Friday, July 15, 2011

Harry Potter: The End?

Edward and Bella at the premiere to HP7P2

I can't think of any better way to call attention to my inauguration into the real world than to attend to the final Harry Potter movie premiere. It came to mark so many milestones of my growing up. The first book came out when I was nine and by the time I was 15 the books were coming out every year on par with my own actual age. The seventh book came out when I was 17, the year I graduated from high school. The main cast is largely my age. I can't help feeling that beyond Harry Potter being part of my generation it is ingrained in my year. I am now 22 years old and the final movie comes at the same time as my graduation into the real world begins.

Much like my commencement, this movie grew up. The major themes of the seventh book were how a child and the wonders of being a child evolve into the tempered and sober views of a person living in the real world. This seventh movie plays on that as well, bringing into stark view the sophisticated tragedy of death and taking responsibility in this world.

The tone of the film is the darkest yet, but that's what they have been saying since book 3 and movie 3. Of course there are many plot points from the book dropped for the sake of the movie; it's to be expected that some things just don't make the cut. But overall the movie is good.

I can't help but feel the same way about the movie as I did about the seventh book. It is good but not the bang we expect from such a phenomenal series. Some of that may be Ms. Rowling's fault, the epilogue was bad in the book and can't be helped in the movie. Other points were weak because of the direction.

David Yates is not a bad director, let me be clear. He just made a choice that I would disagree with. He focuses firmly on Harry Potter, a boy growing into a man. What sparked the worldwide phenomenon was not the boy but the universe though. Yates streamlined the plot to follow the core three and at many points just 'boy who lived'. While the adaptation actually improves on bits—the addition of the re-opening of the Chamber of Secrets is excellent in the movie—I can't help but feel that part of the universe is lost. I craved more screen time for Luna and Neville, Fred and George disappeared, Grop was non-existent, and perhaps the biggest loss Tonks and Lupin were glossed over.

So the movie paces well but not excellently—Harry Potter almost never runs even though he says he is in a hurry—and it relies almost too heavily on the fanaticism of its followers to fill in the gaps—look for Teddy in the final scene.

This is by no means a discouragement. Go see it, especially if you are a fan. This is a cautionary review that nothing can live up to the expectations that we have built up. JK's characters no longer belong to her and when she or the studios have creative control over something like that we will be bound to be disappointed (just look at George Lucas and the hatred he has engendered with his fans). But remember that we can let the books live on in our collective imaginations; what JK has sparked we have fueled. This is a universe collectively owned now; I happily dreamed about the movie and parts that did not exist.

It is not over, just as graduation was not the end for me. We do not say goodbye to our friends permanently, just until we see them again. We say goodbye to what we have known and embrace our newfound world, full of uncertainties. So thank you Harry Potter for growing up with me, I think I can take it from here.