July 27, 2011


It has been a common theme in some of my recent posts, and I'd like to take the opportunity to talk a little more about it here: the audience experience and watching a film with a switched-on audience. Before watching Part Two of The Deathly Hallows on the Thursday we re-watched Part One at the Embassy on the Wednesday. What a crowd to see it with - the vast majority of them there for the double show (seeing Part Two at midnight) and dressed to the Potter-nines. The majority of costumes looked home-made, with more than a hint of inventiveness. This is the crowd I wished I'd seen the film with; the true die-hard fans whooping it up and having a fun time. Making it all an experience.

The Deathly Hallows Part Two marks the end of a rather unique series in the history of cinema. After 8 films over 10 years, its phenomenal to think that (bar the death of Richard Harris) they have not only managed to keep the core cast but the quality of the films has never tailed off. I think, at this point, it's rather unfair to just write them off as "kid's films" - yes the first few Harry Potter films are aimed at the kidlings, but the series has grown up with it's audience. Not only becoming "darker", but maturing. But if you've never seen a Potter film before, you'll be completely out of your depth here.

After the death of Dobby and Voldemort nicking the Elder Wand from Dumbledore's grave at the end of Part One, Part Two wastes nary a scratch of time in ramping up the quest for the Horcruxes. Harry, Ron and Hermione give up the camping and instead bust into Gringott's bank, free a dragon and make their way back to Hogwarts. The majority of the film (the final two-thirds I guesstimate) takes place in and around Hogwarts as Harry makes himself known, the staff and students rebel against Voldemort, Voldemort attacks and all magical hell breaks loose. And comparing the huge final battle here to the one that takes place in Transformers !!!, director David Yates comes out favourably. He keeps a sense of geography in the action and relates it all back to the characters and where they stand. And despite the huge cast of characters good and bad, Yates (and screenwriter Steve Kloves) allow each and every one of them a moment (at least) to shine, to make an impression. True, sometimes these moments can feel far too fleeting and feeling like a headlong rush towards the end, but within the larger context they all add up (especially the deaths of favoured characters). And the cast take these moments and completely own them: Warwick Davis as Griphook or Julie Walters as Mrs. Weasley or Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall or Alan Rickman's fantastic Severus Snape and more; the cast is an embarrassment of English acting riches. Compare that to Bay's dizzyingly confusing assault on Chicago with the indistinguishable characters running here, there and everywhere for barely discernible reasons.

It's a further wonder that, in the midst of all the ending and emotion and deaths, there are moments of real humour; often dry but never distracting. No-one does understatement quite like the English*. Frankly, in this day and studio age the entire film is a wonder. That the three young leads have grown into their roles and, while not being amazing thesps by any stretch, all give something more to them. Yates has really grown as a director since Order of the Phoenix. For a big summer blockbuster it is quite brave in its themes, most notably that love will win the day. Harry is the (literally) self-sacrificing hero, who doesn't dispatch bad guys with a witty quip or a cold heart. He only wants to protect his loved ones, and they him. It is because Harry loves and is loved that he defeats Voldemort, not because he is the more powerful or resourceful.

The Deathly Hallows Part Two is a fitting send-off for the boy wizard. Not for the uninitiated, this is an epic conclusion to a huge film series that has, literally, spanned a generation. I still remember reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in one sitting, and then watching the film as I was crammed right at the top of the Embassy Theatre (pre-renovation). I still favour The Prisoner of Azkaban of the films - you can't go wrong with Gary Oldman - but look forward to sitting down and revisiting them all again. It isn't often something like this is tied up emotionally, thematically and character-wise with such success as this, so I can but hope for more film series/franchises to wrap up half as well.

* and yes, I recognise the possible irony of that being an overstatement.

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