I was very impressed with this movie adaptation; it may be one of the best movie adaptations of a book that I’ve ever seen. The writers, producers, directors, and actors managed to focus on the relationships between Harry, Hermione, and Ron, and fully convey the urgency, confusion, darkness, and challenge that pervade the writing.
In fact, this movie made me appreciate the way film can cut corners. For somebody who’s all about the intricacies and deep ideas, that’s kind of a strange thing to admit, but it’s true. In the film, Harry doesn’t go in disguise to Bill and Fleur’s wedding, for example. The sheer speed of the film lets the movie-makers elide questions like that; you just don’t think about the dangers, or you use short incidental shots of the protections to assume that they’ve already thought of protecting Harry, and it’s not an issue. But mostly, you just don’t think about it. (And really, I didn’t need another shot of a Polyjuice Potion transformation – the tech/SFX are very cool and all, but too much of that turns the movie into a series of “ooh, look what we can do with computers!” moments.) For those of us who love worldbuilding, the books do a great job of it, but the movie manages to make sense even without all the nitty gritty.
The biggest thing that gets passed over, though, is the endless agonizing over Dumbledore that goes on inside Harry’s head. Since the movie doesn’t have Harry’s internal monologue, the main emphasis is on the relationships of the living characters, not Harry’s silent worrying at the deeper issues that have landed them all in these situations. Normally I’d be upset that the Big Moral Message was getting cut out, but somehow the problems Ron, Hermione, and Harry face managed to convey, for me, the depth of the moral issues going on, and especially the issues that have sometimes been cut out or minimized in the previous movies.
It’s going to be interesting to see how they handle the development of Dumbledore’s backstory in the second installment. If they don’t include much of that, some of the depth of the moral development for Harry is going to be lost, and that will be a sad thing, and a mark against the movies. But I’m hoping that they’ll keep this trend going and manage to make the ending a triumph without being triumphalist about the entire story.