It seemed that everyone I knew had already seen this film, and no-one -- adult or child -- had a bad word to say about it. Could it really be that good?
Indeed it could. The cinema we were in was about 50-50 adults and children. As the leisurely-paced story unfolded before us, we noticed something strange -- near total silence in the theatre. The children sat entranced throughout.
I won't bother describing the plot. Although it necessarily has to cut out some material, it is very faithful to the book, and surely there isn't anyone who hasn't read the book? The main plot is intact, without those annoying changes that often make a book and its film seem to be set in parallel universes. Some of the sub-plots and details are removed, obviously, but the superb sets, especially the enormous dining room and the moving staircases, bring everything to life, and the atmosphere is spot on. It will be interesting to see how subsequent films manage with the more densely-plotted books. (I assume there will be subsequent films, given the success of this.)
The casting is excellent, too. It can be a problem seeing a film adaptation after reading the book, because the actors clash with your mental picture of the characters, but I didn't have that problem here. And Alan Rickman, with an expressionless face and barely moving lips, can project sheer menace like no-one!
Definitely worth watching.
reviewed 16 December 2001
Just like with the book, there is little need for set-up time the second time around, and the film moves relatively promptly into the action. Given it's nearly 18 months since I read the book, I didn't notice any major deviations in the plot of the film, although it is necessarily much shorter. The main difference is one of "feel"; all the build-up that Harry might really be the Heir is so much less in the film that it never feels a real possibility.
All the familiar faces are there, although Alan Rickman doesn't really get enough screen time as Snape for my liking. (And it's a bit unsettling watching Richard Harris as Dumbledore -- he looks very fragile.) Kenneth Branagh is suitably slimy as the cowardly Gilderoy Lockhart (and there's a neat joke waiting for anyone who sits through the credits).
There's excitement aplenty, the special effects (except for the phoenix) and sets are as good as ever, and there's no let up of pace. Mind you, the basilisk, when it comes, is a bit of a disappointment -- although it looks very "realistic", I don't feel its glare would exactly turn anyone to stone. Those spiders, on the other hand...
Another very watchable episode in the HP saga.
reviewed 22 November 2002
This third film in the series takes a little while to get going (I'm beginning to find the Dursleys a bit tedious), but soon the initial "schoolboy humour" section is over, and the increasingly dark tone establishes itself well. Clearly, the film has to have rather less content than the rather fat book (a problem that is only going to get worse): it manages to hit all the plot highlights, but does understandably seem a little jerky and breathless in places.
Michael Gambon does well as the new Dumbledore. The SFX are variable -- the Whomping Willow is good, the Dementors are suitably ghostly and gruesome, but the hippogriff moves too much like a horse. Despite that, a great 3rd installment of the series. Mind you, those kids are growing up fast...
reviewed 28 December 2004
This is the first of the extremely fat Harry Potter books -- how on earth is the film to be faithful?
Well, by rigorously stripping out every ounce of that fat (along with a little of the flesh), and by being well over two hours long. But it doesn't feel long while you're watching. In fact, some of the knife-work has resulted in a slightly more coherent plot in places. Despite this, the plot is a little disjointed and compressed -- especially at the start. I'm not convinced that I would have followed all the plot subtleties if I hadn't only recently read the book.
The desire for special effects spectaculars make the various trials much more exciting -- especially the first one with the dragon. And there is no attempt to play down the horror of the graveyard confrontation, and the death -- this is really quite dark compared to the earlier films, and fully deserves its "12" rating. The story is growing up, along with the protagonists.
reviewed 29 May 2006
I have to confess: for the first time I watched the film without reading the book first. So I am reviewing this with a slightly different perspective from usual: I can't tell what's been left out from the very fat book.
Harry is devastated by the events at the end of Goblet of Fire, even more so because a terrified Ministry of Magic refuses to admit that Voldemort is back, and are making out Harry and Dumbledore to be liars. They send nasty pink Professor Dolores Umbridge [Imelda Staunton], initially to teach Defence Against the Dark Arts, but really to take over Hogwarts, dumbing down all the magical teaching to prevent Dumbledore building up an alleged army. So Harry himself starts teaching the other students defensive spells. Inevitably, they are discovered, all in time for the final enormous battle.
This is another good addition to the series -- and it certainly follows the tradition of the previous films by getting darker, and the children are clearly growing up. And it doesn't feel like anything is missing, so I am assuming it has captured the central plot of the book and merely sacrificed subplots (hopefully none that are important for later revelations).
reviewed 29 December 2007
I repeat my confession from the previous film: I haven't read the book of this one, either. I'm not sure if that accounts for some of the confusion, and inability to precis the plot.. Hmm. Harry finds a second-hand spell book with lots of helpful annotations letting him make working potions. Snape [Alan Rickman hissing splendidly as usual] promises to help Draco Malfoy do whatever it is he has to do, which appears to involve removing the dust-sheet from a big box, several times. Ron is oblivious to Hermione. Dumbledore [Michael Gambon] persuades Prof Slughorn [Jim Broadbent] to return to Hogwarts, and gets Harry to befriend him to find his hidden memory about the young Voldemort. Dumbledore and Harry find a Horcrux. Mayhem ensues.
This is a dark film. So dark I had difficulty seeing what was going on some of the time. The plot is also quite grim, leavened only by a bit of teen-mating angst. And it's all building up to what turns out to be a bit of an anti-climax after all. It does advance the overall plot of Harry and Voldemort, although it might have become a quest to find the remaining plot coupons^H^H^H Horcruxes.
reviewed 28 December 2009
We left it a year to watch this, so that we could watch both parts close together.
This is the tale of Harry, Ron, and Hermione searching the Horcruxes, falling out with one another, reconciling with one another, and figuring out how to destroy the Horcruxes. It's not always as dark in terms of light level as the previous film (although it does have a curious washed out monochrome feel), but it is certainly dark in terms of plotline, as the Dark Wizards take over the Ministry of Magic, and start rounding up the half-bloods.
It is definitely a first half -- finding out who are friends and who are not, learning what the Deathly Hallows actually are, lots of running through forests, and shaping up for the great final conflict...
reviewed 24 December 2011
After going for Bellatrix's Horcrux, Harry decides everyone has to go back to Hogwarts. There's a big fight; people die. Secrets are revealed; love is acknowledged. There's another big fight; more people die. Lots of running through corridors. More secrets are revealed; more fighting. A snake. Then it's resolved.
It looks like King's Cross Station. Except a lot cleaner.
Still rather a grey colour scheme, at least during the Voldemort years. But lots of good special effects of Hogwarts under attack, being blown up, being flooded, being burnt.
A fitting end to the saga. This at least is "honest" fantasy, the dead stay dead: the battle costs; there's a real price to pay.
reviewed 27 December 2011