I agree, Hal, that the Potter films can be stodgy and unimaginative in their literal-minded adaptation of Rowling’s prose. That can be particularly apparent in the adaptations of the longer and less well-edited books, and as you say the two-part Deathly Hallows really does feel like an exercise in grinding through every beat of the books. (Yet even then it manages to muff Neville’s big moment with the hat, which was pretty much my favourite part of the book.)
And yet I really love three of the Potter films. The first just feels magical, and Daniel Radcliffe’s limited acting is rendered irrelevant by his completely appropriate sense of sheer wonder. It captures what I loved about the book, the spirit of it as much as the detail. After a second film that felt by-the-numbers, the third was a much freer adaptation, much more tightly constructed, and much the better for it: it hit all the key points of the novel and made all the key scenes work, while playing with the scaffolding to good effect. (It also has the marvellous scene where Hermione punches Malfoy). Finally, and very much contrary to my expectations, the Half-Blood Prince film works well not only for the plot, but for its surprisingly sure-handed and sympathetic handling of the adolescent love-affairs. The last thing I expected was a light touch, but it’s there and it shows all three of the leads at their best.
Ha, looks like I just reviewed (nearly) all eight Potter films. For the record, I thought #4 and #5 were too by-the-numbers to be deeply involving, but I did very much enjoy Imelda Staunton’s reading of Umbridge — even though it’s completely different from how I’d pictured her. (I’d like to see Umbridge played by Annette Badland, of Blon Fel-Fotch Passameer-Day Slitheen fame.)