Friday, July 29, 2011

Harry Potter, The Final Installment...

Sitting in a slightly manky, virtually empty theater, I waited for the lights to dim. Wednesday was my birthday, and seeing the final installment of the Harry Potter saga on a big screen was one of my presents. To say that I had waited with anticipation to see this last film, well...big understatement. Settling into the dingy and old theater seat, the time crept up on 3:00 PM, Thursday afternoon, when the movie was scheduled to start. After several previews, that is. Finally those ended, and the theater darkened for the main attraction..."Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows, Part 2".

Was the movie enjoyable? Yes. Were the effects spectacular? Yes. Was I left with a feeling of satisfaction when the end credits began to roll? Uhm...not really. I shall explain, but I feel it necessary to inform anyone who hasn't seen the film (or read the book), to not read further if they want to approach 'Hallows' with a fresh perspective. I will be giving at least one major spoiler. have been warned...moving right along...

(A battered Harry in a crumbling Hogwarts)

The opening hits the ground running. Voldemort has the coveted Elder Wand (one of the Deathly Hallows...Harry has the other two: the resurrection stone, and the invisibility cloak), and our intrepid trio is well into their quest for the Horcruxes. (Horcruxes being objects that Voldemort used to house portions of his soul. Harry and company were searching out all of the Horcruxes to destroy was the only way that Voldemort could be killed.) I wish that I had watched part one again before seeing part two. I have seen all of the movies, but I have also read all of the books. It was hard at first to get grounded. I couldn't remember what had happened/was included in the first half of the two films, and my mind was a bit of a jumble as it tried to sort out the film from the book. Yes, I knew what was happening whether it was featured in the film or not, but I couldn't get a comfortable grasp on the film's continuity. The frustration was present throughout, but not at a volume that ruined my experience.

(McGonagal casts the spell to rouse Hogwarts' stone guardians)

With the death of Dumbledore, Snape has taken over as headmaster, and Deatheaters and Dementors are everywhere. At the point in the film where Harry returns to Hogwarts in search of the final Horcrux, one of my favorite moments in the film takes place. McGonagal kicks Snape's ass. I know it was in the book, but seeing it on the big screen was awesome! It was brilliant seeing Professor McGonagal (Maggie Smith) flick that wand around with precision, Snape (Alan Rickman) flying out the window. She is such a bad ass!

I'm going to jump over to the scenes where Voldemort, his army of Deatheaters, and his Giant allies, have managed to punch through the magic barrier around Hogwarts. The battle is well done. (Another of the great ass kicking moments is here when Mrs. Weasley blows up Beatrix LeStrange.) The good and the bad are dying throughout the castle, and in the process much of Hogwarts is being reduced to rubble. It was all very effective, and I braced myself for the casualties to come. For me these moments fell flat. Seeing the prone and lifeless forms of Tonks and Lupin was sad, but it didn't get me like the book did. Even watching Ron go into a fit of hysterical tears over his brother Fred didn't really get to me, either. I am by no means a person to not be sensitive to moving scenes in a film, but...maybe my expectations were too high. Could anything have been done differently to make it more gut wrenching? Would seeing even one of the casualties fall have made a difference? I don't know. Maybe. Then again, I don't think the actual moments of their deaths was mentioned in the book. I seem to remember that we don't know of their deaths until their lifeless forms are scene in the great hall. Hmm...

(Harry and Voldemort locked in battle)

The final specific moment I want to mention is when Harry and Voldemort lock wands in their final battle. They engage in another round of Priori Incantatem, when their wands get linked by the simultaneous energy beams they produce. Their wills are battling away against one another, while Ron and Hermione try to kill Voldemort's pet snake, Nigiri...the last Horcrux. The big death moment of Tom Riddle a.k.a. Voldemort incredibly disappointing. The sword of Godrick Gryffindor manifests in front of Neville Longbottom, who cuts the snake in half before it can attack Ron and Hermione. Cut to the big duel between Riddle and Potter. Tom gets a worried look on his snake-like visage; Harry registers the change and realizes that Nigiri has been killed; the energy beams between Tom and Harry stop. At that point, I was waiting for the final blows between the two of them to happen. An 'Avada Kedavra' from the big V, and an 'Expelliarmus' from lightning bolt scar boy. Instead? Voldemort just kind of collapses back, looks to the sky, disintegrates, and blows away in a wind. What the...that's it?! This was the big moment?! The biggest of the big...and it was lack luster. It should have been a big showdown, but there wasn't much there. Satisfied, I was not.

(Voldemort and his Deatheaters attack the magical barrier protecting Hogwarts)

I am glad I saw this final film on the big screen. The Harry Potter movies have been the only films I have gone to the theater to see for a number of years now. I have specifically mentioned a few scenes, some good, some not so good. I am not fanatical about it, but in many ways I am definitely a Potter purist. My main critique of this film would be that it was very entertaining and not a complete disappointment, but there were points during the plot thread that should have been punched up a lot more than they were. The final battle being the chief one. I have to say that I am very happy that the movie didn't end with the final battle, and the look at the trio nineteen years into the future follows. Seeing them all married with children acted as a much more satisfying ending to it all. If the film had ended with the battle, it would have rendered all that preceded ineffectual.

In the next few days to come, I am sure that I will continue to ponder what I saw today. Going back and watching part one is also on the agenda. Do I think my opinions will change? No, I really don't think they will. Do I recommend the film? Sure. Don't get me wrong, it is a good film. It's just that after my commitment to the series, I was counting on great. On a scale from one to ten? Hmm...let's see...I would say about a seven, or a seven and a half. If the final battle had been more dramatic (as I think about it more and more, I would love to pop the director in the back of the head for it), then my rating would be a tad higher. After all, the whole series (film and books) led up to that one moment. To that single battle. Oh well...tis done and done.

My Harry Potter experience has been so much fun. I felt a part of that fictional world, and felt I knew each character personally. It is a journey I am happy to have embarked on, and to have seen to the finish. The books left me more than satisfied, right up to the very end. It is the books that I gravitate to anyway. The movies were all very good, but each of the tomes were so wonderful. They held the true magic for me.

Cheers to you, Harry Potter!

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