Saturday, July 16, 2011

I am at the Leakycon Harry Potter convention, sitting in a crowded theatre filled with conventioneers. This convention has coincided with the opening of the “Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows -Part 2.” The movie has just ended, and it’s the second time i’ve seen it in the last five days. I saw it for the first time at the London premiere, where as the credits rolled, my friend, a well known member of Harry Potter fandom, burst into copious tears and continued thusly for a full twenty minutes.

As the credits roll this second time, not only are the people next to me crying, I am surrounded by hundreds of weeping fans. This begs the question, would the fans really notice if the movie was any good? The answer is a resounding ‘yes.’ In HP 7.2, Harry Potter fans needed a powerful, compelling, and visually beautiful resolution to the story, and the team of filmmakers and talented cast deliver a movie that exceeds the audiences’ highest expectations. No easy feat, given the attendees of this convention represent some of the biggest fans of the book series. Some of them have flown from across the world to be here. I will say as a reviewer, I found the film visually captivating, emotionally compelling, and a fitting end to what will no doubt become one of the classic film series of this generation.

What little I can say about the plot without revealing spoilers is it’s mostly based around the final battle between Harry, with the good witches and wizards, and the evil forces of Lord Voldemort. Through the film, there are sacrifices and fearless choices made, and fierce battles fought. The action and emotional interactions require the actors to be at the top of their game.

From the beginning scenes, they rise to the acting challenges the dark subject matter and plot lines pose. Daniel Radcliffe shows he has grown as much as an actor as Harry has as the leader of dissident wizards. As Snape, Alan Rickman finally is able to take full advantage of his considerable talents as an actor. Many questions about Snapes’ role in the scheme of things are answered, and the writing, filming, and acting are done without compromising the original plot in any way. There were many obsessive Snape fans in the audience (in the Harry Potter fandom, Snape is a big favorite: there are at least twenty Snapes in costume here tonight), and they were clearly satisfied. There are scenes that required a gentle touch, or needed to be handled very carefully. Once again, to avoid spoilers for the three people reading this who don’t know the story, I can say no more than the film never becomes overly sentimental or so dark it is a distraction to the forward action. The payoffs are where they should be, the action is as enthralling, and the movie as a whole captures the magic of the books honorably.

While they love the film overall, the fans are quick to tell you the movie is not without its faults. They’ll mention with disgust as much as with reverence a pivotal scene outside Hogwarts. They’ll say a few moments fall a bit flat, including one between Ron and Hermione, and there are some characters who don’t get their final moments or show their roles in the final battle onscreen or attain closure as they did in the book.

On the other hand, a moment universally mentioned as a favorite occurs between Bellatrix and Molly Weasley, and the last scene, which was so loved to be hated by the book series fans, works far better in the movie, feeling far less contrived, and bringing balance back to a film that is overwhelmingly dark.

The filmmakers, producer David Heyman, director David Yates, production designer Stuart Craig, Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes, Daniel Radcliffe, and all the rest of the cast and crew of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2” should be proud of their work and their art, which translates wonderfully onscreen, and the overwhelmingly positive reaction by the fans is the surest sign that they’ve represented JK Rowlings book well.

I’m back at the Leaky Con convention now. The fans around me are still bursting into tears when they talk about the film. They are laughing too. I think they will ultimately be grateful for a movie that ends the series so beautifully, and shows such reverence for the books that inspired and affected them so deeply.

I say, accio movie tickets!