I really enjoyed watching this latest installment in the Harry Potter canon. Although it feels a bit rushed, and as usual there is so much story in the book being crammed into the film, this really is an entertaining cool little thriller.
Much like the problems with all the other Harry potter films and what sets Lord of the Rings apart from them (in more ways than this) is how Peter Jackson and co were not afraid to truly adapt the book for the screen. They went to great lengths to really translate Tolkien into something that would work on the screen alone. The Harry Potter franchise has in a sense stayed too true to the books and done itself great injustice because there are many things that are great on the page that simply cannot be done in film. That said, this is the shortest of all the films, yet the fattest of all the books, so either they definitely have made some good trims, but at the same time, possibly have wasted a good twenty minutes worth of our money that they could have spent elaborating on characters.
Overall the acting has improved since the very beginning and all the actors are fairly comfortable and know their characters pretty well. There are a few moments where I flinched a bit a performance or too, but for this type of film I was never expecting or even wanting a Marlon Brando, Godfather type performance. There is so much to fit in and so little time to do it that we never seem to have enough time to dwell on the characters and fall in love with them again or really get to know new comers all that well. The story just keeps on moving forward and often characters don’t get to really resolve their emotional problems. This rapid pace however is also one of the films strengths, having a real story line that wasn’t found in a Ladybird book. The narrative continues to plunge forward with all its twists and turns and little hints of character are revealed along the way. It keeps its head down and focused with genuine little frights along the way. Never does the plot stop to solely reveal character, and in many ways this is a very commendable thing, especially in a genre that many children will still watch. For older audiences though it would just have been a nice touch to somehow find a way to give the characters a few more moments together where we could truly see the adolescents they have become.
The relationship between Ron and Hermione I felt has taken a step backwards from the last film, The Goblet of Fire, and that they don’t seem to flirt as much or have as much time together. Yes, Ron is the person she now seems to automatically grab onto in moments of fear, but there is a distinct lack of chemistry that I have always felt lacked in their relationship. In this film then, I think it would have been necessary to give them a bit more interaction to almost force something out of their relationship, seeing as magic doesn’t just happen when they are together. In fact, I have always found Daniel Radcliffe (Harry) and Emma Watson (Hermione) to have far more chemistry. This then, for me, also affected the chemistry lacking relationship between Harry and Cho Chang. I think and hope that the main problem here was that there was simply not enough time given to this relationship with so much plot to get on with and I hope it doesn’t reflect too badly on the final two films.
The character of Umbridge is one in which I got a pleasant surprise. I didn’t expect this little woman to do as much damage or to cause me as an audience member so much frustration that I honestly wanted to leap in to screen and begin screaming at her until she fainted. She really gets under the skin and irritates both Harry and the audience and just frustrates us. We feel there is nothing we can say or do to sop her because she seems to have every escape route wired. Her acting also helps Radcliffe to feel the frustration. I only wish Harry could have been given a few more moments to build tension and give weight to the scenes in which he rises up to lead the Order, but in the time given and the amount to cram in I can’t really complain.
The films are continuing to grow darker and are getting more serious and real, tackling character issues on a much harder and personal level. It will be a great thing in a few years time, when the series is completed, to look back at the progression of the characters and story as well as the effects and maturity of the story telling.
Aside from one very dodgy looking CG giant, the effects were the best a Potter film has delivered and there is a real maturity and raw grittiness to this film that is a style that has been evolving in this series ever since Alfonso Cauron (Children of Men) helmed the third installment. This is possibly the best so far.