So...I've seen it twice now. The first time I was so overwhelmed by emotion that I had trouble sorting out my thoughts. This is my second favorite of the books for several reasons. Among them the fact that this is basically Draco and Snape's story. Even as much as it is Harry's and Tom's. The book itself is flawed, but there are many points in the story that I can't help but love, despite the ridiculous teenage drama.
The movie is far less so. Obviously, it can't follow the book exactly. That would have taken three movies worth. But there were some distinct disappointments when it came to things left out, or reactions in general.
Overall, worth a viewing, but I wouldn't expect it to be the best of the series if you have yet to see it.
**Spoilers past here**
Watching this movie a second time led me to thinking about what worked in this movie and what didn't, and why. I realized that both depended on how I looked at the movie itself.
The first, and to me, most important layer, is the storytelling. As a movie trying to stand on its own, it fails on several counts. Granted, part of that can be forgiven, as it is the sixth in a series. Few who don't already know the series would even bother attending. But on a deeper level, even before this movie, the bits needed to hold up the flow of the story have been dropped. You can see that they're obviously trying to pull things back together, much as JK Rowling did in the book, but they have dropped far more threads than she, and it leads to quite a mess.
A particular plot point here is Tom Riddle's background. Not only have we missed some of the vital clues that explain who he is and where he came from (yes, we know, if vaguely, that he is a half-blood from COS, but only just), but the horcruxes are only explained in a glancing blow which tells Harry nothing about how to find more of them. A truly disastrous loss for the coming movie.
Then there is the basics of storytelling itself. A story should have a flow to it. It helps the audience follow better, and even retain the story better. Particularly when it comes to pattern. Stories have patterns the same way music does. This means repetition and pacing and a number of other storytelling devices that have been around for a very long time.
In this case, the movie seemed incredibly choppy, like there was no direction for the story. This has nothing to do with leaving things out (I'll deal with that point later on). This is about telling a good story that people can enjoy. That means each plot point should add something to the overall story, and to its impact. If you can't do that, whether you are writing a book, filming a movie, or making a tv show, you have failed. Period. End of statement.
Also, some might consider this less important, but I've always considered it a basic guiding principle--when you have a device you are using to impart information, whatever it may be--a town cryer announcing something each day, a tree changing with the seasons, newspaper transitions--or say, a few journies into memories about someone--it is always best to use that device at least three times. This movie only showed us two memories. Granted, they showed one twice, and slightly different versions, but they were the same memory. It leaves the viewer unconsciously wanting more. Even if they don't necessarily know it. Having three or more helps with the flow of the story, so that the audience knows what to expect. Going without leaves that feeling of waiting for the last shoe to drop, so to speak. I can't say which would have been the best memory to add (possibly one of the memories about the other possible horcruxes), just that we needed one more to make it feel right. At least, to me.
Beyond that, we have the moviemaking part. This is not only acting, but also directing and effects. I have only ever found one fault with the effects of Harry Potter, and that was the Dragon in Goblet because the scene went on far too long for something that wasn't that integral to the plot. Focusing on effects over plot is always a bad choice in my eyes.
The directing in this series has been about has haphazard as the DADA classes in Harry Potter. We've had several directors, each with their own styles, and it has led to shifts in the continuity that otherwise wouldn't have taken place. Still, overall, it's been generally forgivable, aside from a few minor quirks.
But more importantly, by this second viewing of the movie, I realized that the cast, rather than becoming more cohesive, as any good cast would do, seems to be becoming less so over time. Each of them should have such a good idea of their character by now that they should be able to react without direction, even when the focus is not on them. Instead, I feel like what we're getting are wooden dolls that only react when the focus is on them. They seem to have no clue of anything going on around them unless they have been told to. It's growing increasingly frustrating for me. Some of the actors are better about it than others, but it seems to be true overall for the entire cast, including the veteran adults who should all know better by now.
As much as I adore Rickman, I'm growing to hate his Snape more and more because he's not bothering to give him any life. I could speculate whether this is his token resistance to not being given more before now, but I won't. Why he's doing it doesn't matter so much as the fact that it's killing the character--at least as far as the movies go.
Even Dan, who is amazing in OOTP, felt a bit like he was daydreaming his way through the movie this time. It just leaves me disappointed overall, and with a bad taste in my mouth.
I go to a movie like this for the emotional connection. And this feels completely devoid of that, because the actors don't seem to be connecting with each other, and therefore we can't really seem to connect with them. For me, it's incredibly disappointing. Especially in a series that I love so much.
Next we have the Harry Potter story. Yes, it really does come third, because if you're not a fan, it's more about the story itself, and the acting. If those two don't hold up, people who aren't familiar with the story won't be interested (which is pretty much what has happened...). Most fans watch the movie with this filter on, and it's hard to let go of that favorite scene, even if it really isn't vital to the overall story. That means that when we talk about the movie after, we remark on what was missing and what was added, and whether or not it worked with or without that scene. It's really incredibly hard to let go of that filter, though.
I have to say that there were changes that worked for me in this, and changes that did not.
