"Deathly Hallows: Part 2" Test Screening Held Today in Chicago; Leaky's Full Report Here (Updated)DH Film
A working cut of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 film was test screened for an audience of approximately 400 this afternoon in Chicago, Illinois. Leaky was in attendance and will be updating this post with full details, recaps, and information about this early cut of the last Potter film.
This afternoon, I was lucky enough to be among 400 other movie fans to attend a test screening of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" in Chicago, Illinois. Rumors had been circuiting around the internet about this screening, but confirmation that it was Harry Potter didn't come until just before the film started. Since this was a working cut of the film, many effects and scenes were not finished. At least 50% of the special effects were still in the CGI rendering stage, and green screens were visible throughout the film. Also, a number of specific shots were title cards on the screen as placeholders for the full, finished shot or effect.
The film itself focuses on the battle to defeat Voldemort. Three quarters of the film takes place at Hogwarts during the final battle for the school. Hogwarts is torn down around us with the violence brought by the thousands of Death Eaters, army of spiders, giants, and dementors. Even without all of the special effects complete, you can already tell how grand and cinematic the final product will feel. The second half of the "Deathly Hallows" film is an action-packed adventure where good and evil come together for the final showdown. The way Harry moves through the film, discovering what he needs to know in order to ultimately destroy Lord Voldemort is paced perfectly, even if the journey he takes is not what was outlined in the book.
Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint continue their high caliber of performances as Harry, Ron, and Hermione from the first part of the film, but Alan Rickman (Snape) and Maggie Smith (McGonagall) really do steal the show. Snape gets to become a fully emotional character in this film, as evidenced via the phenomenal Prince's Tale memory sequence, slipped into the ranging and bloody battle for Hogwarts. Snape is a heartbroken shell of a man when Lily is killed, and we see every level of those emotions in Rickman's performance. The Prince's Tale scene is one of the best moments in the entire series, and stays with you long after you leave the theater.
The look of the film suits its mood and the kind of action which takes place; the battles are raw and dark, the lighter or tender moments are warm, and the glow of the Epilogue seems radiant after an hour of nearly non-stop battles, death, and destruction.
Following a short montage of Voldemort taking the Elder Wand from Dumbledore's grave, the film opens with Hogwarts Headmaster Snape observing as students are marched, in lock step, across a courtyard in the castle. We are then taken to Shell Cottage where Harry, following the burial of Dobby, speaks with Griphook and Mr. Ollivander. Warwick Davis does extremely well as Griphook and gets to truly flesh out the conniving goblin part of this role. The film moves quickly onto the Gringotts heist scene, where we see excellent work by Helena Bonham Carter who picks up on Emma Watson's nervous sighs and mannerisms as she pretends to be Hermione pretending to be Bellatrix.
After the Gringotts heist, setting off alarms as they apparate into Hogsmeade, the Trio are beckoned inside by Aberforth. Ciaran Hinds gives an excellent performance as Aberforth Dumbledore, and even manages to resemble and emulate Michael Gambon's Albus Dumbledore. Hinds' scene at the Hog's Head is chilling as he delivers a monologue to Harry, trying to convince him of Albus' uncaring actions towards Harry. All the while, the portrait of Ariana sits over Harry's head, observing the scene before being sent off to retrieve Neville and reveal the passageway into Hogwarts.
While Harry searches for the Grey Lady, with some sage advice from a surprisingly forceful Luna, McGonagall and the other teachers secure the school. Smith does a top job here, commanding the Knights of Hogwarts to defend the school... a spell she almost giddily admits to being one "[she] always wanted to do..." A forcefield of protection domes the school, which, we later find out, has the power to disintegrate Death Eaters on contact.
For the last hour of the film we are taken along a series of interconnected journeys and battles that are mixed in with flashbacks and mind connections between Harry and Voldemort. It is truly impressive to see how so many different characters and sequences are tied together. Nothing in the last hour felt either sloppy or pieced together. It flowed so well it was as if you were panning around the castle seeing elements of everything happening at once. There are flashes of Percy Weasley, Trelawney, Sprout, and other familiar faces fighting alongside the Order. The entire last act truly feels as epic and thrilling as you'd want it to be. A particular highlight is when Aberforth casts a mega patronus over the castle and grounds to repel a swarm of Dementors that are about to envelop the castle.
In a change from the book, a number of shots were added to the memory scene showing Snape at Godric's Hollow, discovering the dead bodies of Lily and James. Snape falls to the floor upon seeing Lily's body, and then cradles her in his arms, sobbing, as the year-old Harry Potter looks on from his crib. Rickman's scenes with Michael Gambon (Dumbledore) also hit the mark, showing the backstory of Dumbledore's search for the horcruxes and Snape's love for Lily. Young Snape, Lily, and Petunia have been cast perfectly as well... even young James Potter seems to have been captured the way Snape's character remembers him from the book.
In Snape's death, Rickman gives a chilling performance along with Ralph Fiennes, who goes on a Death Eater killing spree as he learns the last bits of his soul are being systematically destroyed.
As mentioned above, the Prince's Tale memory is the emotional high point for the entire film series. It flows beautifully among the battle going on around Harry, and allows for a quick breath and dose of reality for Harry. Lasting for about six minutes, the sequence was set to the temporary score of "Dumbledore's Farewell" from "Half-Blood Prince" which worked beautifully in this edit, even though it is sure to be changed for theatrical release.
In the category of 'applause and cheers moments' falls Bellatrix's duel with Mrs. Weasley. "Not my daughter, you bitch" is delivered exactly how one would imagine it, and their fight atop a raised platform in the Great Hall is a momentary show stopper. This is juxtaposed with the heartbreaking moments when we realize that Fred, Tonks, and Remus have all been killed.
J. K. Rowling's source material is used nearly verbatim in the forest scenes. The film maintains the illusion that Harry is dead until he leaps from Hagrid's arms in the Hogwarts courtyard.
The final battle between Harry and Voldemort spans the last fifteen minutes of the film, which is intercut with Ron and Hermione's attempts to kill Nagini. They do not deprive Neville of his moment, however, who stands up to Voldemort and gives a rallying cry to keep fighting for Harry even after it is thought Harry is dead. Neville steps in to kill the snake seconds before it is set to pounce on Hermione and Ron.
Harry and Voldemort's final duel is as wide-ranging and epic as the rest of the film's action.
Following the screening I was able to speak with David Heyman who commented that they may tweak some elements for the sake of clarity, such as the succession of the Elder Wand occurred in the story. These alterations, Heyman said, could happen in a flashback or memory sequence.
The working cut of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" showed the talents of the filmmakers and actors involved in the creation of this film, even without every element being 100% complete. I can only imagine how much more amazing the finished cut will be when it premieres in theaters this July.