After Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, I was very concerned that this very talky, complex book would be ruined like the last film. Shining beacon of hope: Screenwriter Steve Kloves is back! And it makes all the difference in the world. Kloves really gets JK Rowling’s books and distills the important bits while taking liberties with specific moments to summarize sweeping chapters with no loss of meaning. Bless him, I may love this installment even more than The Prisoner of Azkaban. At no point did this movie waste any of its 153 minutes, and the time flew by, marked only by the less-seasoned bladders of my companions.
Director David Yates and Production Designer Stuart Craig take us to new locations, or make previously briefly glimpsed locations new and real and tangible. At more than one point in my two-dimensional, non-IMAX showing, I could only describe Potter’s world in this film as very three-dimensional. The sets and props as always are gorgeous and detailed and solid. Building on Chris Columbus’ brilliant casting and core designs from the first two films, this sixth film of Rowling’s series is rich in texture and realism. I theorize that so many new locations were developed for this in part because they were already being realized for the theme park, due to open within the year. Either way, wow. I’ve always wanted a peek at Arthur Weasley’s Muggle collection and gleeee! I’ll see it again in 3-D IMAX and I can save myself a plane ticket to Orlando (not!).
Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) gets more screen time than he has since the Sorcerer’s Stone, and Rickman uses every bit of it to project his unfathomable eyes at us and turn the ladies squiffy against their wills. Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) has grown up and his performance shows it — he’s finally got more to do than sneer his Aryan pride onto our leads. And oh, Jim Broadbent as Horace Slughorn. So sublimely funny and weak and avaricious — and funny! This is the funniest of the series, and also the most affecting. Fans of the books, curious about That Scene, will, I think, not be disappointed in Klove’s interpretation.
Our trio of leads of course has also grown up – Hermione (Emma Watson) pulls an Annette Funicello and turns in her best acting to date, while Ron (Rupert Grint) channels Alan Tudyk’s unique and delicate style of broad humor. You’ll see what I mean. Because of course, you’re going, right? Why are you still at the computer?
Harry and Dumbledore’s oft-glossed relationship in previous films finally gets to stretch its legs a bit more here. So much has to be summarized by their scenes, so it’s lucky we have Daniel Radcliffe and Michael Gambon to pour their hearts into it. After so many years together, the whole cast (not just the leads) has grown together into a tight machine, and while their on-set world is miles away from their on-screen one, you feel the ensemble making Rowling’s world real for us.
Merlin’s pants, what a fine motion picture! It delivers so much, has so much humor and pathos and kindness and evil and delicious costumes and sets, you might forget about the props, special effects, or the painting-like shots; not just for Huge Moments, cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel makes Hogwarts and beyond into a marvel. I seriously cannot think of one thing I would want different. This was a fantastic adaptation of an excellent book, and well worth your time and money.
MPAA Rating PG
Release date 7/15/09
Time in minutes 153
Director David Yates
Studio Warner Brothers