They also did a good job with the new characters introduced in this movie, particularly Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge, Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange, and Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood. All of them rocked. Luna, who plays a pivotal role in this book, is also one of my favourite characters in the whole series and Lynch played her perfectly. Good for Rowling to insist that a first-timer be cast in this role. (Hmmm...having lived in Australia for a year I almost wrote "Good on Rowling..."!)
On the other hand, it wasn't good of Rowling to let the screenwriters do whatever they wanted with the script. I don't like the fact that they left out some, in my opinion, important parts of the book from the movie, though I do certainly understand the need for brevity and simplicity -- especially in a children's movie. As it is, as far as I'm concerned, only the Walsh-Boyens-Jackson trio (of the 'Lord of the Rings' fame) have done justice to a fantasy fiction book-to-film translation. That said, I guess everyone has their pet peeves about what was left from of the book. My top three are:
1. Making Cho be the one who tells on the D.A.
And, while it was nice of them (the film's producers, directors, and screenwrites) to explicitly point out that Cho was given veritaserum by Umbridge so it's not like she had a choice, dammit that wasn't enough. Of course, it was much easier to do it this way. In the book, Harry gets about as pissed off at her as he is in the movie but that's there to show us that he's human (and not the perfect hero) just like the rest of us. When you're reading the book, you have to decide for yourself whether Harry is being unreasonable or not (by remaining pissed off at her). It's bits like that that make reading books so cool. Unfortunately, that level of subtelty is difficult to communicate in a movie (let alone communicate it well). Oh well. Hollywood 1, Cho 0.
2. Skipping the bit in which Harry's tell-all interview is published in the Quibbler.
They go to some length to show that no one believes Harry about Voldermort's return when they first get to school. The same happens in the book. But in that, it's the publishing of that interview that really starts to change everyone else's minds (big, teary hug from Mrs. Weasely aside). And Seamus' apology to Harry in the Great Hall comes after that. Instead, in the movie the changing of everyone else's mind is left up to Seamus' uncalled-for apology (since the article hadn't come out over the holidays and changed his mind) and Fudge's "He's back!" line at the end of the movie.
3. Skipping the bit in Snape's memory in which Harry's mother, Lily, rescues Snape from Harry's father, James', hovering charm.
This was a pretty crucial bit to cut out. And not just because it's another important shades-of-grey point in the book. But...I won't get into the other reason since a lot of people still haven't read the last book and it contains a spoiler. Coming to the shades-of-grey reason, though: in this memory, Harry's father comes across as an egotistical bully, Snape comes across as weak and helpless, and Lily comes across as a good, strong person. While Harry expected that of his mother, he was shocked to see his father (and, of course, Snape) acting that manner. Seeing this (and know it's true since it is a memory) shakes Harry's faith in a lot of things (including himself) and it takes him a while to get over all this. Again (and I'm getting sick of saying this over and over) since that's difficult to show in a movie...snip, snip, snip. *sigh*
Of these three omissions, though, the last one was the easiest to show with just a little bit of good screenwriting. And, having read the last book, it was the most important of the three as well. Who knows, though. Maybe they did shoot it but it wound up (metaphorically) on the cutting room floor because addings its counterpart scenes (Harry getting back his faith) would have made the movie too long. I guess we'll have to wait and see which scenes they add in the DVD.
Overall, though, Goldberg and Yates did a pretty good job with the movie and I know they -- hopefully someone else! -- will find smart ways of working around those omissions. As long as it's not Goldberg who does the screenplay -- I still haven't forgiven him for changing some crucial parts of Carl Sagan's 'Contact' -- we should be okay.
Next time...a spoiler-full review of the last Harry Potter book :)