Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The last Harry Potter

Well, the last of the Harry Potter movies is upon us, and my wife and I went to an early morning session (along with about 20 other people) yesterday to catch up on it.

Yes, you still need to know the backstories if you're to make complete sense of things, and some high points from the last book get a little less room than they deserve (no doubt through constraints of time - the twin's death consists almost entirely of Ron in mourning, and the battle between Molly Weasley and Bellatrix is truncated to the point where it's just another fight with wands. Both of these are losses). The backstory about Severus Snape and his deep love for Harry's mother is done in moment after moment and succeeds, in spite of being whipped past your eye at a rate of knots. Again, it helps if you have some understanding of what's being said and shown here. Other things seem to take longer than necessary: the opening scene with John Hurt seems quite slow to me, for instance.

But there are delights as well: Helena Bonham Carter playing Emma Watson playing HBC was one of the highlights. (The three almost unknown actors who played Ministry of Magic workers in the previous episode who were supposed to be the three main actors in disguise were also fun in this regard.) Maggie Smith saying in her inimitable way - after having cast a spell she's never had to use before - 'I've always wanted to say that!' And seeing Neville Longbottom come into his own (after having been unduly neglected by the directors in some of the other episodes) is great.

The CGI is impeccable, and so believable that you no longer give any thought to how it's all done. Many of the huge range of British actors who've appeared throughout the series reappear briefly - some get no more than a single shot - and it's like a coming-together of the cast for a final fling at the thing.

The story has room enough to breathe, although I'm not sure if the audience always has the same amount of breath: I found the film made me fell quite tense, which is probably an intended plus (!) It even seemed more emotionally strong than some of the others, though I can't tell you now which particular bits made me feel that way. The woman sitting next to me seemed to be finding it moving enough to be wiping her eyes a good deal at one stage.

All up this is a strong contendor in the series, and perhaps shows how far the the movies have progressed from the original Chris Columbus episodes. This isn't a movie for small children, however much they may enjoy Harry Potter. I wouldn't take them near it unless you want to contend with nightmares for a week.

And the epilogue, with the characters grown up, actually gave them all a chance to look like they really are. For once Ron actually looked reasonably respectable - the hair had been combed back off his face. And the Potter 'son' is very appealing....

PS: Does the poster above make Harry look like something out of some violent action movie - or is it just my reading of it?
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