I loved watching Draco try to fix the cabinet--though I do have to say that I wanted to see him actually working on the cabinet more than he did. Simply having him open and close the doors and place things inside or looking in to see if they had returned weren't quite enough for me. The chanting worked, though. I would have liked more like that, probably in conjunction with the opening and closing of the doors. Something more to show that the "repair" wasn't just accidental.
Also, speaking of the cabinet--I loved the way they chose to add an explanation for it, given that it hadn't been in either of the two movies where it was previously mentioned (COS for the one at B+B and also for Peeves's breaking the one at Hogwarts, and GOF for Warrington being shoved into it by the Weasley twins, and therefore giving Draco the idea to fix it in the first place.). The explanation was an intriguing one, and made me wonder how the things work, and just how many there are out there.
On the other hand, Gambon has worked less and less for me as Dumbledore as time went on. I hope his bit will be kept to a minimum the last two movies. When the book says Dumbledore calling for Harry in the Goblet of Fire echoed through the room, it doesn't mean he shouted. It means the room was so quiet that you could have heard a pindrop. That scene still bugs me even now. And he did it again this time. Granted, I know this was more a directoral and scripting choice than Gambon's choice--if Dumbledore were so stupid as not to even suspect that the journal was a horcrux, then why did he go after the ring? No, the reason he needed that memory was to find out how many horcruxes Tom had made. I will say that the connection between Harry and the horcruxes was better threaded, though. Though mentioned that there was no time to set up everything Dumbledore would have once he realized Harry's necessary role before they left the next day...
While I'm at it, there were other annoyances: I still hate Narcissa's hair--no, it does not need to be dark. I'm sure witches have their own way of making their hair different colours, if you have to insist on her having Black-dark hair like the rest of her family... And Peter's hand--correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't he cut off the hand with the missing finger when he sacrificed it for Voldemort's rebirth?
And a few additions: Regulus was mentioned more in this than in the book. Does make me wonder if we're going to see Grimmauld Place at all next movie, though. And I will say for once, Klovis actually did a good job adding Ginny into the mix of Harry and his friends--unlike JK, who couldn't be bothered. I can see he's set her up to be much more instrumental in helping to find the tiara when Harry and his friends return to Hogwarts in the final movie.
And finally for me, and I think also for most fans, there is the character-specific reactions. I think most fans have those characters they like and/or identify more with, and therefore see the plot through. These are the truly personal reactions--the ones that rely on our own specific views of the characters that often have little to nothing to do with canon, but purely what we have made the character into in our head, whether that be from reading, writing, or even Roleplaying.
For me, this movie breaks down to three main characters, and a few minor ones.
Overall, of course, is Draco. He was the one that reacted loudest as I watched this the first time, and he is the one I play and write the most, so that makes sense. Not to mention that this is his movie--his time to shine. I think Tom did a lovely job, though I didn't see Draco's emotions build as much as I would have liked. I did love seeing him fix the cabinet, as I said above. I also loved his horror when Auntie dearest came through along with Fenny and the other two Death Eaters (Amycus and Alecto, I presume...). And while JK Rowling never told us for sure that Draco was ever Marked, mine has always been, so it was sort of a horrified thrill to see him show Dumbledore his Mark there at the end.
Then there is Blaise. I thought the Movie Blaise was very nice, and it was cool to see him in the background throughout the movie. I did get one incredibly strong reaction from him, and this is sort of a sideline rant. Blaise was never on the Quidditch team. Granted, it was never said that he wasn't, but I think it would have in this book, at the very least, if he had been. Not everyone has to be on the Quidditch team, and I imagine that Slytherin's a harder team to get onto than most. It's one of the reasons I don't see girls getting on their team. Not to mention the hide-bound "traditions" of the purebloods that probably run the house. I doubt they would let a girl on unless they were simply given no other option.
And then there was Regulus. It was nice to see him mentioned--more than once, even. And then, I couldn't stop myself from looking at the inferii when they came out of the lake. Granted, I doubted they would actually show him, but I knew he was there, and I just had to look.
Beyond them, there was Snape--who I have already discussed above. Though I will say that I was incredibly disappointed at how little screen-time he got, considering that he's the secondary title character next to Harry... Would it truly have killed them to give us even one DADA class? And maybe Harry's reaction to his being DADA teacher? Let's not even go into how washed-out the reveal was, considering that anyone who hadn't read the books would never understand the full implication of Snape's words to Harry that he was the Half Blood Prince...
I also felt a bit of a reaction from Remus this time around. I hate what JK Rowling did with him overall, though. After POA, she undersold his character more and more. And this movie actually made me hate that even more--he didn't feel like Remus to me at all. The point of Remus, as I have always seen him, since readong POA, is that he is a man who has always kept himself tightly controlled--even as a teenager. That is why Sirius and James got away with so much without him telling them off. That and the fear that he would lose them as friends. But this older Remus, who has lost them? He's spent nearly all of his adult life alone. He's worn down. Tired. Lost. Not angry. I hated that in DH, and I hate it here.
Those were my major reactions, though I'm sure I've forgotten something here or there, but I'd say I've rambled on far long enough. Overall, not bad. Just not great like I know it could have been.