Warning: Spoiler Alert!
Now that we got the warning out of the way, on with the movie review. My first impression was that, while this was a good movie, it wasn't a great one. Granted, my expectations were insanely high, considering this is my favorite book of the Harry Potter series. But I couldn't help feeling that this was the Cliff Notes version of the book. It touched on all the high points of the book, bip-bip-bip, but never stopped long enough to examine and feel them as it went. I couldn't help sensing that it lacked the depth of emotion that could, and should, have been conveyed, given the material it had to draw from.
What I Liked:
Ron! Considering fans missed out on the "Weasley Is Our King" bit that would have come up in the last movie (no Quidditch, no WIOK - bummer!), we are given our due here in this film. We get to see Ron in his Quidditch-playing glory. Yay! The Quidditch game, by the way, is maybe my favorite of all the movies. Seeing Ron navigate the perils of romance was fun, too.
I also liked the interaction between Harry and Hermione. Very nicely done, very sweet. Perfect. In fact, all the interactions between Harry, Ron, and Hermione were well done.
They trimmed down the memory lessons with Dumbledore to the two most essential. These were the slowest parts of the book for me, so I was glad to see the director minimize them.
Harry hopped-up on Felix Felicis. Really. Flipping. Hilarious. The movie had to tread very delicately with its comedy, and where they placed it, they did so perfectly. Genius.
What I Disliked:
They changed several things that I thought should have been left as they were in the book.
One, they changed when, where, and how Ginny and Harry have their first kiss. I loved that part of the book, and I feel that, while what they did is nice, it's missing something compared to the book's portrayal.
Two, they changed where Harry is at the time of Dumbledore's death. Instead of being Petrified under his Invisible Cloak, Harry is underneath the platform where Dumbledore is standing, and able to move around and watch what's happening, though Dumbledore has made him promise not to interfere. I think it lacks the dramatic irony of Harry wanting to act, but not being able to.
Three, I was really hoping for the standoff between Harry and Snape at the end to be larger than it was. Harry accuses him twice of cowardice, and Snape doesn't react at all. I wanted this to be a much more hotheaded interchange.
Four, if I remember correctly, the children face off with the Death Eaters in the castle grounds at the end of this book. None of that happens here. A huge shame, and I imagine they must have cut it for time reasons - but it left me hanging.
Finally, there was no funeral for Dumbledore in the movie. That, I think, might have been the most grievous omission, because it's such an important part of the book. Dumbledore was the greatest wizard anyone ever knew, and we should have seen the funeral because of the impact of his death on the wizarding community.
I will probably go see it again, but this movie is more of a play-by-play than an emotional journey through the events of the book. Viewers who have never read the series might feel like they're missing something ... and they are. (Read the book for the full impact - it's better!) "Order of the Phoenix" still stands as my favorite film. It'll be hard for them to knock that one out of the top spot. "Half-Blood Prince" sure didn't.
But still, go see it. Just to see Ron win at something besides chess ... and get the girl to boot. :)