Indeed I have read the seven Harry Potter books about three times each, and I've listened to the Jim Dale audiotapes once or twice each, and I've watched the first six movies at least twice each - and I still feel like an amateur whenever I'm with people who really know Harry Potter backward and forward.
I'm guessing you too have read the books and/or seen the movies, and that's why you're here. So for you I have just a few observations about the new film. I don't think there are any spoilers here, but then I'm assuming you know the plot.
- The movie takes us more or less to page 477 of 759 (U.S. edition).
- I liked the slower pace made possible by splitting book seven into two parts. This movie felt richer, more complete, than the previous movies, which had to struggle to fit far too much story into far too little time. Since part two will cover only 282 pages, it should be richer still. Which is appropriate, because it contains some of the best scenes in the entire series.
- Still, if you want the total Harry experience, read the book or listen to the tape. The movie alluded to much of the content of book 7, but the book develops it in a way no film could do.For example, the film shows the Dursleys departing, but it completely ignores Dudley's amazing about-face. Harry attends Bill and Fleur's wedding as Harry, not as a Weasley cousin. Harry never reads the letter from his mother to Sirius Black. Harry never changes his attitude toward Kreacher. And so forth. I am by no means saying that the film should have included these scenes. It couldn't possibly have done so. I'm just saying the book is even more satisfying, at least for a wordperson like me.
- When I say the film is slower paced than previous films, I don't mean it drags. There are lots of action scenes, chases, explosions. Harry leaves Privet Drive pursued by Death Eaters. Harry, Ron, and Hermione leave the Burrow and encounter more Death Eaters. The three of them cause chaos at the Ministry of Magic. Harry fights Nagini in Godric's Hollow. Death Eaters attack again at the Lovegood house. The trio is captured by snatchers and taken to Malfoy Manor for torture. You know all this: you've read the book. It's still gripping to see it onscreen.
- The film also dramatizes some of the characters' interior struggles. It alludes to Harry's reluctance to continue on a path that may bring harm to his friends. It explores Ron's feelings of jealousy and inadequacy. Unfortunately, it completely skips Lupin's ambivalence about impending fatherhood, and the wonderful dressing-down Harry gives him when he tries to join the trio. That surprised me, since it seems necessary to some of what will happen in part two.
- This is not a free-standing movie. It ends in the middle. The quest will be more difficult in the final installment: Harry and his friends have not finished their tasks, but Lord Voldemort has found the weapon he covets. When the credits started to roll, a man in the row ahead of me yelled, "Oh, no!" There's no way anyone who likes part one will be able to skip part two.
- This is a very sophisticated film. I don't have the necessary film buff's vocabulary to tell you exactly why, but there's a stylized, contemporary feel to the artfully composed scenes. And despite its darkness, it has humorous moments: the dialogue is often witty.
- Though I saw the film on an Imax screen, Imax may be overkill. Mercifully, there was no 3-D to contend with (the snake attack was still terrifying). Since there are no flights on dragonback or in specially rigged Ford Anglias, the tall screen is less necessary than in some of the previous movies. Sometimes, in fact, the characters were just too large. I wanted to back up and give them a bit more room.