With Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince being a personal favorite from among the books, and the movie being my number one most anticipated of the year, this film has little chance of getting a fair evaluation with just one viewing and in German to boot. However, a review it will get.
First, as most reviewers seem to be reacting, this film is among the best of the series. It is visually stunning. It manages to include much of the plot and even indulges in moments that make the book fans happy and perplex non-readers. Those who have not read the books seem to find the pacing slow and only wake up for the action set pieces. Readers on the other hand, face the same frustrating mix of joy and anger over the attempted adaptation of this story.
There is a wealth of things missing here. A mere list of characters cut will give some indication of the size of shears used: the Dursleys, Kreacher, Dobby, Bill Weasley, Rufus Scrimgeour, Fudge, Fleur, and Cho Chang are gone completely. Yes. The film can never be as informative, rich and extensive as a novel, so there is no real complaint there. However, why do the filmmakers add stuff not in the script at the expense of more stuff that was there?
Fenrir Greyback. This character had very little to do in the novel. In fact he was almost entirely an unseen character. What he did do though had a large impact on the story. One could expect the movie to cut this character, or at least keep him unseen—an unseen character is great for a movie. Instead, they chose to keep him—give him a lot of screen time—and have him do exactly nothing. Huh?
The Attack on The Burrow. It is in the trailer, so we all know it was coming. What we didn’t know was exactly why. The filmmakers claim that it was needed for pacing and that they needed to add more action to the film. What they failed to mention is the reason the needed more action. They completely cut the climax of the book. It seems that they felt it would ruin the whole eighth movie, as the climax to book seven is so similar. So instead of a hugely cinematic battle at the end of this move, the Death Eaters simply walk out of Hogwarts completely uncontested—and we get a totally inconsequential and illogical attack at Christmas.
There is a nice story that Slughorn tells about Harry’s mother that is not in the book. It serves as a good character moment and a good bit of foreshadowing to remind the viewers that a Wizard’s magic ceases to work when they die. Add that to the scene on the train that was left in (surprisingly) to foreshadow the Petrificus Totalis spell that Dumbledore uses on Harry, and it comes as a complete shock that they decided to change that pivotal scene as well.
Other things that are sadly missing are the second Quiditch match, most of the Voldemort memories, the funeral, Ginny and Harry hooking up, and Ginny and Harry breaking up.
All of those changes and additions manage to somehow not ruin the movie, even for someone who loves the books. It is a sign of David Yates’ talents as a storyteller that his two movies so far have come out capturing the spirit of the books they have changed so much. All in all the readers get a “Cliff Notes” view of what the story could have looked like, and the non-readers get a sense of the story that they missed. (Although it is admittedly easy to see why the non-readers opinion of the series is somewhat diminished by the films.)
Oh, and maybe this is just a fact that the German dubbing has helped, but Emma Watson’s acting in this film appears to be much better. She had begun to grate a bit as the series progressed. She comes across better in this movie than any of the previous five. Complete endorsement must wait for an English viewing of course.
After reviewing six of the seven books and films thus far, the resounding conclusion is… if you have not yet read the books: please do so!