Given my present aversion to the Hary Potter books, I wasn’t particularly interested in this film when it appeared. However, on the strength of several recommendations, Alex and I went to see it yesterday. First comment: they’re not kidding about the 12A rating. Alex has probably seen more (and more varied) movies than your average 4-year old, and so is not too easily shocked by cinematic peril, but this one was pushing it. The showdown with Voldemort at the end was really quite intense.
With this one, the series has hit a turning point: the comedy is gone. This is a serious film. For the first time, Harry and his friends have to deal with the world as grown-ups rather than as children caught up in some great adventure. In fact, three of the main techniques the previous films used to create comedic tension have been thoroughly excised:
- The Dursleys are gone–thank goodness. There is no funny opening sequence to generate artificial sympathy for poor downtrodden Harry, or to poke fun at the clueless Muggles. There are a few laughs later on, but they are kept to a bare minimum.
- There are no classroom sequences or midnight explorations of the school to create an aura of magic, and to emphasize just how different the wizarding world is. Hogwarts has become the background, rather than appearing as a character itself.
- The tensions and rivalries are now no longer between Gryffindor and Slytherin, or between the kids and the teachers: they are now between the main characters themselves. Harry, Ron, and Hermione argue and fight and hurt each other. In the end they are still all on the same side, but their relationships have taken a leap forward into adulthood.
I felt the acting was up a level, and I loved Brendan Gleeson as MadEye Moody. Special effects were very well executed, and I’d actually go as far as saying that the scene with the dragon is the best chase scene of any film I’ve watched this year. The only thing that let the film down was the revelation at the end, which unravels the purpose of the whole plot. Why do villains make things so difficult for themselves? If all they’d needed was a drop of his blood, surely they could have… Oh well.
The film’s greatest trick, however, was to rekindle my interest in the Harry Potter series. I’m not sure if I’ll go as far as reading book 6 (at least until number 7 is out, too, and I can finish them off in a single shot), but the next film is certainly something I’ll be looking forward to.