I have liked each film better than its previous one. That this also reflects what I have thought about the books (up to OotP), well, I don't think that's a coincidence. Order of the Phoenix is my favorite HP book; I love how grim it is, how shaken and angry Harry is. I love the progressive darkening of the books through OotP and regret the regression of HBP to exposition and romance. Harry/Cho was sufficient romantic development for me; Sirius's death impacted me far, far more than Dumbledore's, and I think that's because of the way Dumbledore had already distanced himself from Harry in OotP, which the film reflected beautifully.
When this film was over, I said, "Wait--I thought this film was supposed to separate the die-hards from the 'just here for a good flick' viewers, because they didn't put everything in--what the hell are they talking about? It was ALL HERE!" And, of course, no, they didn't put everything in; as you sit and think about, you come up with a dozen elements and another dozen after that: "Oh, yeah. No Quidditch, no Harry punching Draco with the hand still holding the snitch, no "Weasley is our King," no Ginny and her boyfriends, no Prefects, no Accio Brain, no Lily in the flashback..." Hellluva lot, actually. Nevertheless, the film gave me the gut reaction that everything that mattered in the book made its was into the film in some translation or other.
But we do have our darlings, though, don't we? The moments that are so make-or-break for us that we can't even imagine they might not be vital to the storytelling from another's point of view, can't even imagine they might be discarded. I'm seeing a lot of those from the fans on my flist, from the ones who are "meh" about the film to the ones who loved it nearly unconditionally. And I get it. I get how the omission or skewing of those moments can fuck over one's ability to enjoy the film; my make-or-break for The Lord of the Rings is the fake-out of Frodo's death, is Sam lamenting by his supposed corpse for a good long time and going so far as to take the ring and trudge off. That the film of Return of the King did not quite give me that--I haven't forgiven it completely. I love the film, think as a film they did a good job preserving the element of it (there were audible "oh, shit"s from theatregoers around me when Sam tears that webbing off Frodo's staring, death-white face), but I still can't forgive it entirely for not giving me every second of my make-or-break.
OotP? Wow. In retrospect, there were moments I would have liked but nothing that I truly ached for and missed during the film. And isn't that the hallmark of good storytelling? That you can suspend your other needs as the story catches you up in it?
And here's another thing: I didn't cry. Crying is for when something sad and/or disappointing takes me by surprise. When an angst-filled story that I already know gets the emotional moments right, I'm the one going, "Yes, yes, YES, oh, MORE!" in the moments where everyone else is crying. Am such an angst whore.
It almost seems blasphemy to say how well certain things worked, continuity-wise, when they compressed or glossed over elements near-and-dear to a fan's heart. The Occlumency? Worked. What did we see in the context of the story? That Snape is an inflexible teacher, especially when it comes to Harry, why he has reason to hate James Potter's offspring, and, most deliciously of all, that Snape does not throw Harry out solely because of his access of that memory. What happens at the climactic battle? Voldemort invades Harry's mind and Harry is able to push him out. Could he have done it without Snape showing him how? Didn't Snape's cessation of the lessons occur at the same time that Harry demonstrated he could do the Protego? The Occlumency now feels like it has continuity with the climax of the film. (Yes, I will have Beavis-and-Butthead-type things to say about Occlumency and climax later.)
Even Cho and the D.A.'s disbanding is more cleverly done. Yeah, okay, though I like Cho and initially feared fan dislike would only strengthen by discarding Marietta, this version went one better: it made Harry fully responsible for the failed relationship and showed that he knew he'd f**ked up. I thought when Umbridge and the I.S. broke into the Room of Requirement that Cho looked pretty hostage-y, pretty miserable, quite a figure of sympathy. Note that her "breaking" comes shortly after Neville has his marvelous say about being the son of heroes who never broke, which may paint Cho less heroic if not actually complicit. Harry walking by Cho when she pleads to speak with him gave me icky feelings inside (because I like Cho) but I understood Harry's headspace. And then comes the Veritaserum revelation. Harry's face. That look of his, that dawning that he hadn't had a shred of faith in Cho, hadn't even the decency to let her explain. It's a hugely sophisticated moment for Harry; note how the shot lingers on him for as long as it takes him to make the additional conclusion of, "And I can't even go to her and apologize that I didn't realize it was Veritaserum, because the unforgivable moment was when I wouldn't even talk to her. I f**ked this one up." It's better. Wow.
