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"Deathly Hallows: Part 2" Test Screening Held Today in Chicago; Leaky's Full Report Here (Updated)

DH Film
Posted by: Edward
April 02, 2011, 07:48 PM

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.  

Please note at the request of WB, we have taken out most of the big spoilers. There are still some small spoilers here but it is mostly what you know from the book, and our own opinion of what we saw on screen.

Update 2: Leaky's full text report on the working cut of the film is now available to read.  Enjoy!
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.

Update: A special episode of PotterCast is now available on iTunes and via this link talking, in detail, about this early cut of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 film.

Here is a preliminary bullet-point list of the main points from the screening [Please note that WB has requested that we remove the major spoilers from this article, so our point-by-point summation has been removed. Please see our slightly spoilery review above.]

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Wow, so much of this sounds WONDERFUL but the bit that’s bad sounds absolutely appalling. Starting with the good, I am so glad that it sounds like they absolutely nailed the Prince’s Tale and the Forest Again. Awesome news! And getting to see lots of Alan Rickman and Maggie Smith is always a treat. Hooray! And the Epilogue sounds like it goes right by the book and will bring me to tears, though I hope they add Draco back in.

But overall, I pretty much had the same reaction as Melissa in the Pottercast. Well, actually, most of the changes didn’t upset me too much (e.g. Hermione having the idea to ride the dragon, or showing Fred be disarmed rather his full death or even Harry saying goodbye to Ron and Hermione, although that one I’m having a harder time with despite understanding that it might be hard to convey why he was determined to leave with no good-byes as they did in the book). But from what I’ve heard, what they’ve done to Harry and LV’s final showdown is just unforgivable. I don’t know why I’m so surprised they decided to “hollywoodize” it, but I really thought they cared more about the characters and the story than that after seeing Part 1 (which was near perfect, IMO). Thank you @hinkypunkmum for letting us know about the conversation (or at least the information we get in that convo) might be relayed in other ways; maybe it works, because I haven’t heard many complaints from those who actually saw it. The description just sounds ridiculous, but maybe it’s something you have to actually see. If they wanted to make that final confrontation more action-packed than the book, that’s fine, but I just wish it had been IN ADDITION TO the conversation in front of everyone rather than instead of. It just breaks my heart and it really has dampened my excitement to the point that I just don’t know if I’ll see it over and over again like I did with part 1…. :-( I hope Yates and co. got so me feedback to that effect at the test screening and that they are reading comments like these, though I’m not sure much can be done about it at this point, but we’ll see how it turns out.

Posted by GinaC on April 04, 2011, 03:28 PM report to moderator
104 Points

The conversation between Voldemort and Harry during the final duel is one of the worst parts of the book! Thank god they cut it.
Rowling needed what, ten pages, to explain the whole ridiculous wand plot, that no-one understood to begin with.

If they had filmed that, it would have felt like Hamlet doing his ‘To be or not to be’ while we were all waiting for some Avada Kedavra. Or, well, expelliamus.

Posted by Joost on April 04, 2011, 03:43 PM report to moderator

@Joost I’m talking about telling Voldemort to “be a man” and try for some remorse, telling him that he wouldn’t be hurting anyone else because his sacrifice had protected everyone, calling Voldemort “Riddle” in front of a crowd…that type of thing. I loved the imagery of them circling each other like wolves. I think the wand thing will be conveyed through the Prince’s Tale and through the Harry-Ron-Hermione talk at the end. But still, I just thought it would be so cool to see LV’s reaction as Harry reveals all these things to him. I honestly don’t think it’s above too many peoples’ heads or boring, but maybe they’re expecting a more immature audience.

Posted by GinaC on April 04, 2011, 03:58 PM report to moderator
104 Points

Ah, okay, point taken, Gina.
Well some of it may still be in. But the circling while talking, in front of an audience, would still feel too corny I think, on film, and like another exposition scene. It would be like the typical villain speech in old James Bond movies – except this time the hero is making it.

