Please note the following review is SPOILER HEAVY.
You've read the reviews by now. It's getting very, very good reviews. And that's great. Those reviews have been written, mostly, by people who weren't into the books, who see movies for a living and judge them on their merit as an art form. So it's encouraging then that they've so enjoyed Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 as a film experience.
But if you are a Harry fan, a diehard Hogwarts disciple, chances are you're going for more than just a couple of hours of popcorn and entertainment. As corny as this sounds, you're going to see The End, even though you already know The End, and you're ready to see how The End is imagined in cinema.
You will not be disappointed. They have done it justice.
But first - this is not a perfect film. The editing, it's choppy. There's simply too much to tell, too much action to fit in, the source material is so dense, it seems almost impossible to make it seamless. And still, even though there were some rough cuts, as a colleague of mine said last night after the Canadian premiere, editing is a problem only if it detracts from the story. This did not detract from the story.
Just to get all the bad sh-t out of the way though – and there’s really only one major complaint: you know the epilogue, when they age them? Not so good, the makeup. Like, I honestly wish they could have found a better way.
Many of you have written to ask me if you HAVE to see HP7B in 3D. I saw it a few weeks ago in 3D. And I loved every minute. But I'm not sure I wouldn't have loved every minute had I NOT seen it in 3D. So I guess the answer is - I don't think it matters. Harry to me, as a series and a franchise, has always been about the characters and their experiences. These are the cornerstones that bring everything else to life. It is an awesome sight to see the dragon escape from Gringotts. It is certainly a technological accomplishment to have put that scene together. But I'm telling you, the power of that moment is not whether you can see every ripple of muscle in its body as its wings struggle and falter and then lift triumphantly for freedom. What you will remember is the emotion of that accomplishment: an animal tortured in captivity finally soaring to open skies - THIS is how storytelling and imagery can work together, not just for the sake of something visually spectacular but rather in service of the spirit of what that particular scene was truly about; Harry, Hermione, and Ron found safety but only by securing it for another victim. In the end then, not only do you have an incredible picture, you also manage to offer something heartfelt. And isn't that so smart? Isn't that why we love JK Rowling? She, and everyone tasked with the challenge of bringing to life her work, together they’ve imbued each beat with substance along with the spectacular. This is why I cried. Not only at the parts you expect - losing our favourite characters, saying goodbye to our friends - but also at the moments filled with such humanity, like a dragon fighting his way at last out of hell, that it's an insult to call this a simple child's tale.
It is not a simple child's tale when the theme is love in so many forms, the least of which is the romantic kind. Friendship, of course. But also the relationship between a magical school and the magical professors and students who will defend it, at whatever the cost. When Minerva McGonagall rises up with her colleagues and her pupils to protect the institution that stands for everything they have ever believed in, that is more than just a spell (although it is a kickass motherf-cker of a spell), that is a declaration that the things that cannot be defeated derive their power not through might but through loyalty, from those who would die in the honouring of it, and by those who have never doubted it. And if you aren't pumping your fist at the sight of that resolute crusty old bitch summoning her soldiers with a wavering voice but fierce eyes, well, I'm not sure you understand what any of it is all about. They love their school. They love Hogwarts. Weep!
Everyone is describing this one as the darkest of all the films, with the most action, and the highest body count. And so, naturally, not only does the acting, the cinematography, all of it reflect that tone, but also the score. I hope the score gets the credit it deserves. I walked out of that theatre with Laura after the advance screening over two weeks ago chilled by the score and still, now, I remember how it made me feel, complemented and choreographed perfectly with the images playing in front of it.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that this movie is about as complete as it gets in terms of coordination. Everything fits together from the sights to the sounds to the story, even a story that, yes, has been tweaked for film. But some things, they just read better on a paper than they do in a movie. Most of the time it’s a disadvantage for the movie. Sometimes though, with the right blessings (Rowling gave hers), making a few adjustments results in a new perspective that is equally as wonderful as the original. Like the way they handled Neville’s Moment.
I’m not going to spoil it for you. I just want you to compare how you pictured it, and how they ended up delivering it. The diehard purist may steadfastly oppose the modification but theatrically, come on, it’s a slam dunk, as heartpoundingly thrilling as you want it to be.
As for Hermione and Ron...
That too. You know, Jo had to write mostly from Harry’s point of view. Editorially then, there were some choices she had to make. Like when Hermione and Ron go off and take out one of the horcruxes all by themselves, as the reader, we didn’t get to “see” that live. This perhaps is one of the few benefits of film. Right? In film, we can go where Hermione and Ron went. It’s not just transferred to us through a conversation with Harry. They get to play that. We get to SEE it. This then means that the imagining is (almost) entirely original. Please. Savour it. That scene is so much gold.
And finally, because I think maybe I’ve said too much already, on Snape and his secret, and how this is told – they planned it beautifully, from the very first shot of Snape, in the film, they carried it brilliantly. I almost collapsed in the theatre during his flashback, particularly when he suffers the greatest loss of his life. It will F-ck.You.Up. In the hands of an actor like Alan Rickman? Did we ever have a chance? And juxtaposed with old footage from the previous films, when they were all so little, their little faces, at 10 and 11, all eager and hopeful and optimistic and unsure... only to end up so valiant and courageous and true, having each other’s backs, always, and properly adults? How did that happen? Why am I crying again about this? I can’t wait to see it again. I can’t wait to hear from YOU when you see it. Tell me what you think. Don’t hold back!
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Please note the following review is SPOILER HEAVY.