Here's one that gives me mixed personal feelings but I can't deny puts a great deal into context: Sirius calling Harry "James." What does my inner slashgirl say about that? "Don't saddle Harry with that--you guys belong together without James coming between you in bed! Harry/Sirius 4EVAH!1!" But, really? That's how I take it, but I don't think movie!Harry takes it that way. Er--okay, I KNOW Harry doesn't take it that way--what I mean is that I don't think movie!Harry is at all disturbed by it. I think Harry hears that and does not think, "Oh, no, he thinks of me as my father--" hel-lo, you think Harry hasn't got that by this point? You think that bothers him? No, I think he sees Sirius caught up in the familiar thrill of battle, alive for the first time in the better part of two decades, feeling like he has his old friends at his side--Harry hears that and I imagine he feels a swell of pride at hearing Sirius cross that final line into accepting Harry as a warrior, hardly even able to distinguish him from the old guard of the Order, from his best friend in all the world. And both Harry and the viewer, hearing that, recognize that Sirius and Harry's relationship as a family would not have been wholly paternal/filial, but friend-to-friend, brother-to-brother as well--the viewer can speculate, as she chooses, whether that would have been what was best for Harry. So while I had icky feelings on that one, I see what was intended with it and what Harry likely took from it and agree it compressed a lot of exposition into that one word. Sigh.
And I didn't miss Quidditch, not because I'm one of those who hates or is bored by the Quidditch but because Harry's fifth year is meant to be so joyless, and even a little Quidditch would have interrupted that mood, that steady-marching-downward that pushes Harry into the DA. Not arguing with that omission at all.
And this film had one thing the others haven't: the "yippie-ki-yay-motherf**ker" callback. The callback line that has the audience whooping for joy, ten times better than any Roger Moore-ian James Bond pun, when evil finally gets its comeuppance. "Sorry, Professor, I must not tell lies." I didn't even know I'd been longing for a yippie-ki-yay-mother f**ker line in a Harry Potter movie until I got one.
Let's see, I think I'm about to get a lot more random. Okay, canon lines that delighted me to see them included: "Who's Cedric, your boyfriend?", "You don't have to whip your wands out..." (was it just me or did Mr. Weasley give Molly the tiniest "I heard that double entendre, you saucy minx" look?), "The world isn't divided into good people and Death Eaters," "Wet," and the entire buildup to the "teaspoon" line. I swear, with that last, I heard Hermione begin to outline Cho's conflicts and thought, "Omigod, they're going to say the teaspoon line. They are totally going to," and was fist- and buttcheek-clenching for the next fifteen seconds, I was so gleeful.
Non-canon line that sent me stratospheric: (paraphrasing) "When this is all over, we'll be a proper family." Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU. It summarized all my shock and anguish over Sirius's death, the concept that Harry lost that chance for a happy ending, that the best he can get is a joyless victory, a victory for the world but not for himself. As mentioned above, I didn't cry, I hissed, "Yesss." Loved it.
On to individual actors. Dan's throat? Oh, baby. Dan himself? Divine. After GoF I noted how much Dan is called on to play Harry as a near-blank slate, one who never reacts too goofily or oddly so that the viewer can slip into his point of view effortlessly. He's even sported innocent, almost androgynous looks. Is it blasphemy to say I found I wasn't bothered by the cropped hair? I was one of the ones howling the loudest at the loss of that divine GoF shag, when I saw the first promo pics for OotP. But it's okay. He's allowed to shed a little androgyny with those locks and become more of a young man at last. Dan played Harry like a smoldering tinder, as a guy hiding his rage with his fear, or hiding his fear with his rage; it's terrific that I couldn't tell which at times. We were given the essence of CAPSLOCK!Harry without having to wince through any actual bellowing, and I loved it.
