Yesterday I watched the latest Harry Potter movie in a traditional movie theater…not IMAX or 3D or smell-o-vision. Before I tell you what I think of it, I want to mention a few things first.
Is Harry Potter just a franchise? Well, yes and no.
The die-hard Harry Potter fans and muggles will defend the final novel being split into two films. I believe they’ll all agree that they couldn’t have imagined better actors to play the roles of Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson), and Ron (Rupert Grint). Even I associate the novels with the actors now, which is really hard to accomplish in most franchise films. There are also important reasons–besides financial–for breaking up the film for fans. It allows for the viewer to explore the pace of the novel, allows enough time to fit in all of the key scenes of the story (without seeming rushed) and it gives true Potter fans lead time to mourn the passing of a phenomenon. That’s the crux of it for many. Potter fans are noble and true, grasping at the good of things. They want the good guy to win in the end. They want to believe in goodwill, kindness, justice, peace, values, honesty, truth, and yeah The American Way (even if Potter is British).
On the opposite point-of-view, splitting the films into two parts is obviously lucrative. Selling IMAX and 3D versions of the film is just icing on the cake. The Warner Bros. label no doubt is relying on those record-breaking sales to pay for the special effects, merchandising, elaborate sets, and salaries not to mention all of the creative folks that helped make Harry Potter what it has become. It’s bottom-line, no doubt about it.
I was a late-bloomer when it came to Harry Potter. I only read the final book in the series after being coerced into it by my sister who is a trivia-obsessed-freakishly-knowledgable-muggle-lover. She also reminded me that everything she’s ever been tuned into has always been liked by me, albeit after the fact: Room With A View, A Series of Unfortunate Events, and Buffy The Vampire Slayer to name a few. Okay. So she has an uncanny ability to gravitate toward things that develop cult status. So sue me!
When I read the final book, however, I could easily understand why my sister loved the series. These, like the BTVS fans was a make-shift, ready-made family of distinctive characters. When Professor Snape is speaking, the reader knows Professor Snape is speaking. But most importantly to me, the magic of the series didn’t lie in the extensive nuances and clever hidden treasures that the author, J.K. Rowling placed throughout her novels (which my sister detailed ad nauseum). The magic lay in the series’ underlying messages: Love Conquers All. Good Defeats Evil. The most unlikely person (house elf or otherwise) can be the most useful and brave. Kindness lurks everywhere where the reader least expects it. Heroes are born and developed. Parents don’t know everything. A lot of what we learn is nurtured by those we love. We all have gifts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely…I could go on and on, because the lessons that J.K. Rowling writes about are all relatable. Each backstory is a tiny morality play. But I also liked how she sacrifices many of the key characters that we’ve come to love in order to hammer out the point that fighting to preserve that which makes life worth living is not without it’s consequences.
What does make life worth living? For Harry, it isn’t just the kind people that he’s met that have shaped his life. It is also the most horrid, the most cruel, and the most prejudicial. It is a lesson that all who read the Potter series can–and do–carry into their everyday lives, long after they’ve put their books down.
So did I like the movie? Of course. I loved it. I loved watching the three young–and now seasoned–actors onscreen. I loved that all of the main scenes represented as well as the maintaining an agitated pace that is meant to make the viewer feel as isolated and confused as the characters feel in the final book. I loved that the franchise has maintained a PG13 rating throughout. I loved that this film allows the loyal fans who wished to see Hermione and Harry together, get their wish fulfilled while remaining true to the story. But most of all, I loved Daniel Radcliffe (surprise, surprise) who has matured into his craft…goodbye hand claw (thank you!) and over-acting. And his companion stars, Emma & Rupert have eased into a new realm. Although supporting Daniel, both gave him a run for his money. Emma as Hermione is graceful and smoothe in her movements, her eyes largely expressing Hermione’s sensitivities while similtaneously developing her blossoming feelings for Ron. And Rupert almost stole Daniel’s scene touching on the delicate subject of jealousy and rivalry as he challenges Harry directly.
I had read a few negative reviews before seeing the film. All complain about the pace of the film, the “boring” parts. Well, that’s the beauty of it all. The audience is joining Harry in his journey toward self-discovery and awareness as his quest grows more and more trepidatious. Is it simple? No. Is it easy? Definitely not. But we’ve been engaged and mystified even as the clouds hovered and mystery rounded every turn. Now, alone in the world and unable to seek any further guidance from a now dead Dumbledore, he is alone. But it also sets the stage for revenge…which will be that much sweeter.
The last slice of cheesecake.
Can’t wait for the last installment. A movie that I hope will go in the history books as a franchise akin to Star Wars, Star Trek, and Lord of the Rings.
I love happy endings. Don’t you?