Friday, July 15, 2011

The End of the Harry Potter Saga

So, I've now seen all the Harry Potter movies. I probably should have written up my thoughts on part one of the seventh movie before part two overshadowed them, but I finished rewatching it late last night, and then there was a Haven marathon on this morning, with the earlier episodes that I didn't record, and then it was time to go to the theater.

For part one, I think this film was a victim of (and highlighted) the somewhat odd pacing of all the books. Because they're tied to the school year, they all seem to follow the pattern of a few adventures early in the term, something big at Christmas, a few more adventures and mishaps and then the big showdown just before the end of the school year. Since the kids weren't in school this year, this book shouldn't have been tied to the school calendar. The big showdown could have come at any time, and yet, it still followed the same pattern, with some muddling around, something big at Christmas, more muddling around, something big around Easter and then finally the big showdown near the end of the school year. I'd actually enjoyed all the months of camping in the book because it was a chance to just see these characters interacting, but in a way it amounted to what I call "doing laundry" scenes that are rewarding if you love the characters but which are fatal to pacing. It was like the characters had to stay in a holding pattern because nothing could happen until Christmas. Cutting this movie off near the book's midpoint only highlighted this issue, since Harry only achieves the first two parts of his goal (find the locket and destroy it) during this film. Otherwise, it's mostly a lot of wandering, with the characters not knowing what they should do next or how to find out what to do next.

One thing I think the movie improved upon is not dwelling on the lack of food the way the book did. I'm sorry, but a girl like Hermione who is so hyper-prepared that she has her escape bag already packed with all the books she thinks she'll need, clothes for everyone, and a tent, would totally have also filled that bag with non-perishable foods. Perhaps not enough to sustain three teenagers for months, but she'd have had something handy. The movie doesn't address the food issue at all, so it allows us to assume she was prepared. One thing the movie does almost too well, to the point it keeps the sequence from having the right emotional impact, is doing way too good a makeup job on Ron when he's been injured and is still weak and ill. I hadn't thought it possible to make a British redhead look even paler, but they gave him a sickly pallor with those dark hollows under his eyes, so he looked like death warmed over. If the guy I liked looked like that -- heck, even if a friend looked like that -- I'd have been fussing over him like crazy. He wouldn't have had the chance to get insecure about his importance in my life. But the way the other two were acting in the movie, practically ignoring him while he looked like walking death, he wouldn't have had to have a bad case of raging insecurity and magically induced paranoia to suspect that they'd prefer that he wasn't there at all. It makes Ron's leaving a lot more sympathetic, but it makes the other two look like jerks, and I think we'd have had a different impression if they hadn't made him look quite so ill.

Otherwise, seeing part two made it very clear that this movie was just set-up. Which brings me to part two. At this point, I'd have to say this is the best film in the entire series, but it has the unfair advantage of being able to offload the entire set-up and deal only with the book's climax, the part where Our Heroes are finally taking action instead of waiting for things to happen. Instead of having to follow an entire school year, this movie covers only a few days, at most, and that automatically tightens the pacing. There were a few things where I wished they'd done them like the book, but that would have been impossible because they involved subplots or elements that had been left out of the movies. A few of the Moments of Awesome were made even more awesome, and giving the book's climax an entire movie allowed them to let those parts really develop. Maggie Smith is even more awesome than ever, and Alan Rickman totally made me cry (an achievement because I've always mostly felt that Snape needed to grow the hell up and get over it). Actually, there were several moments that brought me to tears, and there were sniffs echoing loudly through the theater.

I'd mentioned in my revisiting of the first film that they were lucky that the kids they cast then mostly grew up to be the way they were supposed to be, but there is one exception. Neville in the first film was exactly the way he was described in the book, the short, pudgy, nerdy kid. Who'd have guessed that he'd be the one who grew up to be the tallest and the hottest of them all (yeah, they still give him bad teeth and make his ears stick out, but it's so very obvious they're working overtime to mask serious hotness)? On the one hand, that takes away some from his Moment of Awesome in this film, as I think it was supposed to be even more symbolic that the short, pudgy, nerdy kid did what he did, but on the other hand, it made the Moment of Awesome (one of the ones that got extended excellently in the film) look even more awesome on film.

I'm not sure that the epilogue worked. On a couple of the characters, the aging worked. On the others, they looked like teenagers dressed up in their parents' clothes. I think they might have done better recasting with age-appropriate actors, but then would you want to end the entire series of films on anyone other than the ones we've been following all along? I'm not one of those people who hated the epilogue in the book, but I'm not sure about it in the movie. I think I'd have been okay with leaving it out and ending where we leave off with the kids in the aftermath. At the very end, for the beginning of the closing credits, we get a nice bit of nostalgia with them using part of the John Williams score from the first movie. That was a very nice touch.

And now that the movie's out of the way, I'm ready to move on to the rest of the day's big events. We've got the series finale of Friday Night Lights, and I'll have the tissue box ready, since a normal episode of that show makes me cry. I will say that although I've loved the series, I'm glad it's ending. It was bad enough moving on from the first set of characters, but we were about to lose even more of the kids. Plus, they'd developed a lot of continuity issues, and the longer the series went on, the more troublesome they would have become. This is the right time to end it.

Then there's the season premiere of Haven, which was probably my favorite new show last year and one of the best season finales, one that has teased my brain for ages. I can't wait to see what happens next and the aftermath of everything that happened in the finale.

Now I must go marinate my fajitas because tonight's television is worthy of a celebration.

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