Warning: while the following post is spoiler free, it contains dangerously high levels of smugness. Smugness can be harmful to your mental health. Smugness while pregnant can piss off your baby.
Thanks to the boundless generosity of my BAFTA-member friend I.G. (not his real initials ;-) ), I was lucky enough to attend a special screening of the latest Harry Potter movie this evening in Leicester Square. The screening was a few hours before the big glitzy premiere at Odeon Leicester Square, but we were treated to a brief talk beforehand by the producer and director, and the stars were brought out on stage to be ritually embarrased. It's tough enough being teased about going through puberty without it being done in front of 6000 strangers.
The film itself was brilliant. There's no such thing as a genuine spoiler when the book has been widely-read and released several years ago. There are a few departures from the book, but none of them glaring and generally in the interest of brevity or visual interest rather than a change to the actual plot. The child stars turn in credible performances. I thought Rupert Grint (Ron) was the weakest of the three this time around, while Daniel Radcliffe, who has previously been a bit ropey, finally gave an excellent performance. That may reflect the structure of the book, though: this movie is much more about Harry than the others, which were much more about the cooperation of the three friends with Harry as the lead.
Despite being just under 3 hours long, the film is extremely fast-paced, a consequence of cramming 500 pages of book into a mere movie. The CGI sequences are huge, beautifully detailed and absolutely seamless. They didn't strike me as quite so giggle-worthy in their grandeur this time, but that might be because the content of the movie is much more serious.
As the producer mentioned when he introduced the film, this is genuinely a very different movie to its predecessors. Just like the child stars themselves, this Harry Potter movie has grown up. It's not quite a film entirely for adults yet, but it is much more than a "kids' movie", and this is especially noticeable at the end: if this were a kids' movie, some sort of happy ending would be absolutely essential, and this is something the director had admirably resisted providing. Unlike the book, which ended on a shocking and depressing note, this is tragic but optimistic, genuinely poignant and moving, and there was a fair amount of sniffling from the audience as people filed out of the cinema.
It's a film worth watching, and then worth watching again. Go see. I leave you with an incredibly blurry photo of the stars of HPatGoF, taken with my not-at-all-snazzy but nonetheless new Nokia 6230i (so long, Sony-Ericsson k700i, it was crap knowing you!):