I'm just home from seeing it, and I want write out my impressions before I start reading what everyone else has written about the film. I went to the first show this morning (in other words, the first showing period) at my local cinema. The theater wasn't nearly full, but there were definitely a lot of people there from what I'd expect on a typical Friday morning. I decided that I wanted to see the regular version first, so I could suffer through the changes first, and I'll go see the IMAX experience later in the week, when I can really focus on the effects. I'll put anything resembling a spoiler behind the cut, but first I'll say this:
I really liked it, but I'm not yet sure that I loved it. There were a few plot changes (which of course, were expected), but they didn't jar nearly as much as the ones in CoS. Buckbeak is awesome, and probably my favourite CGI-type creature EVER. Oh, and don't bother sitting through the credits; there was nothing nifty at the end.
I'm just going to write things as they occur, rather than trying to go chronologically.
I do think it was a better "movie" than the first two - more genuinely dramatic, less "in your face" with some of the gimmicky stuff that Columbus seemed to thrive upon. And like I said above, I wasn't as bothered by the changes as I was when watching CoS. In CoS, so many of the changes seemed gratuitous and stupid, and harmed the plot. Here, I wasn't aware of that being the case; I felt that the integrity of the plot was maintained, for the most part. (We'll see how I feel once I've seen the film a few times, and maybe re-read the book). The one change that did lessen the impact a bit for me was Lupin and Snape meeting Harry and the map in the hallway; I thought that Lupin's chastisement of Harry was really weakened because Harry was wandering around the castle unprotected (erm, that just doesn't seem like a very big deal, really), versus having visited Hogsmeade, which really was a big deal, IMO. But that's okay. I also liked the addition of happy things Lupin said about Lily. Nice.
Curaron seems to have a penchant for outdoor seasony atmospheric things - falling leaves, the flying umbrella - but I enjoyed this. Although I'm not sure I enjoyed the poor sweet wee birds that got munched by the Whomping Willow. ::grin::
Thewlis was good as Lupin, although still doesn't "look" the part to me. Oh well. I can live with that. Spall was really icky as Pettigrew (in a good way - Pettigrew is icky ::grin::), and I really *really* liked Oldman as Sirius. Oh - and WHOO HOO! Did you all catch the nod to Remus/Sirius? Snape saying they sounded like an old married couple? I LOL in the cinema at that one! ::grin::
Emma Thompson was sweet as Trelawny - out-of-character with how I felt about her in PoA and GoF, but with the way Trelawney was developed in OoP, I think Thompson is perfect. So, that's all good. I loved that little cough she gave after giving the genuine prophecy. Oh - I just realised that Harry never actually mentioned that to Dumbledore. Hmnh. Oh well.
A few of the scenes could have been stronger/more dramatic in terms of the dialogue. The one that comes to mind is the scene in Hogsmeade, when Harry eavesdrops on McGonagall, Rosmerta and Fudge - it just came across as awkward to me. There were a few other places like this, as well, but I can't remember the specifics right now (so I guess they weren't all that bad, huh)?
I disagreed with the big "spoilerish" thing that most people who saw it ahead of the opening said - I didn't find Hermione to be overly superheroish. I liked the Draco-face-punch (sure, it's a bit OoC, but not all that far), and I was a bit surprised when she tried to approach Transformed!Lupin, but honestly I'm not sure I blamed her - she believed she had a "connection" to him (to his human form, anyway); since she'd not had any past experience with werewolves, I can see where she might have thought she could get through to him. And I thought the howl and the throwing rocks was a way cool way of foreshadowing the Time Turner stuff.
Did I mention that Buckbeak looked awesome? I want one. I SO want a hippogryff! ::grin:: And the scene where Harry flew Buckbeak that first time was probably my favourite in the entire film - watching them soar together over the lake, and Harry whoop with genuine joy . . . I lovedlovedloved it! Oh - and how he saved them from Werewolf!Lupin! YAY! :D
My saddest moment was when Harry and Sirius were talking outside the Whomping Willow - Sirius talking about being free from prison. ::sniff sniff:: I got hit full-on at that moment with the reality of Sirius' death in OoP. I don't think that until that moment I'd actually felt any real grief, but seeing him there on the screen, so hopeful . . . and to know that he really won't be out "seeing the sky" for long, but ends up in that horrible house and then dead . . . fuckfuckfuck. That's the saddest thing in the whole series so far. Fuck. Especially if he and Lupin really did get together . . . FUCK. It does strike me as interesting that one of the most powerful moments in the film was so especially powerful because of something entirely outside the film itself. Something that might not have even been known when the screenplay was written. (Or maybe they were told that Sirius would die in the 5th book). Still, it really hit me. :-(
Hogwarts looked significantly more interesting in this film, I thought - older and "wilder" - both the buildings, and the grounds. Is it my imagination, or have they screwed around a bit with the location of things in relation to the castle? (Like Hagrid's Hut and the Whomping Willow)? No, of course it's not my imagination. It's different than in the first two films, but who cares. It looks better this way. I loved all the standing stones, and there was some truly spectacular scenery in the background of some of those shots. ::feels homesick for Scotland::.
The dementors were creepy. So creepy, in fact, that I don't think I will take my five-year-old to see this in the cinema, unless he is very adamant that he wants to go. I also think the Monster Book of Monsters might frighten him. So, we'll see. My husband's out seeing the film as I type this; we'll see how he thinks it rates on the five-year-old Scare-O-Meter.
Oh - and the Boggart scene was really well done, I thought. I got a good laugh out of Snape in drag, and I thought the rest of it was pretty cool.
Overall, I was very pleased - I thought it was beautiful visually (even more so than the first two films, which were pretty good in that respect themselves). I'm happy with Cuaron's take on things, and fairly satisfied with the screenplay and plot changes. Still, I'm not sure I'd say I absolutely totally loved it. Of course, that might just be a reflection of the fact that my Potter obsession in general has waned. I'll see the film again, though, definitely - I want to check out the IMAX version if nothing else.
ETA: I just thought of one thing that made me go, "hmmnh" . . . I don't remember Lupin explaining to Harry that he helped create the Maurader's Map, nor does Harry ever question just how Lupin knows it's a map . . . it wasn't a map when he came upon Harry and Snape in the hallway. I guess Harry just figured it all out quietly? Or did I miss something?
ETA2: Another thing I wanted to mention: I really enjoyed the Shrieking Shack scene. I had a WTF moment when Sirius and Remus hugged when Remus first came in - they even had me fooled into thinking Remus was evil (which, of course, he might end up being for real, but that's a different thread) . . . in any case, I think they did a great job of faking us out . . . then I remembered that Remus had already seen Pettigrew's name on the map. That was a change that really had me wondering when I saw it, but in the SS scene, it all came together. I thought it worked really well for tightening the plot, yet still getting the point across. Well done.
ETA3: Something else I noticed was the appearance of the tall Slytherin kid who seemed to be taking Goyle's place in the Slytherin "trio." (Was it my imagination, or was Goyle not there at the Shrieking Shack? I don't remember seeing him). I'm taking this as a bit of pseudo-canonical proof that Goyle will turn out to be the (or one of the) Good Slytherins in Book 7. :D
ETA4: And what was up with Harry's scar? In one scene, it was on the left side of *his* (meaning from his PoV) forehead, rather than on the right, where it was in previous films. Did they change the scar for this film, or was it just that one scene? Or were we seeing his reflection and I just didn't realise it??? In any case, it was weird.