A Curious Concoction.
I don’t usually feel compelled to review movies but the latest Harry Potter movie just cries out for comment. It is really an oddity and the tone of it seemed so weird in light of the fact that it is supposed to be the big epic story that leads to Dumbledore’s death and Harry’s great mission. No apologies to those who don’t know the story yet; read the books, already. We went to a preview on Monday night.
I am convinced that director David Yates should only direct comedies because most of those scenes that are meant to be comedic are fun: Ron accidently taking a love potion, Harry under the power of the Felix Felicis potion, Ron playing Quidditch. But the dramatic scenes are dull and lacking in tension or interest. When Snape make the unbreakable vow with Malfoy’s mother, there is no sense that he has sealed his fate. When Dumbledore asks Snape at the end to kill him, his “Severus, please” has none of the ambiguity the scene requires for Harry to be confused about Snape. Instead, there is a scene of Snape coming up the tower stairs and he shushes Harry who is not frozen under his invisibility cloak but standing below the top platform, watching. Harry has to be unable to move, not actively deciding to stay out of the action. Oh, there is no action: there is no fight between the Death Eaters and Dumbledore’s Army and the Order of the Phoenix (who are not at Hogwarts). So when does Bill get bitten by the werewolf?
Look, I am not in any way committed to the idea that a movie must match the book. But certainly the changes or additions must be consistent with the universe. Harry is introduced to us sitting in a Muggle cafe flirting with the waitress and making plans to meet her after work. He’s reading the Daily Prophet (but the pictures don’t move). Dumbledore shows up and the date is off. Huh? It makes Harry seem like a cad who a few scenes later is flirting with Ginny at the Burrow. Say goodbye to the wonderful scene in the Dursley’s house where Dumbledore reiterates the need for Harry to be there as the drinks Dumbledore conjured up bop the family on the head because they refuse to drink them. There is no visit to Privet Drive.
Many scenes feel crowded, like the sets are too small. Slughorn’s potions lab is not big enough. His Christmas party scene is simply cheesy with cheap decor. Where are the vampires? Other scenes are wrong because the director is obsessed with extreme closeups. When Harry comes over to Dumbledore body, we never see the whole scene, just Harry arranging his hair and putting a hand on his chest (what, to check if he is dead?). Even the Quidditch shots are mostly close reaction shots about Ron saving goals. I must say, though, that the Quidditch stadium looks great but the crowd is so small.
And say goodbye to the Burrow too: it gets pointlessly burned down. And so the wedding at the beginning of the next story will be where??? Other pointless scenes have Dumbledore asking Harry if he is involved with Hermione. Excuse me, but can we get back to hunting horcruxes? Speaking of which, all those wonderful trips Harry and Dumbledore take are gone. They simply stick their heads in the pensieve. Even Dumbledore’s hand is not burnt enough: it is merely dark and it doesn’t seem like that is enough to kill him.
The visit to Voldemort’s cave starts out promising (the dramatic scene of them standing on a rock in the middle of the ocean is good) but suddenly they are in the cave and it looks like Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, all sharp or blocky crystals. And when Dumbledore drinks the potion, he doesn’t really suffer and he certainly doesn’t scream out in agony. You end up saying, “Hey, that wasn’t so bad.” The lighting and colors throughout, I thought, were beautiful and very moody. The Weasley’s shop was great but the scene too short.
Many of the scenes that are not comedic just seem to lack emotion. There are too many scenes of people just standing in semi-circles or lines looking stilted: at Ron’s bedside, in Slughorn’s potions class, on the Astronomy Tower. Another important example is at the end of the movie. Dumbledore has tumbled from the Astronomy Tower (a poorly designed set that has machinery separating all the characters) and the students and teachers gather around in a too neat horseshoe, looking sad but not in any way horrified. Then they lift their wands, the tips of which are barely lit and like a cheap concert they hold them up. At least shoot some sparks up or sing “We Are the World!” There is no Dumbledore’s funeral and the end is weak, weak, weak. Harry and Hermione talk about the horcrux and Hermione opens it as they stand by a windy open window. I was afraid the whole time that the note from R.A.B. she took out of the fake horcrux would blow away and we would not be able to get on to the final two movies…hmmm, there’s an idea, especially since David Yates is scheduled to direct both of them; I can’t wait to see him ruin the Battle of Hogwarts.
A note on the preview we attended. We waited in line about 90 minutes and had fun doing that but the movie theatre was not full and the audience was subdued and were not really familiar with the Harry Potter world. I talked to many of them in line (always doing research!) and they did not know even the simplest things about HP. I think they were just there for a free movie. I went back to my car and got a costume when I saw they were giving out gift bag prizes for costumed visitors (there were very few) and got a wonderful tshirt, poster, etc. Drew got a prize for answering a trivia question. I got photographed by a local radio station for their website and videotape by Warner Bros. for theirs. But it was not a big dramatic event and we wonder why…..