Wow. How does one even begin to discuss this film? So many expectations, so many hopes... so many fans waiting to see it.
Okay so non-spoiler stuff first for those still waiting to see it.
It was good. 85% of the really important stuff was in there, which is probably a higher success rate than the average book adaptation. The special effects are phenomenal and well worth watching in the theater.
The acting, as always, was superb, perhaps even more than superb this time, with special nods going to Alan Rickman and Helena Bonham Carter.
And... I think that's just about all I can say without going into spoiler territory. So. If you haven't seen it yet, get thee to a theater now. Otherwise, consider yourself warned.
On the ride to the theater last night I told myself "don't worry about your expectations. Just watch it and enjoy it."
And for the first half that worked fine. I was pretty happy with how they did everything.
Until they got to Hogwarts.
Now let's be really clear. The last third of Deathly Hallows is one of my favorite pieces of literature ever. Seriously. I am so emotionally connected to what is written there and think it was completely perfect. So I am obviously strongly biased. You totally may think differently and that's okay! We can disagree. In fact, I rather hope we do because I'd like you to be more satisfied with the film than I was.
The film gets started right away, there's no time to catch your breath, it's going. I was delighted to see Dobby's grave with the proper inscription. It was awesome to see Fleur and Bill's cottage, but very distressing that we, once again, missed Lupin's visit and any mention of baby Teddy.
Gringotts went down perfectly. Ron looked surprisingly attractive in his long hair and beard, and Helena Bonham Carter was 100% believable as the transformed Hermione. Both of their costumes were pretty awesome too (despite the cleavage, but that's trademark Bellatrix). The sequence in the vault worked pretty well and I think survived the adaptation to screen really well.
Hogsmeade went WAY too fast. Why did we loose all talk of Aberforth, Ariana, Dumbledore and Grindlewald? They could have EASILY given us a bit more information in 90 seconds (which the running time totally would have allowed). But no, suddenly Dumbledore randomly has two siblings we've never heard of in the films before. I don't know how non-book fans could even make sense of that.
The Room of Requirement was pretty awesome. Maybe not exactly how I pictured it, but it works and it was awesome to see all the other students again. Ginny's reunion with Harry was quite awesome.
But then... Harry just walks into the Great Hall and confronts Snape? What? I mean it's not totally implausible it just felt.... very rushed. Again, another three minutes could have included the sneaking up to Ravenclaw's tower. It felt like they were just racing to get to the fight.
From here on out, everything is paced and edited together kind of wierd, with waaaaay too much happening at the same time. In the book we followed Harry's POV and everything happened in a linear order. Here they had the option to mix things up, but I'm not sure it was a wise choice because it made it chaotic and hard to follow and also broke up a lot of the emotional threads that made the book so strong.
Instead we got a lot of fighting and CGI. Which... while cool at first, got to be WAY too much by the time the film was over.
Everything with Snape was pretty brilliant (although I felt the memory was kind of too choppy and didn't show us quite enough). They DID have the doe and "Always" which was my favorite moment of the series so I was glad about that. Moving his death to a random boathouse was weird... but whatever.
Ron and Hermione's kiss... well it worked in the film, and I get that it couldn't have been set up the same way as the book... but there was a point for how it was written in the book. All along Ron has belittled the things that are important to Hermione. In the books when he says to evacuate the House Elves, he is saying that he DOES understand Hermione's passions and values them. THAT's why she kisses him. And I think in cutting that, we loose something really important in their relationship.
I am glad we got to see them actually destroy the cup, though.
Fred's death was heartbreaking, but I'm sad we didn't get to see it actually happen. Same with Lupin and Tonks. It just felt like write offs of these characters and totally unfair resolutions for them.
Into the Forest again, Harry's death, Kings Cross and Narcissa were all done pretty perfectly. So THANK GOODNESS FOR THAT! They're the crux of the whole book and it's fantastic that they were done so well.
Then we get some pretty disappointing changes.
First off, we DON'T get Neville's "We'll join you when Hell Freezes over!" and instead we get a lot of scrabbling after Nagini that doesn't add anything to the film except shots of Hermione and Ron generally failing at killing a snake and a much less awesome moment for Neville. C'mon.
Mrs. Weasley has her totally wicked line! Bellatrix's death leaves a bit of a question mark though because the Avada Kedavra spell doesn't disintegrate people. So... ???
Finally there is the big fight between Harry and Voldemort. I'm sorry, but even after these years of training, I do NOT buy that Harry could stand against Voldemort in a big fight. Even with the Elder Wand not working (which I'm not sure was explained well at all). And it was big and draw out but...
But the end wasn't okay. The whole point of expellairmus was that HARRY DIDN'T KILL VOLDEMORT. Voldemort killed himself. And that did actually happen... but... it wasn't explained or made obvious. If you hadn't read the book you would have thought that Harry killed Voldemort. Also, Harry gave Voldemort a final chance in the book to feel some remorse... not having that in the movie did twist Harry's character. That compassion was essential to Harry's character.
And then Voldemort also exploded (again, WEIRD) and there wasn't a huge audience (which I thought was pretty lame and always liked having in the book).
Then Harry explained the whole wand thing after the fact, and snapped the wand and threw it away rather than fixing his own wand and laying the elder wand in Dumbledore's tomb. WHY?
But the Epilogue? That was perfect. I thought the aging effects were FANTASTIC and it was short, sweet and simple, just as it should be.
Whew. I feel like a bit of a sourpuss now. Which is lame because it wasn't a BAD movie. And as I screenwriter I have a ton of grace and understanding for the profession. Which also maybe makes me think I have a better right to criticize because I DO understand the limitations and the difference between novel and screen.
But this is my personal preference. I know a LOT of people REALLY liked it. Many fans didn't like the talky ending and they'll be made very happy by the film. And I'm sure I will enjoy it more when I can see it with subtitles and understand everything that I couldn't hear without them.
Also, now that I've gotten my complaints out, I hope I can move past them and enjoy the film for what it is. After all, it's the only Deathly Hallows pt 2 we'll ever get and it did get most of my favorite iconic moments right. I'm already looking forwards to seeing them again.