Directed by David Yates (2011) Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson
Getting ready for the final Harry Potter movie involved a lot more preparation than any other screening. I re-read the seventh book the week before. By Wednesday it seemed as though everyone was talking about Harry Potter. That night was nostalgia overload– running around my house trying to put together a Luna costume for a friend’s party, hunting around in my attic for my old Hedwig stuffed owl, the first thing I remember saving up to buy. Briefly, I remembered how different it was to watch the first movie, four weeks after it had been released. I also remembered that I bought a Wizard Rock album by the Remus Lupins and listened to it in the car all day long.
I’d never been to a midnight screening before, but from hearsay I was prepared for the lines. My friend Shannon and I got our round 3D glasses and stood amidst fellow Hogwarts students, Deatheaters, house elves, and already-tired parents. Sometimes these groups meshed, like the father wearing a handmade Quidditch t-shirt and the slutty high schoolers wandering around with Slytherin green skirts and Bellatrix-styled bustiers. We sat in the very back, surprisingly stuck between two groups of bros who seemed to have gone along for the hype.
And then, for the actual film. I tried to describe the experience as much as possible, since I realized this week that part of what made Harry Potter so important was outside of the books and the movies. All of the cultural zeitgeist effects were evident in how I prepped for the theater, how my friends talked about the movies. We were the generation who had grown up with Harry Potter, more than any other. I remember reluctantly picking up the first book when I was ten and quickly becoming addicted. My interest fell off after the seventh book came out– well, even before that really. The last movie I saw in theaters was the fifth. I didn’t even bother to watch the sixth except as an after thought and 7.1 just never happened. But since this was my childhood, it seemed like I should do it justice and watch it at midnight with my fellow generation-HP friends.
So where was I going with this? Oh yeah, the film itself. I’m gonna go ahead and say that the 3D experience was unimpressive. The movie picks up at Shell Cottage, when Harry makes the important decision to go after the Horcruxes instead of beating Voldemort to the Elder Wand. It all leads up to the Battle for Hogwarts, where things inevitably come to the end.
This interpretation was fairly strong, although it seemed iffy to break up the movies around Dobby’s death. The first third or so about breaking into Gringotts was about as weirdly paced as it was in the books when you take into account that in the same day comes the big battle scene. The film picks up when the Golden Trio are able to interact with some other characters, especially when Neville (Matthew Lewis) walks out of the tunnel in the Hog’s Head. From then on out it became all of the scenes that had to happen, if adjusted slightly for the cinema.
The best parts were the crowd favorites, of course. Harry using the Resurrection Stone, Molly shouting “Not my daughter you bitch!” and Neville killing Nagini. Of course, there were weaker elements that seemed to string these great scenes together. I will never understand the choice of having McGonagall say “I always wanted to do that spell,” when they’re in the middle of prepping for battle or Voldemort telling the Hogwarts students to come forward and join him. The scene in the book had a little more impact, since it was Voldemort just taking power, going so far as to destroy the Sorting Hat and outlining his plan for a pure blood Hogwarts.
These are just nitpicks I’ve found in retrospect. I shouldn’t have read the book again so soon before the movie came out, but it’s also the difference between mediums. I liked the dreamy quality to Snape’s memories and how wonderfully Alan Rickman acted, but not the fact that they skipped over why Lily stopped associating with Severus.
But well, it’s the end of things. Shannon kept repeating as we left the theater “Our childhood is over.” That’s the case, although I wouldn’t think that it was so clear-cut. With the release of Deathly Hallows Part 2, it is the end of the era of midnight releases and press hype, but as JK Rowling said: ” Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.”