Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows [Part II]

Why do people love Harry Potter? Don’t get me wrong, I suppose you could call me a ‘fan’, but you do really have to step back from it all and ask yourself if it’s worth sleeping in Trafalgar Square for three days in the rain to witness the premier of its final installment: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two.

When it was first announced that The seventh book would be split into two films I was naturally suspicious – was this simply a money-making scheme? After all, seven years at Hogwarts, seven books, it made sense, but eight films? Thankfully, when I finally got around to watching Part One on DVD recently, it proved to be what I would consider the best in the entire series. I finally got a sense of the acting capacity of the three leads that we’ve witnessed grow up; It almost makes you feel proud, like somehow we’ve had a hand in the acting skills acquired by them between The Philosopher’s Stone (Or the Sorcerer’s Stone depending what side of the pond you’re on) and this final installment where there’s some truly stellar talent on show. And it’s not just the acting that has improved, each of the four men that has sat in the director’s chair since the film series began in 2001 has left a distinct and recognisable mark on the Harry Potter movie brand. The first two films came courtesy of Chris Columbus whose classic American comedy style could not have differed more to film number three’s director Alfonso Cuaron whose work has always been darker and grittier. Then there was The Order of the Phoenix with Mike Newell and for the final three films we’ve entrusted Harry and his friends to David Yates. Consoling these four very different styles has been both the downfall and the making of the HP series, which moved from a wholesome and young beginning to well formed gripping movies. From the outset the style of the final two films is notably far more mature, so that you could even say that the innocence and simplicity of the characters and the story (the challenges faced progressively become more demanding and dangerous) is reflected in the film style as though it were a part of the characters’ own perception.

 

Those who have not seen the Harry Potter films are inevitably those who have not read the books so never developed the extended relationship that most of today’s youth has with ‘Potterverse’. If you are one of these people and haven’t seen ‘And the Deathly Hallows Part One’ at the very least, you shouldn’t bother with Part Two because other than a brief repetition of the last few seconds of Part One (when You-Know-Who retrieves the Elder Wand from Dumbledore’s tomb by the  lake) the film launches straight into the story. Harry, Ron and Hermione put an end to their furtive camping trip and head back to Hogwarts to find the remaining Hocruxes. Evil Snape and a gang of Death Eaters are running amok at the school to the point that DADA classes involve practicing the now legal Cruciatus  on first years. There’s a hunt for Rowena Ravenclaw’s lost diadem, Fenrir Greyback is spotted mauling students and a familiar-looking Aberforth and Ariana open a tunnel into the Room of Requirement.
Have I lost you? If so, you’re probably not a Potter fan. If all of that made sense then I probably shouldn’t pass judgement on the end of an era, and will instead leave it to you. I will however make a few observations, beginning with my host, the BFI IMAX in Waterloo.

Seating at the IMAX is strictly on a prior-book basis, meaning that for popular films like Harry Potter it is essential to book ahead, and I mean pretty far in advance if you want a decent selection. Then, if you take the seat prices into account you’ll probably have to start saving up pretty far in advance of booking as well, so if you want to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in there next year, I’d suggest you start putting some money away nowish. Okay, that’s a mild exaggeration, but at £16- per head you have certain expectations. The seats are reasonable, but on a long-haul epic like those now commonly screened at the BFI IMAX, I would like a little more ‘fidget space’ to be able to cross or uncross my legs without kicking the person in front of me in the chin (foot bumps between seats) or the back of the head (foot bumps head rest). The screen is the largest in the UK, we were informed by an announcer in a spotlight to the right of the auditorium, and unless you book far enough ahead to be be given the option of coughing up the £18.50 needed for a Premium seat, you really can’t get away from its vastness because the angle at which you need to crane your head to see the actors’ faces puts you into puny proportion.Your ticket price does include flashy-looking 3D glasses that you don’t get to keep, but cinema nibbles are extra at prices comparative to Cineworld or Odeon, so points to IMAX on that count at least. So far as the movie goes, think carefully if you want to experience it in 2D or 3D, and remember that 3D changes the colour quality and doesn’t always add anything to your experience.

As for my thoughts on the film itself…

Remember Bill Weasley? Yes, he’s the other Weasley brother. The one that had one line in Part One and now one line in Part Two. Apparently his only purpose in the films is to be Fleur Delacour’s husband and to let us know that Shell Cottage is by the sea and used to belong to his aunt. We know it’s a house by the sea because we can see the sea through the windows and in all the outdoor scenes. But if you weren’t sure, there are subtle reminders of the cottage’s name and location in every surface, with shells pressed into the walls, piled onto shelves, even on the roof instead of slate…

Speaking of Bill’s lack of lines, maybe they should just have giving Alan Rickman more to say as Professor Snape rather than forcing him to split…. each….. phrase…. in…to just…. a series….. of…. syll…….ables.

Personally, I found the building music with fading in and out montage of the various characters at the start of both last films was all a bit much. We get it. It’s arty. Move on.

Emma Watson’s eyebrows work pretty hard for most of the film, making her look various stages of confused, inquisitive, amused, thoughtful, and surprised with only the slightest of adjustment for each. The most impressive part of this revelation is that thanks to Polyjuice Potion we get to see Helena Bonham-Carter playing Hermione with laughable accuracy.

Since when is disintegration the way to kill Death Eaters? And just how does one go about removing dandruff-like specks of Death Eater from clothes and hair?

The cinematography is phenomenal, there’s no denying that this looks and feels like the Hogwarts that most people imagined, what’s more there are some delightful touches that refer back to previous films, including another visit to the Chamber of Secrets from film number two (exactly as we last saw it!), and flashbacks to the Sorting sequence that began it all. Given that David Yates was not involved in those first two offerings, his nod to the past was seamless and a welcome taste of nostalgia.

If you can watch this film and not think of Bedknobs and Broomsticks (“Traguna, Macoities, Tracorum Satis De”) I will find the Sorting Hat and eat it.

And with that, what else can I say, other than “finite incantatum”.

 

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