If nothing else, the Harry Potter series has forced on us the virtue of patience. We would anxiously anticipate the release of a new book, devour the book in a day or less, and then have to wait another year (or more) for the release of the next one. The same is true of the movies based on the books, although I think the wait between Deathly Hallows parts 1 and 2 is going to be the most agonizing yet.
I've said before that I thought the first movie stuck a little too devotedly to its book, while others (like The Half-Blood Prince) seemed to wander a bit far from the original (not that I'm necessarily opposed to that, unlike my husband and son). This latest movie stayed fairly close to the material in the book, and in some ways, I think it did an even better job with the storytelling than the book did. I'm thinking specifically about the chapters in which Harry, Ron, and Hermione were wandering around the countryside trying to figure out how to find horcruxes. In the book, those chapters (honestly) seemed to drag a little; in the movie, a handful of establishing shots (of some very different and very beautiful landscapes) accomplished what took lots of words in the books. That allowed for more emphasis to fall on the characters, and I must say I am greatly impressed with the way these young actors brought out emotions. I had never much liked Ron's character, in either the books or the movies, but Rupert Grint sort of changed my mind about Ron in this movie by giving him some depth I'd never considered.
Of course, I absolutely love Hermione, and this movie made me doubly appreciate just how invaluable she was to Harry during his mission (I want that beaded purse!). Emma Watson plays the character with a combination of a sort of grim understanding of what she's gotten into and a certain vulnerability that really shows what she's giving up to help Harry. I guess that's what I liked best about this installment of the series. In the other movies, the actors are portraying what's on the page; in this movie, the actors are enriching what's on the page. My husband has commented a couple of times on how well Jason Isaacs portrays a Lucius Malfoy who is fresh out of Azkaban; Lucius has lost a whole lot of his swagger, and Isaacs actually gives Lucius a slight tremble that really captures the essence of how his world, personal and public, has been turned upside down. That's not an exception, either; David Yates seems to have pulled good performances out of everyone.
The action sequences were sufficiently thrilling, and the scary scenes were delightfully creepy. But I think what I enjoyed most (being the English major geek I am) was watching these young characters take on the mantle of adulthood in a situation in which the stakes are impossibly high. Story arc, you know.
The movie ends in just the right place, too. When the credits started to roll, I wanted to stand and say, NO!!!! NOT YET!!!!! July is so far away!