Keepin’ it Reel: Harry Potter 7

What a crazy night – my friends and I arrived to Providence Place around 10:00 to a veritable Hogwarts’ Great Hall of both committed Potter fans and muggles. It was a great day for the scarlet-and-gold scarf and tie industry, and there were more makeshift Scotch-taped pencil-wands than you could shake a makeshift Scotch-taped pencil-wand at. It was definitely an event; all four showings were sold out, and the single line we were in had 175 people in front of us, with maybe 100 behind. Adding insult to injury: No sitting! Fire hazard! Despite these troubles, we magically managed to grab some nice seats and hunkered down for the extra hour before the film started. Green Lantern trailer looks great, btw.

But to the movie itself: Wow! It’s an intense and perfectly paced globetrotting adventure that doesn’t shy away from throwing at you everything and the kitchen sink. So if you, like I did, have any concerns about how cleaving one book into two films could make for an overabundance of filler scenes, fuhgeddaboudit. Almost all here was deftly handled, perhaps above all a massive plot dump near the end which could easily have been the lowest point of the film. Instead, we are given a stunningly beautiful animated sequence that more than managed to hold its own considering the circumstances.

More generally, the manically cut, Jason Bourne-style action scenes keep the dense plot moving at a blistering pace, although they frequently cross the line separating edge-of-your-seat tension from frustrating disorientation. These sequences, most notably the infiltration of the Ministry of Magic, succeed, however, in fulfilling the most important criteria for action – effectively making you feel that the characters are in real danger. Every second-tier player is under the gun/wand, and our lovable gang itself suffers much more than its fair share. Perfectly juxtaposed is an attempt to mature a love triangle that we all saw coming since Hermoine was first found crying in that bathroom stall in Book 1. It could have come off as contrived and heavy-handed, but it roundly avoided that fate thanks in part to the devastating glares we get from Ron/Rupert Grint, who performs brilliantly as the dramatic core of this film. The one flagrant exception to the quality of this side of the story was the much hyped (at least HuffPost tells me so) kissing scene, which seemed to epitomize awkwardness. Also: your HP7 drinking game! How many excuses can they find to shoot Daniel Radcliffe shirtless in one movie?

HP7 continues the major trend of the series, with each film being more mature and grave than the last. There are too many killings to count, and each one hurts. The film effectively eschews the familiar Harry Potter theme for a darker and more odious score. A would-be generic globetrotting montage instead becomes one of the most subtly powerful, thanks to an underground radio station morosely reading off the names of dozens upon dozens of missing witches and wizards in the background. And an intense opening speech from the minister of the explicitly Orwellian Ministry of Magic clearly invokes the haughty defiance of President Bush’s State of the Union addresses.

Yet perhaps what this movie does most effectively is remembering that these are teenagers still struggling with the transition to adulthood, from the dangers of trying to steal a kiss when family is around to how to casually order coffee. For all the magical bells and whistles, HP7 gets that growing up is tough, and sometimes you just have to let go and start dancing. Likewise, for as much as I love going to the movies, I was apprehensive of the kind of rabid fan culture I expected to find last night. Instead, I simply found a lot of nice people having a good time at a great movie; people not afraid to embrace the tumultuous and sometimes goofy transition to adulthood. I’ll be dressing up next time, for sure.

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