20 November 2010
I wonder if you only liked it because it was Harry Potter
Like I said, I went to a midnight screening, which is always a lot of fun. The friend I went with hasn't read the books and has never experienced Potter-mania. He just kept looking around in wonderment as we passed crowds of people with lightning bolt scars, Gryffindor scarves, wands, robes, and school uniforms. When we finally got into the theater and the first few notes of the familiar Harry Potter theme came on, the theater erupted in cheers. This is exactly why I like midnight releases.
There is this film critic in me who hasn't been able to properly enjoy a movie since deciding to focus on Film Studies for her college major and (as I'm doing the screenwriting thing in LA) I can't stop thinking about structure. It's more of a curse than a blessing and Lord knows my structure needs improving, but I think that's why I can't turn off that part of my brain when I watch movies.
So, what did I think of the movie? I liked it, really I did, but I can't help wondering if that is only because it's Harry Potter. The movies always look beautiful. They have these gorgeous dark color palettes (see the photo!) that my inner emo loves. The costumes are amazing. The stories and characters are beloved before I see them on screen. There's magic, and there's fun, and there's action. And come on... it's Harry Potter!
The movie starts out amazing. I honestly couldn't think of a better way to start it than setting up the tone of the world. We see Harry, Ron, and Hermione each alone, the way they will be (alone as a group) for most of the movie, and contemplating the hard choices they know they will have to face. When Hermione modifies the minds of her parents, I almost cried. We see Voldemort and his death eaters. Fiennes quiet portrayal of Voldemort has always been phenomenal, but in his first scene it was so understated that the exaggerated groveling of the death eaters caused me to roll my eyes more than once. But he was back on track by the time he kills the Muggle Studies professor and it sets up for us right from the beginning how high the stakes are.
This film is definitely the darkest yet, but the movie still does an amazing job of keeping things fun. They stole moments for humor where ever they could and as always Rupert Grint has great comedic timing. There were two moments that stuck out to me as being perfectly placed moments to lighten up the movie. Right after the tone of the world is set up, Harry is rescued by the Order and they use polyjuice potion to come up with quite a few diversionary Harrys. Fleur is the best part of this, because we get to see Daniel Radcliffe in a bra shrieking about how hideous he looks and then snuggling up to Bill. This was an important moment that keeps the movie from coming in too heavy and overwhelming the audience. The other moment that works really well is when Harry and Hermione dance. Hermione is heartbroken that Ron has left, they are in hiding, and have no idea what they are doing. The dancing was fun, friendly, and releases just enough tension for the audience to enjoy this very dark movie.
But the moment I decided I didn't love this film came right at the end. Nobody else seems to agree with me, but from the arguments I'm hearing, I think I may not be expressing myself clearly enough. So I'm going to try to say exactly what I mean. Bear with me until the end.
My biggest problem came with breaking the movie into two parts. I thought we would get two separate movies. What I'm not saying is that I thought they would make a new plot for the second part. What I'm not saying is that I didn't know they were breaking the seventh book into two parts. What I am saying is that I thought if they were going to charge me fifteen bucks to see each movie, I would get a focused story with an appropriate climax in both movies. I'm defining a movie VERY loosely as a story with an inciting incident (again loosely: an event that forces the character to make a tough choice and start on his journey) and a climax that correlates to the inciting incident and is resolved by the main characters. Maybe it was foolish of me to hope that, because I certainly didn't get it. Part 1 ends with Dobby saving Harry, Ron, and Hermione. The end of the movie is a bit of a let down, because our main characters have struggled through the whole movie and then THERE IS NO PAY OFF.
Even with this movie only covering the first half of the book, a lot of the character development felt rushed. I doubt they could have done it in one movie, but I'm not sure they can do it in two, either. The movie banks wholly on it's built in audience and most people seem fine with that. I just found the end to be completely anti-climactic and depressing (and not because Dobby died, I find him incredibly annoying on screen). It just didn't work for me.
That being said.... Yes, I will be forking over another fifteen dollars to see Part 2 in July. I think the end will lend itself more to the screen and I'm hoping for some more screen time for characters like Ginny, Neville, and Snape. Plus, I love the way those death eaters appear in a cloud of black smoke.
And a few final thoughts that just don't seem to fit in anywhere else: One, the adults that played Harry, Ron, and Hermione on polyjuice potion were great and I appreciated how much they looked like Radcliffe, Watson, and Grint. Two, when Hermione reads the story about the deathly hallows, the animation is gorgeous and enough to keep me from being bored while the character literally reads to us (and I get bored so very easily). Three, Dobby wouldn't have died if he hadn't insisted on making a speech about being a free elf. Haven't we learned anything about the villains of this world? And four, I'm holding off judgement on Daniel and Rupert until I see them in something non-Harry Potter, but Emma Watson is phenomenal. She outshines them both and I can't wait for her to take a break from college and shoot something else.