The one bit of bellowing, Harry's "LOOK AT ME!" nearly had me combusting in satifaction as a result. Dumbledore's purposeful alienation from Harry was enraging; I remember coming away from the book of OotP with a "Dumbledore, you f**ker," fury, and when Harry screamed that in the film I wanted to applaud.
His kiss with Cho was too polished, in the way all movie kisses were polished but that's all right, since, y'know, movie. Did anyone else watch their hands, to see where they went? Loved how chastely they kept their arms fixed at their sides.
Rupert was excellent. Hooray for his quiet loyalty. The Harry/Ron in this was so lovely (and I am usually not a Harry/Ron 'shipper) that I kept thinking about shocolate and how happy she'd be, and then soon after I saw this quote in florahart's comments on the film and fell over laughing: "I thought at least eight times during this flick that shocolate must have gotten up and DONE A LITTLE DANCE RIGHT IN THE THEATER." You can't say it better than that, can you.
As much as I like Emma as Hermione, her performances are still inconsistent for me. Her lines rush together and I can't hear what she's said at times, and in this film I noticed a new thing: I didn't believe her pauses, much of the time. When the other actors pause before speaking, I can feel them thinking, see, but frequently Emma's pauses feel like she's forgotten her line, and only remembers it the second before she starts speaking. Her pauses feel blank. The storyteller/director in me wants to get my hands on her myself and tell her to tighten up the lines but slow down the enunciation.
Evanna Lynch as Luna, man. Here's the thing about Luna: I never feel anything for the crazy girls. River Tam, Delirium of the Endless, Luna Lovegood...to me they've always been plot devices, not characters. I think it's because I feel embarrassed for them--humiliation is a bad trigger for me. Evanna Lynch's Luna never made me feel embarrassed. She was happy with the way she was, wasn't bothered by it, thought a little sideways but was utterly sane. I loved her like everyone, it seems, loved her. Ten thousand times Harry/Luna before Harry/Ginny.
Speaking of whom, yes, I'm glad Ginny at least got two reaction shots to Harry/Cho, so that viewers will at least know who the f**k she is come next film, when Harry gets the hots for her. But lingering on her Harry-crush didn't endear her to me either, I fear. I liked her better once she stopped pining for Harry in the book, and showing her inadvertent destruction of the Hall of Prophecy in the movie left me muttering, "Nice one, Ginny." I throw up my hands and await the film of HBP. Sigh.
Does anyone remember the days when Helena Bonham Carter was in films like Lady Jane and A Room With a View, playing the classically beautiful heroine (with fabulous eyebrows)? When on earth did she become the "no one can Helena Bonham Carter like Helena Bonham Carter can" chick, the one who brings the crazy like no other? I dunno, but I loved her Bellatrix beyond the telling. I hate that bitch Bellatrix; I didn't want audiences full of males saying, "Woo, she's hot." I wanted them saying, "Okay, undeniably sexy but nothing I want anywhere near my bits, yeesh." She was amazing. Loved her bad teeth, her long loving lick at her Dark Mark, her cackle, her baby talk, and her shriek of "You filthy halfblood!"
LOOOOOSHIE. Just so you know, I had heard a rumor that Lucius wasn't in the Ministry scene at all, which made me sad because I wanted all the Lucius I could get but also thinking, "Well, how the heck will the audience know who he is when he shows up at the end?" (Because I believe each film should hold its own to at least a degree.) And then THERE HE WAS IN THE MINISTRY. I clutched the air, I seriously did. And Jason was just delicious, every moment he was onscreen, every honeyed word that hissed from that sneering mouth. Him taking the prophecy from Harry? Be quiet, it worked. Gave Harry the chance to make a true hero's decision in choosing his friends' lives (for at least a few seconds longer) instead of making a worthless stand. And Lucius's face when he dropped the thing--one point two seconds of priceless "f**k ME". I can't wait for the screencaps.
