When I first began to write this article, I was determined to get my opinion down before it could be tainted – for better or for worse – by the influence of friends and the media alike (especially that Rotten Tomatoes meter). It’s not that I have no backbone about my opinion; it’s just that, given enough time, I could come up with a million reasons and nitpicks to hate every one of the films. At the same time, I could think about all the good things, all the things I loved, the Harry Potter-ness of it all, and be able to do nothing but gush till the DVD comes out. I was determined to do this, especially after what happened the first time I watched Order of the Phoenix. I remember turning to my sister as the credits began to roll and saying it was the best one yet. Two years later now, and PoA is still my favorite. So I’ve decided to take more time this year to evaluate, critique…and gush.
And gush I will. After seeing it for the fifth time, I can say with reasonable certainty that I am able to enumerate far more positives then negatives. So, let’s start with the negatives, to get them out of the way.
1) Musical déjà vu. I’m talking about “Dumbledore’s Army” and “Fireworks” being lifted, wholesale, from the OotP soundtrack. I noticed it upon first viewing, and subsequent viewings confirmed it, but John Noe also echoed my sentiments on Pottercast and, well, it’s pretty obvious given the conspicuous absence of the re-used songs on the new soundtrack. These are not themes beings echoed, they’re the same songs, and I cannot for the life of me understand what they are doing in this movie. This is Harry Potter; there are standards. In this case, especially, it seems the standard was completely achievable, as there are three songs on the soundtrack not even included in the movie. While the “In Noctem” theme is put to good use and woven throughout the entire score, “Wizard Wheezes,” clearly intended for the scene at Fred and George’s shop, was replaced with “Fireworks.” If memory serves, I believe it is even the first song played during the credits of the new film, which is just idiotic, since “In Noctem” is clearly the musical epicenter of the film. It’s a shame, because the score is great, but this just put a bad taste in my mouth.
2) Memories. I know Yates and Kloves said there wasn’t time for any more memories, and, at 2 ½ hours, HBP does have the best pacing in the series so far, but given what an awesome job they did with the other memories, and the fact that they hit the jackpot with Frank Dillane, I wish it was in there. I’m not really complaining for the sake of DH. To be perfectly honest, when I see people complain about characters being cut who only appear in every other book, I think, what’s the point? The reason for introducing them early is so that the audience will remember and care about what happens to them. Well, I don’t think anyone cares any more or less about Kreacher after his cameo in OotP and if Fleur had appeared on that staircase in HBP and announced her engagement to Bill, I’m not sure they’re wedding in DH would be any less random. It’s no secret that the films are horribly confusing for people who haven’t read the books (remember when Luna, Neville, and Ginny got captured by the Inquisitorial Squad and it was never once explained how that came to be???) So I really don’t much care if Harry “figures out” that list of potential Horcruxes on his own (anything but Hermione reading it in a book), but I do think it would have added a nice layer to Movie #7 if they had left those details in Movie #6.
3) Okay, this one’s more of a personal gripe – Alfie Enoch/Dean. I don’t know why I love Alfie so much, we do share the same birthday, but I was a fan before I found that out. Dean is also probably my favorite side character and I thought for sure he’d have more screen time this time, or at least a line, given his role in the seventh book. Alas, I fear Dean may not be at Shell Cottage. He wasn’t there when they shot the exteriors, but neither was Clémence Poésy, and she’s definitely returning, so I guess we shall see.
4) Fenrir Greyback. My complaint? Just not scary enough. There was a studio close-up released early on that looked pretty frightening, but you couldn’t see him well enough in the movie to pickup the detail.
And onto the good.
1) It was a good movie. This book, just in general, adapted well to screen. It’s got romance, random violence, characters with secrets, and the death of a major character. All these elements are interwoven rather nicely in the film, scenes often changing from comical to serious in a heartbeat. More so than any before it, this one felt like a real film, not just a Harry Potter film.
2) The old cast – back and better. All the young actors who’ve grown up doing this series (specifically the trio, Tom Felton, and Bonnie Wright) have actually become actors. I think Rupert Grint was the real stand-out for me. The physical comedy was very sharp. It makes me hope that there will be at least a few like moments in the last two films, but something tells me there won’t be much opportunity for that. I also liked Michael Gambon better than ever before. Honestly, I think he just needed more to do. He played what was on the page, and this time Kloves got it right.
3) The newcomers. Jim Broadbent pulls a Fiona Shaw and manages to be that rare Potter actor who can embody the character and be the absolute physical opposite from the image in the book. The aforementioned Frank Dillane, Hero Fiennes-Tiffin, and Freddie Stroma were all impressive among the young cast and I was really surprised the media didn’t pay them hardly any attention (at least nothing like what happened with Evanna Lynch or Katie Leung).
4) Cinematography. I mean, it’s Bruno Delbonnel. If anything, we were always going to enjoy the cinematography of this film. Yates and Delbonnel actually came up with a totally surreal lighting scheme for the film that the studio thought was too weird, but I really would have loved to see that.
5) The action. Obviously, the Sectumsempra scene, just the way Draco fell like a ragdoll, really brought home the significance of that event. I completely believed Harry’s remorse and conflict over what happened. And whatever effect they used for those wand battles - that quick, harsh burst of light? Keep it.
6) The details. I especially appreciated
7) Spinner’s End. Though not really a favorite of mine in the book, I thought this scene was one of the best in the film. Everything from the see-saw of the music as Bellatrix and Narcissa creep their way towards Snape’s house, to the faint scar left on their wrists from the Unbreakable Vow. Naomi Watts looks a lot more like Narcissa to me, but Helen McCrory has me in her camp now. I can’t wait for that
I just can’t wait for Deathly Hallows. Half-Blood Prince works as a standalone, but you can’t watch it and not get excited for #7. Having watched the fifth and the sixth movies now back to back, I can say that while they have very different tones and looks, the attitude of the filmmakers towards the series is what makes it so seamless. If all goes according to plan and Yates makes the last two even better than this one, he could end up being the best thing that happened to the HP movies because he will have done the one thing the other directors either haven’t done or haven’t had a chance to do, and that is learn from his mistakes. Best thing that ever happened, huh? How’s that for gushing.
By the way, my trip to
Till next time,