Sunday, July 17, 2011

Harry Potter and the Box Office Bonanza

I managed to catch the final Harry Potter movie in Canberra.  I was surprised that it was not much more expensive than in North America, but I compensated for that with the really high cab fairs to get there and back.  But it was worth it.  I really enjoyed it, of course, and not surprisingly so with such positive reviews and how I ranked the books.

My preliminary thoughts below as I look forward to seeing the movie again once my daughter comes back from camp.

I really found the combo of big-time action and moving moments a nice balance to end the series with heaps of awe, chill scenes, and a pretty even distribution of the good stuff.  Of course, the first question to consider for any HP-file is whether they changed the right stuff?  Did they do more harm or good?
  • The movie starts with the Gringotts heist, and the only big change here (other than not getting a death eater to bump into them as the break in stats) are the fate of Griphook and whose idea was it to ride the dragon.
    • In the book, Griphook disappears.  Here, he is dead, killed by Voldemort although the scene almost looks like the dragon did the damage on the way out.  Indeed, this is one of the recurring problems in the movie--that some of the action is just a bit unclear.
    • Harry is the one who comes up with the dragon idea in the book, Hermione in the movie.  Which is fine since the movie is very Harry-heavy.  Nice to have Hermione be daring and creative here.
  • The big change at this point is not that Voldemort knows that they are hunting horcruxes since Harry targeted the Lestrange vault, but that he is hurt by each theft and by the destruction of each horcrux.  As a result, Voldemort is given more to do and Fiennes to act.
  • One of my favorite changes is a slight one--Harry has a great line about not needing to plan the entry into Hogwarts since none of their plans worked out.
  • Much less dialogue and explanation with Aberforth, but that makes some sense given the pace of the film and what was covered before.  But in the rush to the finish, we get very little clarity about Dumbledore, especially after the pensieve scene.  Dumbledore set up Harry to die or not?  In the book, it is a bit clearer that Dumbledore expected Harry to survive his self-sacrifice.
  • The scene where the folks arrive at Hogwarts is quite moving, the first misting scene of many.  But how did Luna beat the heroes to Hogwarts?  The good news is that she rocks her scenes here, and gives Harry the idea to talk to the Gray/Grey lady (I couldn't figure out that it was Kelly Macdonald).  The changes to the backstory here are minor.
    • No John Cleese sightings as nearly headless Nick, but that is a fine change.  More Luna is more Luna!  
    • Nice to see Cho being forgiven, given how she was made to be the heavy two movies back.
    • And the appearance of Ginny, who freezes Harry was nice, with Ron adding some good humor here. 
    • Again a bit rushed and confusing, but ok, given the Voldemort imposed deadline.
  • The scene in the Great Hall is completely new, and Harry's appearance is nicely dramatic.  McGonagall takes down the Carrows quickly.  But one mistake here--Slyztherin into the dungeons?  And a related one--no effort to get any of the youngsters out.  Lots of lives put at risk here. Still, more scenes for McGonagall and Maggie Smith, who rocks each one of them
  • The battle depiction is just fantastic with Neville providing humor and tension.  Lots of his backstory lost in the movies but nice to see him get his due here.  
  • They show the Ron and Hermione scene of getting the basilisk's teeth and the destruction of the cup, and do it well.  Nice to see Ron make a difference. 
  • The kiss is actually quite good, given the absence of house elves in this movie.  I am curious about my wife's reaction as this scene is important to her.  
  • The break in the battle with Fred, Tonks and Remus is quite moving.  We don't see Fred dying and no Percy to be seen at all.  The loss of heaps of Weasley story in the movies is understandable but unfortunate.
  • The scene move from the shack to the boathouse is fine--did not matter.  I think the movie did very nice job with Snape's last moments.  And the pensieve scene was quite good as well.  Alan Ricks took every scene and was outstanding in each.  They downplayed his darkside some--his love of the dark arts---but got his love of Lily quite well.  
  • The final battle is executed very, very well.  Dan Nexon was not thrilled about the ambiguity of Harry's last spell, but it was the same color as his previous expelliarmuses.  They kept Mrs. Weasley's key line--could have been a bit clearer but still very cool.  Almost everyone got their moment in this movie
  • They cut the scene with Harry and Dumbledore's painting, which makes sense, since the book's treatment of that is inconsistent at best. 
  • The epilogue was fine.  Here, as elsewhere, the character of Ginny does not get nearly as much depth and play as in the books.  Indeed, my inappropriate crush has moved from her to Alex Morgan of the US Women's Soccer Team (yes, this post was mostly written during the final).
  • What I missed the most of the end stuff was Harry's taunting of Voldy.  I did like the scene in the book where the two face off, with Harry teasing Voldy about remorse, about what Voldy didn't get about elves, love and wands and all the rest. 
  • I do like what Harry did with the Elder wand, as the book's solution left too much to chance.  And it parallels what happened to the stone.  But I would have liked more clarity (ironic, eh?) about the cloak.  
  • I didn't really figure out who Greyback was eating--was that Lavender?  Nexon says yes.  And who did Padma and Trelawney cover up?
So, lots of changes, but not too many that mattered in any way.  The book was still better because you could get into Harry's head and because there was more depth to the characters than a big action movie can perform.  But this movie was so much fun, and it was so moving.  Lots of misty scenes.  Just wish a few things could have been clearer along the way.

The big three carried themselves wonderfully over the last few movies, the British depth of great actors with Fiennes, Ricks, Smith, Gambon and all the rest doing such great work.  I am so glad that the franchise was protected from bad American recommendations.  The movies kept the faith with the books.  How does this movie rank with the others?  I will have to wait until I see it again.  How does it rank with the rest of the summer movies?  Clearly it vies with Super-8.  I will have to see the two D version to make that assessment.

Just a fun movie and so hard to see the series end.

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