Yesterday evening, I went to see the latest Harry Potter movie with lidocafe and a friend of hers. It was extremely well done, and I thought the art direction and photography was stunning. This was the first of the movies that I've seen in the theatre, believe it or not, and it was certainly worth it (not just because the theatre was air-conditioned). It was engrossing and entertaining; I consistently believe that the movies are better than the books, because they can encapsulate the essence of the plot and still portray something of what complexities of theme there are. Often, too, the skill of the actors makes up for Rowling's deficiencies in character. I think Snape, for example, is now inseparable from Alan Rickman's portrayal of him. It's interesting to consider that the early movies were out before the last books were finished, and to wonder how much of what people "see" in the books is in fact put there by the actors who portrayed the characters and by the set design and so on, and not from what Rowling herself tells us. She is very much the tell rather than show; we know that Harry is brave and noble because she tells us so, not so much from anything that arises from him as a character.
This enrichment of the imaginative affect of the material breaks down in Harry, because of Daniel Radcliffe's complete lack of energy or any kind of charisma as an actor. He has two expressions - wide-eyed and stoic, and wide-eyed and stricken. Occasionally, in his stoic mode, a lip twitches to tell us that he's reacting to something. I thought even Rupert Grint, who mugged his way through the earlier movies, was more natural. There is nothing happening behind Radcliffe's eyes - unlike Alan Rickman, who exhibits an equally stony exterior but who manages to express all that he is unable or unwilling to say through his eyes. Radcliffe's inadequacy as an actor must have been true in the earlier movies, but somehow seems to matter more in this one, perhaps because the young characters are supposed to be demonstrating more depth and maturity, and Radcliffe seems incapable of doing so.
One more remark about the adaptation of book to screen: being able to see Snape and Dumbledore in that crucial scene at the end lent somewhat less ambiguity than exists in the book. That's what I thought, anyway - and of course my opinion is coloured by having read the whole series and knowing what we learn in the end. I also thought that Snape yelling "I'm the Half-Blood Prince" at the end was far from adequate for anyone who had NOT read the books to understand what that was about.
Still - I did not find that the movie lagged at all for all the nearly three hours of it, and it was certainly an enjoyable summer confection.
Speaking of adaptations of book to screen - I was dreading Where The Wild Things Are but am feeling considerably more optimistic after viewing this featurette about it. Now I'm intrigued and looking forward to it.
Which is more than can be said for Alice in Wonderland, which I think looks dreadful.