Monday, July 18, 2011

Well Done, Harry

I went to see the new and final Harry Potter movie this weekend and I was very excited about doing it.  It’s been a long wait since the last movie (that made up the first half of the last book.)

I remember when I first heard about the Harry Potter stories and how big a deal they were becoming, but I never had any interest at all.  Never gave the books or movies a second thought.  Just one more children’s franchise, I thought.

Then I was hanging out with my nephew when he was just a little’un, and he was watching the first Harry Potter movie.  In very short time, I was captivated by the story.  The kids were just so adorable and the story was so detailed and imaginative, I couldn’t help but get sucked in. 

Soon after, I got to see the second movie when I was visiting my buddies in Ohio.  Their kids were watching it and I joined them at the outset.  The third movie had already been in the theaters and gone, so when the DVD came out, I bought it.  That one, Prisoner of Azkaban, has been my favorite, at least up until now.

So when the fourth movie came out, I went to see it in the theaters and have been back to see every one since.  Then last year, from December through February, I read all 7 of the books.  If I loved the movies, I adored the books.  Finally I could see what all the book readers had been complaining about, regarding details and subplots from the books that never made it into the movies.

When it came time for me to read the last one, I had to seriously consider waiting.  Neither of the 2 movies from Deathly Hallows had come out yet, so this would be the first one in which I’d read the book before seeing the movie. 

I considered for about 37 seconds, before diving in.

Whaddya kidding me?  Like after I’d just torn through the first 6 books I was going to postpone the ending?  Fat chance.  I was all over it.  There weren’t enough hours in the night, or else I’d have knocked it out in one sitting.

I always feel kind of dopey going to see the Potter movies… I mean, a grown-ass man, almost 50-years old, going to see these movies.  But I get over it pretty quickly, especially when I look around and see all the grownups there without kids.

That’s how it was on Saturday.  Ten minutes before show time, the theater was almost exclusively filled with adults.  It wasn’t until right before the previews started that the families started coming in.  The theater wasn’t crammed, but it was probably about ¾ full.  Even so, I discovered the sure-fire way to make sure you get a ticket and a good seat for a hot movie… I buy the tickets online.

It’s not because it gets me right in, past the whole crowd of ticket-seekers; it’s because every time I buy online, when I get to the theater, there’s no one in line.  I’m two for two so far.  I suppose it works the same way as my bringing an umbrella or raincoat virtually guarantees that it won’t rain where I am.

Anyway, I loved the movie.  Yes, there were book exclusions, but nothing terribly surprising or crippling.  A lot of the omissions were inevitable, given that the back-stories that supported them were omitted from previous movies, so they couldn’t just pop up at the end.

For example, I’d have liked to see more development in the romance between Harry and Ginny Weasley.  But in the earlier movies, the romance was sort of underplayed, so it would have been weird if it was a huge deal here.

Even though you may already know how the Potter series ends up, I don’t want to include any spoilers here.  Suffice to say, there is huge action and quite a number of powerful emotional moments.  People may quibble about the details online (and by God, they certainly are), the entire second half delivers quite a wallop.

Even me, with my cynical, crusty, almost 50-year old ass, had to swallow hard a couple of times.  Neville’s moment, alone, was a catharsis 18 movie-hours in the making.  The vast journey all these kids have taken, when you think about the entire story arc, is astonishing.

There’s a moment where they flash back to scenes from the first movie and it was so jarring seeing how small they once were.  They’ve aged so gradually and gracefully that it was almost imperceptible.  Daniel Radcliffe’s “Harry” goes from a slight but bright-eyed little boy to a young man with depth of feeling but balls of iron.  Rupert Grint’s “Ron” goes from a little red-headed imp to a strapping, slab-shouldered bloke with an especially effective teenager’s glower.  And Emma Watson’s “Hermione,” well, holy crap, she just grew from an “insufferable know-it-all” into a stunning young woman, didn’t she? 

But in my opinion, none changed as much as “Neville Longbottom,” who went from being such a completely inert little clutz, to the rock-ribbed survivor that makes such a dramatic stand before claiming his moment of fame.

I left the theater feeling thrilled, yet sadly wistful.  It was like taking those last few bites of your favorite sandwich and knowing that with each bite, you’re getting to that point when there is absolutely no more.  (This dawned on me as I was at Wendy’s after the show.)

The story wrapped up in an emotionally satisfying manner, but what upset me was knowing that I wouldn’t be seeing these fine young actors playing these amazing characters, ever again. 

But I guess that’s really the trick, isn’t it?  Leaving the audience wanting more…


  1. Amen! I went yesterday with my wife, my brother, and his wife. All of us were sniffling plenty of times throughout the movie and I don't think there was a dry eye in the audience.

