Monday, July 18, 2011

Harry Potter goes out with a bang

I went to a midnight showing of the final Harry Potter film. It was last-minute decision, but I felt like I was missing out on something important, and it turns out a lot of people felt the same. It's been almost ten years since the release of the first film, I've seen everyone on the opening weekend and picked up the last two books at midnight, so I won't pretend I'm objective.

However, I was disappointed at the pacing of the previous film, and since I'd loved the conclusion to the books, I was concerned as to how it would play out on film. I wasn't thrilled with the way director David Yates directed the action in Order of the Phoenix or Half-Blood Prince, with his style leaning toward the frenetic, confusing style that adds realism to The Bourne Identity but made Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen a jumbled mess.

However, I wasn't disappointed as the film started with action and never let up. Unfortunately, it came at the expense of the characters, and there's no way Part II can stand alone as a piece of story-telling. So this is possibly the best Harry Potter film, but if you aren't serious Harry Potter fan, you're going to be left scratching your head. Heck, even I was confused a few times, and it'd only been six months since I'd seen the previous film. That's one of the reasons that makes this my #3 film of the year. There were some great parts, and few disappointing ones that I'll mention ahead, but they are spoilers, so you've been warned.

The issues with the film generally came in the way it adapted scenes from the book. A couple of scenes, like Mrs. Weasley killing Bellatrix Lestrange and escape from Gringotts on the dragon were more or less unchanged from the book and worked great. Snape's death was mostly unchanged (apart from the location) and also worked very well. But there were other scenes, like Harry meeting Dumbledore in "King's Cross" that didn't play well, coming across as an unnecessary information dump.

Conversely, there were some omission that worked well, and some that didn't. I was glad that the lengthy explanation of Dumbledore's family life and sister were left out, but frustrated that the deaths of major characters like Fred Weasley, Lupin, and Tonks were almost glossed over.

I'd have understood the need to tighten up the story telling, if not for the amount of time the film spent drawing out other sequences for now apparent reason. For the Mrs. Weasley v. Bellatrix duel, Yates cut from a drawn-out sequence between Harry and Voldemort for maybe thirty seconds and covered the women in wide shots without adding any "cool magic stuff" that the filmmakers have generally been unable to resist. It was the best duel in the Harry Potter films and goes up with Gandalf and Saruman for best wizard fights of all time. And it worked because it was simple.

On the other hand, I saw no reason to have Harry and Voldemort chasing all around Hogwarts (the scenery could have been showed during the earlier battle), or for the Neville-kills-Nagini scene to take so long. It was a moment that only appealed to Harry Potter fans, and they already new it was coming. It's an awesome moment, and didn't need to be exaggerated.

Still, overall I loved the film, and I will recommend IMAX if you have the opportunity.

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