If I mention Lucius, me being me, I might as well use it to transition to the moment my whole theatre audience gasped: the slap. Sure, the quill was as awful as it should have been, but, man, the violence in that slap. See, when people were saying how 300 was a terribly violent movie, I laughed. "Comic book violence isn't violence to me, " I said. "Someone raising a fist to a child--that's violence to me." I rest my case on this one. --Did I like it, just a little? Oh, sure, shameless rapefic perv that I am, if I shift my 3-D glasses ninety degrees the other direction, it was every bit as lust-inducing as any of Lucius's scenes. Like florahart's comment above, I cannot improve on annephoenix's observation, "I knew Harry's cheek would sound that sweet."
And since I've shifted to the pervier side of things, Snape's speeches to Harry needed an effing magnum triple-ribbed condom wrapped around every one of those entendres. Snape says, "Prepare yourself," I expected Harry to whimper, "But you haven't given me any lube!" Though I admit my favorite moment of Alan's was his, "No idea." Sheriff of NottingHansGruberSnape, I love you so.
I remain convinced that Yates is a closet Harry/Sirius shipper and only threw in the "James" to throw everyone off the scent. Sirius NAKED UNDER A BATHROBE. WINKING. WINKING TWICE. Oh my effing god. I was waiting for Sirius to pull out a ring and slip it on Harry's finger and for them to go pick out curtains. Seriously, I loved it; the two couldn't have demonstrated more fondness towards each other without tongue, and I wanted to take Harry's heart out of his chest there at the end and count all the cracks that had Sirius's name on 'em. Yates's choice to have Harry scream out his grief silently to the score accompaniment was fantastic--we got quite a bit of screaming out of Harry last film, didn't we, between Crucio and "I can touch you now" and Harry sobbing over Cedric's corpse. Something needed to feel different, and this, wow. The suggestion that his grief was so vast the audience couldn't be allowed to hear it. *punches air*
Okay: even I, a staunch "why did they kill Sirius, noooo!" fan am eye-rolling over the fandom outrage of the Avada Kedavra. Guys, Bellatrix killed Sirius, okay? Whether he died from her spell or died from falling through the veil, or even if Sirius is not dead and is coming back in DH, he is functionally dead, okay? If you expect him to revive, a little thing like a AK is not going to matter, if the author wants him resurrected.
But, okay, I have my rabid fan quibbles too. I would have liked that exchange of looks between Harry and Cho at the end to show that they know there's no recreating what they had. I wanted to see Harry continuing to write with the quill after the initial incisions on his hand, so that the viewer understands he's kept at it for hours. (Umbridge says "Go on," before the scene ends, but I still wanted that clear.) And Harry flinging himself angrily onto his bed and having the camera zoom in on the picture of his parents dancing again? What, did they have leftover footage from PoA and thought it would be cheaper? For a moment I forgot what film I was in.
Short squees: I loved Filch like crazy (god love Yates for using him so fully), Percy at the Minister's side made me so happy (I was actually pointing at the screen squealing "Percy!" in that first Prophet shot of him), the battle between Voldemort and Dumbledore was terrific but even more than the battle I loved watching Harry able to nothing but duck and cover as the two greatest wizards of all time have it out, Umbridge was letter-perfect ("I really hate children"), ABERFORTH AND THE GOAT (I know there were fans all over the world who were the lone members of their film audience shrieking with laughter), and did anyone else, when that giant image of Fudge is towering over the Ministry, start looking around for some girl carrying a hammer to be running towards that thing?