    It truly is a bummer that for the first time in ten years there isn't the next one to go see.:(

  2. I am going to see it in August when my kids come home from their grand parents house.

  3. I don't see how it could be otherwise. So many powerful moments... (That I'm dying to talk about but am holding back...) (You go, Neville!)

  4. Trash,
    If you like the series, you'll like the ending.

  5. Wow. Never would have taken you for a Pot Head... er, a Harry Fan... er, a Muggle Man. Whatever.

    Never read a book; never seen a movie. Maybe some day if I'm laid up and unable to walk...

  6. Bagger,
    What, like this face doesn't scream "whimsey?"

    There's something about visiting an impossible, improbable world to take your mind off your every-day troubles.

  7. Good review of the book/movie dilemma. I like the movies but the books are wonderful.

  8. I never did like the movies because the books surpassed them. That being said, I'm also angry and jealous because the movie only comes out in October. And worst of all, it's going to be in Chinese.

  9. I just finished the last book (for the third or fourth time -- yeah, I've lost count), and I cried in the same places AGAIN. I'm going to be a mess when I finally go to see this last movie. Which is still 12 days off. Yeah, 12 days. It's TORTURE. It's like the Crucio curse. But I just can't get there sooner. The worst adaptation IMO was #4 -- too much of the book got left out, and the maze at the end was awful. And it was still a good movie.

  10. Trooper Thorn,
    When in doubt, I always try to see a movie first. That way, you win both times… you enjoy the movie, then enjoy the book more. The other way around usually ruins the movie.

    I can’t even imagine how the spells would translate into Chinese… They probably need until October to figure out how to do it.

    Red Pen Mama,
    Once I finished DH, I left it beside my TV chair. Shortly after, I started rereading it section by section, going backwards. Read the end again, then would turn back a chunk and read up to the end. Then I’d turn back another chuck, and read up to where I’d been. I have no doubt I’m going to have to go front to back again some time soon…

  11. You know, I'm really happy to hear you say this. I've never read them, and have only watched a couple of movies, but #1 Son has read each of them AT LEAST 3 times. One of the few books/series we've invested in hard copies, instead of doing the library thing, because he likes them so much. BUT he refuses to see the movie! I tried to take him and he had absolutely no interest. "I can tell from the trailers that it is nothing like the book." Now I can tell him, "Nuh-uh!!". Which, of course, is how one wins an arguent with a 13 year old.


  12. In a case like that, he just needs to look at the whole thing differently. Of course it can't be just like the book, or else each movie would be 5 or 6 hours long. The movie should "augment" the book... giving visuals to images that can be hard to picture in such detail.

  13. I read every book! And while I haven't seen the last movie yet, I loved the others. Our daughter in New Orleans has given us the entire series on CDs, so we could listen to it while we were on the road. If you have never heard Jim Dale read the books, WITH ALL THE INDIVIDUAL VOICES, you have really missed out on something special. I could hear those CDs over and over again.

  14. I thought the new adaptation was pretty good too. Though I wish we'd have seen some jokes about Aberforth's penchant for "goat charming."

  15. I loved it too, but I was surprised at how short it was. Especially since I felt there were a few things they could have fleshed out a little (and it's not like they are afraid of long movies or anything). Mostly, though, I loved it and was very sad to see it end. I am going to read all the books again (for the umpteenth time).

  16. Judie,
    Books on tape are great for car trips; even better than music, because they engage the mind and make the miles fly. I bet with Potter books on tape, I’d end up driving around the block for a while, if I got home to soon.

    He is a scamp, that Aberforth…

    Yes, there were a couple of curious choices that I didn’t mention, because I was trying avoid ruining any details, but I thought they should have given more attention to Fred Weasley, Lupin and Tonks. They were kind of glossed over in the movie, where in the book, what transpired with them was given much more emotional weight.

  17. That's exactly it - I felt like they focused on the action (which was good), but left out much of the emotion (which was bad - especially since most of the people seeing this movie are die-hard, emotionally invested fans)

  18. I'm with Bagger. I never read, viewed, or experienced all things Potter.

    Instead I did the Twilight series.

    So totally no judgement here.

  19. Clair will be getting close to Potter-age in another couple years… Please, spare her the weepy, navel-gazing mess that is Twilight…

  20. I cannot WAIT to read the Harry Potter books to Harper and then watch the movies with her!

  21. Mrs. Bachelor Girl,
    That's the beauty of this series... it's absolutely timeless. It will be just as good when Harper is old enough to understand them, as it was in 1997 when it started.

    They don't burn witches in Louisiana, do they?

  22. Loved the books, loved the movies and love you more than ever for this post.

  23. Eh, that warm feeling inside is probably just gas. It’s a common mistake.


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