Monday, July 18, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II

I am very glad I went to this film early enough that I was not influenced erroneously by everybody else's opinions about the movie. It is important to realise that, where Harry Potter is concerned, every individual is going to have his or her own experience with the whole experience. This experience will be based on whether or not someone has read the books, whether he or she enjoyed or disliked the books, how old that person was when this whole thing took off, whether he/she has seen and enjoyed the previous movies, and one's circle of friends and their opinions and tastes also lean heavily on one's appreciation for this final installment in the Harry Potter saga. Therefore, please take whatever I say cum grano salis, with a grain of salt. It is based on what I saw with my eyes, mind, and heart. I will start by saying that I have read all the books, although I sped through five, six, and seven so quickly that I cannot really distinguish them. I also do not remember the details of the massive seventh book as much as some people, so please forgive me if I get some things wrong. My critique will be based on this film alone and will not venture to examine in any way the story itself.

As a film, Hary Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2 had many strong points. As usual, the special effects were spectacular. The cinematography was breathtaking. And for the most part, the sets and costumes were very attractive.

However, I would be willing to sacrifice some of the screen time devoted to showing off the technical side of the movies in exchange for longer, deeper scenes involving the development of the character-audience depth connection. I think many audiences are strongly bound to these characters because many of us have grown up with them in the books and the movies, but I do not think that the movie-makers should take advantage of this and not spend the time to make those loyalties reconnect on the screen. It is too easy to let the audience react emotionally based on their understanding of events separate from what is literally occurring on the screen. It makes the film as a whole weaker and thus more susceptible to deterioration over time.

My biggest concern going into the theatre was that Maggie Smith/Professor McGonagall would not have the necessary screen time to be amazingly spectacularly awesome. I cannot tell you how grateful I was that she was able to shine momentarily. However, I am not quite sure why so many of her reaction shots looked so sad, worried, concerned, surprised. In the books, McGonagall is a tower of strength, a strong leader. Because Maggie Smith has played such powerful characters before, and since she herself is a very strong woman, I am left rather perplexed. I would much rather accuse the director of feeding her bad direction than blame the Dame for bad acting - Goodness forbid!!!

I was thrilled beyond measure to see all my favorite actors back again in their original roles. A big fan of the great Gemma Jones, I nearly cried aloud when I saw the reprisal of her Madame Pomfry - even though she had no lines.

One of the strongest parts of the film is the section devoted to the story of Severus Snape. Who among us is not an avid Alan Rickman fan? He speaks and my knees go weak, I will admit! Many who have read the books were concerned that his story would not be properly explained to the film audiences, yet I do think the film-makers did a wonderful job unfolding that history. It was beautifully filmed and yet the special effects did not detract from the meaning of the telling.

That is one of my biggest criticisms of this movie. Much of the film appeared to me a running publicity collage - the film seemed an advertisement for itself in many cases. There were many screen shots in which the characters are blocked, staged, arranged in such a way as you might see them on a Harry Potter poster in Wal Mart. Although the staging of the battles/duels, et al. was visually stunning, it was seldom realistic. For example, in the attack on Hogwarts, there would be hordes storming the castle, then a few scenes later it was just Harry and You-Know-Who. Then in the next scene it would be just a handful of Hogwarts people. Where did the hordes go? What were they doing? It's awful quiet in this room full of wounded people...? There's also a part where Harry collects two of Snape's tears in a vial and when he pours them out, they have somehow multiplied into quite a stream.

These little glitches are what threaten to make this movie something of a joke in years to come. And although the special effects seem awesome now, we are already sniggering at the out-dated effects used in the earliest films. Special effects are the first part of a film to show age. Acting, scenery, plot, story development, emotional reaction, music - these age last and, if done very well, can make a movie timeless. It therefore seems that the producers/directors maybe got their priorities a bit mixed up; maybe their priorities for this movie differ from my own - it's possible.

It is very important for everybody to see this film because it is such a part of what is going on right now. I look forward to the tomes of New Historical research and scholarship which will doubtless come into being in the wake of this profound Harry Potter happening. Whatever is said about these films in the future, when a little bit of hindsight may be applied, none can dispute the fact that these films, that this story has struck a very powerful cord that will resonate in our individual experience for years to come. So please, do go see the movie on the big screen, because even if you're not a Potter fan, you are a member of your times and you cannot afford to let this occasion pass.

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