The new Harry Potter movie (and that’s only part 1) came out this weekend to rave reviews and the cha-ching of box office gold. But did audiences find the same resonance with this new installment as in the other films?
Audiences may experience a new sensation as they watch this most recent release of the Warner Bros. cash cow, aka the Harry Potter industry. As soon as the series of books became an international sensation, Warner Bros. latched on to this huge revenue producer, releasing the film adaptation of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” in 2001. Since then audiences have been treated to movies based on books two through six; some good, some not so good. In an attempt to keep the film adaptations true to the source material, screenwriter Steve Kloves (who has written all but one of the movies, and has said he knows the characters as well as Rawlings herself) insisted that the last and final book couldn’t possibly be turned into just one movie. It had to be in two parts so the story could be told as it must be told. Hence Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1. Some might wonder if this is perhaps a bit over-zealous of Kloves and co., some may suspect Warner Bros. is milking said cash cow. With opening weekend revenues of $150 million and climbing, a two-part finale looks to be very profitable for the studio and all involved. The only down-side for Warner Bros. is that the series has an end. Harry Potter remix, anyone?
By now, audiences have also watched the famed child-cast grow up on screen. Even dim lighting, round dark-rimmed glasses and super massive eyebrows can’t keep Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) from looking every bit his 21-year-old self. Rupert Grint and Emma Watson (Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger) are also looking long in the tooth. And the adult themes and dark atmosphere of this newest installment do nothing to allay the sense that they aren’t children anymore.
With the conspicuous absence of one of the major characters, audiences may find themselves feeling a sense of lonely nostalgia for the olden days (namely, Harry Potter 1-6). Which character, you may ask? Hogwarts, School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The last book in the series takes Harry and his two best friends out of Hogwarts, and like the moment you’ve taken something for granted now that it’s gone, Hogwarts is sorely missed. All the movies (and books) have witnessed main characters coming back to Hogwarts for adventures, both dark and brilliant, at this beloved gothic boarding school for the magically inclined. Now that it’s out of the picture, the feeling that it’s the end of an era is unavoidable. And the beloved warm lighting, the quirky place itself with moving staircases and sassy paintings, and all things Hogwarts seem like such a big part of the story that without them this installment almost feels like something that doesn’t belong.
The tone is different. Audiences see a Hogwarts which has been closed down do to Voldemort’s ascension and re-seizing of power. The Ministry of Magic and the whole magical world that exists beside and unknown to the ‘Muggle’ world is topsy-turvy. A dangerous place for the ‘chosen one’ to be running around, and camping, in. That’s right…camping. A good portion of Part 1 has Harry, Hermione and Ron out in the wilds of England, running from the new Sheriff in town and squabbling. They’re trying to figure out what to do, how to find the cursed Horcruxes and destroy them, and how ultimately to destroy Voldemort. Only, all the angst, wordless scenes with the three of them in the tent, around the tent, and wandering aimlessly through barren and isolated wilds, makes for a movie that drags. Not only some dragging, but plenty of long, too-quite scenes that have audiences squirming, looking at their watches, and wondering how necessary a two-part movie finale really is.
Besides dark and dreary landscapes, tedious boring bits, and the (spoiler alert) death of beloved and brave house-elf Dobby, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, has some great moments. There is a story-telling sequence about the “Three Brothers” that uses paper-cut-out-esque animation for a unique feel and look. The graphics for this tale are amazing, and set the appropriate tone for the tale. There is a world awry, a scary place for both wizard and muggle. There is also some great political/social metaphor in the ‘regime’ change. Shades of communism as Voldemort and his crew come in and take over the Ministry of Magic; appointing a ‘secret police’ of sorts who detains and ‘questions’ Harry Potter sympathizers, and then makes them disappear. Whole departments devoted to the making and issuing of propaganda pamphlets and fliers.
Given the good and the bad of this film, Harry Potter fans will still want to see it. They may be disappointed, but then that makes little difference. After Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince, they’ll be used to a little disappointment. For those who aren’t rabid fans, seeing the new installment for the sake of morbid curiosity is understandable, but discouraged.