One of the nice things about not having read any of the Potter books is that I don’t know anything that’s going to happen. My only complaint would be that Harry’s final confrontation with Voldemort was quite static, especially after his battle over that lake in HP3. However it was obviously not supposed to be the final statement on that relationship so I guess it did its job as an appetizer. In general I think the movie emphasized plot over spectacle, which contributed to its sense of density. In other words no scene lasted too long, something I seem to be more sensitive to the more movies I see.
On the other hand I was surprised that even after the superheroics of a dozen comic book movies I really felt the wonder of magic, most vividly when Harry finds a way to fly away from the dragon. I was like, Wow it must be really cool to be able to fly! I hope Superman Returns is able to convey the same novelty.
I guess HP3 had more flying in it, but I saw it on a tiny screen on an airplane so the effect was minimized (perhaps as much by flying myself as by the screen size), and the audio was TERRIBLE so I probably missed a lot of the plot details and can’t really compare HP3 from an acting standpoint. But I do think that HP3 was more artistically directed from a photography point of view so it was always visually interesting and I loved the Back to the Future 2 stuff in it. I haven’t seen the first two movies but the impression I get is that they’re overlong if not boring.
Nevertheless I like the idea of the movies growing with the audience. I definitely felt a gradually increasing sense of seriousness, if not dread, as Harry confronts his situations. The fun and games of magic is incrementally yielding to the life and death of magic. So to speak (badly).
I also love the idea of the special nature of Harry being revealed bit by bit over the course of the whole series. From a craft perspective, his qualitative uniqueness is really the only way to account for having a single protagonist to whom all the cool stuff keeps happening in every book/movie. But it’s also just a really interesting mystery, like “Neo’s journey” but without the problem of messianic self-ignorance. You really sympathize with Harry for wanting to be normal (among wizards, I know) but coping with his “special” status without understanding a lot about what’s going on with himself. I liked Alan Rickman’s line about just letting events unfold as they will.
Obviously my knowledge of the story is only through the movies but as someone who was skeptical about the Harry Potter craze initially, I’m happy to say the last two movies have won me over so I guess I’m on the bandwagon and plan to enjoy the ride. Incidentally my Potterization was also inspired by the interpretations of John Granger via the alchemical tradition, and according to friends who keep up with the books his theory is proving justified to the point of being predictive.
So I can’t wait for the next movie, though I have no idea what to expect!