But we’ll have to wait some more. to see how it all works out.. ;(

In my mind, for instance, Harry jumping with Voldemort out of the castle, would also serve the purpose to get V out of the way of the other people, so he can no longer kill them.

Posted by Joost on April 04, 2011, 04:13 PM report to moderator

I am glad WB asked for the bullet point summary to be taken down IF ONLY because they saw it !!!!- And- one assumes- the torrent of angry comments from the core fan base that were posted thereafter. It is still not too late to change some of the mess they have made.

Posted by Beazle on April 04, 2011, 04:26 PM report to moderator

I agree with Joost. I love the books, but was always so disappointed with the final show-down. It was like – that’s it? After all that – Harry disarms him? I really wanted to read about Harry having a real down and out fight with Voldemort – I’m happy that I’ll get to see it at least.

Posted by sueml on April 04, 2011, 08:24 PM report to moderator
47 Points

Please tell me the thing about Voldemort and Harry jumping off a cliff is a belated April Fool’s Day joke…

Posted by VampiresSuck on April 04, 2011, 08:40 PM report to moderator
89 Points

I want to see an emotional Snape. To see him cradling Lily’s body, sobbing… with little Harry looking on from his cot… He’s a great actor! Can’t wait…

Posted by cherriekin on April 04, 2011, 09:35 PM report to moderator
149 Points

RE: Harry and LV jumping off a cliff.

Somehow, falling over a tower rampart has been translated to falling off a cliff.

Posted by Hinkypunkmum on April 04, 2011, 09:40 PM report to moderator
27 Points

Looking forward to the film, and looking forward to see if the make the scene where Snape dies worthy of Snape.
I also hope there isn’t too much Ginny, since I really don’t like Bonnie Wright.
Like TrioFan I want to know if we get the scene where McGonagall screams “NO!” when the school sees Harry’s “lifeless” body.

Posted by joshuadk on April 05, 2011, 06:52 AM report to moderator
580 Points

I thought to myself, I am not going to read this, then I thought I would read just a little….but once I started reading I couldn’t stop! Can’t wait for the movie!

Posted by Rosie016 on April 05, 2011, 09:22 AM report to moderator
71 Points

Just because there is some details missing and it’s not completely 100% scene for scene doesn’t mean there aren’t things that are going to be in the movie, such as Wormtail’s death. Did it say that they weren’t showing Fred die? As bad as this sounds, I want to see it although I’ll be bawling my eyes out. I’m glad they’ve included Lupin in the Forest scene, that will be incredibly touching and sad. It’s going to be such an epic movie. Maybe Yates really does know what he’s doing.

Posted by hermioneweasley17 on April 05, 2011, 02:11 PM report to moderator
75 Points

I am both amused and saddened by some posters fussing at other posters for expressing their views. Sure we all disagree, but some people have said that people shouldn’t think that way, shouldn’t care about certain elements of the films (and then go on to say what they should care about instead?!). The idea of this community is to discuss. Whether it’s to celebrate, commiserate, or debate. It’s all fine, but please, let’s not tell others that they shouldn’t care about the things that they do.

I’m sad I didn’t get the full spoiler treatment. That’s what I get for not checking the site in the last few days, but I have gathered a great deal from the comments of those who read the full details. Some looks fabulous, some questionable. I too want Harry to tell Voldemort that he doesn’t understand some important elements about magic and to try for some remorse (Harry as a Messianic figure should attempt some redemption, right?). I posted earlier today on another article that my biggest gripe with the movies (even though they do an overall fabulous job) is when they sacrifice character moments/ growth for special effects or a laugh. Sounds like that’s some of what they’ve done at the end, but I AM looking forward to enjoying the ride.

Posted by Chreechree on April 06, 2011, 12:42 PM report to moderator
48 Points

I swear I’m getting emotional over this, I truly can’t wait to see the last half of the most perfect story to ever exist!

Posted by victoriarog on April 07, 2011, 05:25 PM report to moderator

Delicious report! Thank you, Leaky!

Posted by Jillxoxo on April 09, 2011, 04:09 PM report to moderator
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