WARNING: Contains Spoilers
The experience of watching the Harry Potter movies reminds me of a reoccurring dream I used to have as a child. I would be running up a staircase trying to reach a room full of chocolate, but when I entered the room and unwrapped my first bar, ready to bite, I would wake up. Not quite fulfilling. I would say this much is true for both those who have read the books and those who haven’t. I consider myself to be somewhere in the middle of the two categories – an openly-declared fan with a terrible case of memory loss.
That J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter saga has contributed to the new age of cinema is undeniable and there was no better way to illustrate this than the battle for the last “Horcrux” at Hogwarts School (the objects storing parts of Lord Voldemort’s soul). The rumbling darkness and terror that sweeps this final installment, The Deathly Hallows Part 2, is immense. Viewers can expect falling bridges, consuming wild fire, gigantic animals and plenty of corpses. The CGI effects are slightly over-done, taking away from the grittiness and emotion of the story, but the 3D is sharp and helps in portraying gloom of enormous proportions, particularly demonstrated in the scene in Gringotts Bank which is nothing short of butterfly-inducing. The epic music, composed by Alexandre Desplat, greatly adds to this effect of despair. And so the fight between good and evil unravels in a manner which is visually powerful, reflected in darkness and light, and in the two arenas – the inner and outer grounds of Hogwarts.
Watching Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) growing up in real time has been one of the biggest intriguers surrounding the movies; for me, this was enhanced by the fact that they were practically my age, creating a magical sense of belonging. Though Radcliffe’s performance is typically unconvincing and the “don’t die for me” sentiments in Part 2 wear thin, the strength of the central trio continues on the foundations of Part 1. Funnily enough, looking back at Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets which aired on ITV yesterday gave me a different perspective, in which the child actors seemed utterly believable and exceptionally cute, something I could not quite see before. For actors who were required to stay in the same job for over 10 years, their performances have certainly been an achievement.
The elements that made the film franchise enjoyable for many of us British viewers (I say loosely) were the unexpected one-liners, the awkwardness of speech and the heartwarming words of wisdom from elders and eccentric Hogwarts staff. However, this is what the last film severely lacks with very little dialogue at all.
What’s more, in sync with the book, The Deathly Hallows presents Potter’s world frenzied with darkness – hollow of the exciting enchantment and childhood sweetness of previous films. But where the novel replaces this with intense emotion and the sense of purpose, the film does not.
For me, it is Alan Rickman as Severus Snape who is the most moving in this film. His tears before he dies, though shed for the purposes of the Pensieve, are thoroughly painful; even more so when Harry delves into the Pensieve to view Snape’s memories and discovers the truth about Snape’s loyalties. Director David Yates creates the most poignant scenes in these memories: moments of innocent, warm and playful childhood, as well as moments of bitter, heartbreaking and brutal adulthood. This insight into Snape’s psyche was absolutely essential to the depth of the story.
Returning cast members, particularly Helena Bonham Carter and Maggie Smith, appear briefly but put on compelling performances. Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) plays the valiant hero while Harry is away and Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch) is the pivotal, airy-fairy problem solver in the final mystery. So the emerging romance between the two is pleasing.
The final showdown between Harry and Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) is sporadic, but especially well presented in the exchange between the poor, battered, young students of Hogwarts and the sturdy, uniform, dark-clothed, older followers of Voldemort. On the other hand, the ‘19 years later’ epilogue was a little disappointing and hugely cringeworthy. Hermione and Ginny, for all their wonderfully adult hairstyles, may as well have been the role models of teenage pregnancy, looking only a few years older than their own children and Harry and Ron looked almost the same too. But for all the cosmetic hiccups, the ending in Kings Cross station gave a closure which was reflective of the happier moments of the first films.
The children (and adults) of the first decade of the 21st century could not have anticipated that they’d be in for such a treat when J.K. Rowling began writing her novel on napkins in Nicolson’s Café, Edinburgh. Warner Brothers did well to purchase rights in 1998, just three years after the publication of the first installment, and they probably had an inkling as to the enormity and success of the project that they were in for. But despite the entertainment that the films have given us, I think it will be the books which we, and future generations, will continue to return to – for what feels like hundreds of years to come. (Oh and maybe, just maybe, the Orlando theme park).
And hence, we say goodbye. Here’s to one extra large lump of nostalgic sugar to our hearts. For this reason alone, I probably will go and see Part 2 again (“hurray!” the box office cried) and eventually purchase the box set of the films.
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