get the explanation that Harry's Patronus was linked to James; we didn't get the talk in the cave from GoF; we got a little more info in this movie from Sirius, then Harry finds out his dad bullied Snape, then what? Nothing! No talk with Remus and Sirius, no coming to terms with this revelation. We're actually at a point where we know more about Lily in the movies than we do James, which should be almost impossible, yet it's true. And because this is a movie which handles its many plot threads with considerable dexterity and not a little grace, when one is left hanging, it is really noticeable, especially when it concerns the protagonist's father. However, no adaptation is perfect and as I said before, this is better than most. It takes a book where the drama is mainly internal and keeps the plot moving while including most of the important plot points and adding a little something for the readers (the goat! the short conversation between Molly and Sirius! all the verbatim lines from the book).
And now I have to do some squealing: CANON RON, CANON RON, OMG CANON RON! I would like to take this opportunity to worship at the altar of Michael Goldenberg and say THANK YOU for bringing back our Ron: holding Harry back from hitting Malfoy, sticking up for him against Seamus and (briefly) Zacharias Smith, being a solid support for Harry even when he was being cranky and pubescent and never saying quite the right thing. Ron's increased presence meant that Hermione wasn't overpowering and they were really convincing as a team. "You have to go to Dumbledore." "She's torturing you!" Hermione and Ron as parent figures, just like the books.
I have to admit, when Sirius said to Harry that after it was all over, they could be a family, I choked up. The relationship was a great part of the film and a guy sitting near us actually said "Oh no" when Sirius fell through the Veil. But this wasn't resolved properly, either! That tiny snippet of conversation between Dumbledore and Harry just wasn't enough, though I did love the flashes of harry's parents, Sirius and his friends while he was fighting Voldemort.
And now I come to one of this movie's great strengths: it acknowledges that it is a sequel and refers to those that have gone before, much like the book. Not just in the photo of Cedric, but in the flashbacks to various points in the Trio's friendship and the Mirror of Erised: PS, CoS, PoA and GoF were referenced without shame and that made the movie all the stronger in my eyes, because it showed how far Harry, Ron and Hermione have come, how much they have endured together. In those moments when Harry fought for his life, I felt the wamrth and strength their friendship gave him and I willed him to win. This movie has left me convinced once more that OotP, contrary to popular opinion, is one of Jo's strongest books for its themes, character development and emotional drama. It left me breathless and moved. I only wish Michael were coming back, but we've still got David Yates. I can't wait to see what he's got planned for HBP.
And on a related note, I just realised: OH MY FREAKING GOD, THE LAST BOOK IS COMING OUT IN LESS THAN A WEEK! I'm telling you, it didn't hit me before now, mainly because I've had this new job and all this shit with moving house twice in two weeks, but OH. MY. GOD. This is it, girls, this is IT. THE LAST ONE EVER! I'm going home on Friday and getting the book either Friday night or Saturday morning and then I will spend the rest of the weekend reading and I'm bloody terrified. But also terribly excited. Oh my God, the last book.