I solemnly swear that I am up to no good...
This will contain SPOILERS as well as a rant or two.
There are just too many things to say about this film that I can't not write about it. Mom always said 'If you can't say something nice then don't say anything at all.' So as not to disappoint my mother I have to say that I loved Michael Gambon as Dumbledore, he's absolutely perfect. David Thewlis was wonderful as Lupin, I want to see more of his work. I wasn't sure what to think about Gary Oldman as Black, but as it turns out he was definitely the right choice as well.
I liked the Knight Bus, and the shrunken head was a nice addition. The hippogriff looks fantastic (so does Rupert Grint ). There was a nice Monty Python tribute which doesn't necessarily belong there, but was fun all the same.
There is just SO MUCH missing from this film I don't know where to start! I understand that it's a long book and I had no expectations that everything on the page would make it to the screen, but there are major omissions, things that are important to understanding the story and future films. There's also the fact that Cuaron was coming in to an established world, he can't (or shouldn't have been able to, at least) just go mucking about with certain things that have already been put in place.
First things first. The Whomping Willow has been moved. You can't just move a mature, well-established tree. Well, obviously you can, because he did. I guess he thought it looked too pristine there on the lawn and needed a more sinister and remote location. Hagrid's Hut also wasn't in an eerie enough location for Cuaron either, because that's been moved as well.
There were lots of headless horsemen ghosts crashing through windows and running through the halls, but none of the regular house ghosts? The Headless Hunt wasn't even in the 3rd book. And on the subject of things that just don't seem right, there's Harry's scar near the end of the Defence Against the Dark Arts class - on the wrong side of his forehead. It is claimed on IMDB that this isn't an error but a reflection shot in the glass of the boggart's cabinet, but all of the other shots through the mirror are quite obviously done, and when the camera goes through the mirror the shot doesn't reverse. Actually that was one bit of photography in the film that I liked. I guess it's possible, but I'm not sure I want to pay to see it a fourth time to be sure.
The omissions! And it's not like he didn't have time to add any of this stuff in, it just wasn't pertinent to the story *he* wanted to make. He didn't set out to tell a story about wizards and dark magic, his intention was to film another 'coming of age' story, thus you get a bunch of hand grabbing and hugging and touchy-feely awkward pre-teen moments. Some of it was funny, but I would have much rather seen the story that Rowling wrote. So we didn't get any of the back-story that explained anything that happened in the film.
How did Lupin know what Harry's 'spare bit of parchment' was?
How did Black know where to find Pettigrew? How did he get out of Azkaban?
How did Black know about the secret passage? How did Lupin know? How did SNAPE know? I guess it's common knowlege at Hogwarts that there's a simple charm that freezes the tree so anyone can just trot over to the Shrieking Shack.
And those were just the things I caught on the first viewing.
There were things about Cuaron's style that I liked; the mirror shots, the shots through the previously non-existent clocktower, which I also thought was pretty cool. I hated the fade-ins and fade-outs, they were very distracting and 'old' looking - like we haven't come up with a better way to cut to a new scene in 30 years. But aside from everything else I don't like about this film, Cuaron has done two things that make me very glad he's not directing the 4th film - I hope he doesn't come back for any future installments. Of course when a DVD is released it will include bonus material. It's just something that almost *has* to be included on any DVD. But I'm not expecting the DVD to fill in the holes he left - rumour has it he didn't film much that he didn't intend to use the first time around. So likely any bonus material will primarily be interviews and 'making-of' documentaries.
Cuaron took the longest book to date in the series and made the shortest film of the three from it. Not content to just step aside and let the next director (Mike Newell) take the reigns, Cuaron convinced Newell that he should make Goblet of Fire, a book 300 pages longer than it's prequel, in ONE film instead of the two that Newell had originally planned. What will be omitted from *that* script to trim it down? The Quidditch World Cup? The Christmas Ball? Rita Skeeter? SPEW? Are we going to get to the end and not even know who it is that Voldemort kills? Not to mention that Newell will have to find a way to work in the relevant information that Cuaron left out.
All in all it was an acceptable film, but not nearly as well done as Chris Columbus' films. If I had to give it stars it would get two, maybe two and a half. I'll go back to re-reading the books and wait for Newell's effort with my fingers crossed.