Saturday, November 20, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Midnight Premiere

Yay! I got to go to the midnight premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 in IMAX! It was quite the experience! First of all, it was a great chance to do something a little different and hang out with friends. Second of all, I was doing an anthropology research assignment on fandom culture at the premiere. And third of all, it was a really good movie!

Melissa and I joined our friends Kat and Maggie around 8:30 and managed to make it to the theater by 9:00. I know that sounds really early for a midnight showing, but the crowds show up even earlier and we wanted to get good seats (especially because we wanted four seats together). When we got to the theater, we were surprised to learn that, rather than making us wait outside, we all got to go straight into the theater and find seats. I was also shocked to see that almost a hundred people were already there. We grabbed some pretty good seats together and got ready to sit it out for three hours.

Because I was doing anthropology research, I had a notebook open and was writing down everything I saw. I had several charts, and as people walked in, I marked down whether they were male or female, their age group, and whether or not they were in costume. I also noted things such as what people were dressed as, what they were talking about, who they were with, etc. One interesting thing I noticed was that most people weren't dressed up as main characters from Harry Potter. Most people were either dressed as a miscellaneous Hogwarts student, or they were dressed up as a minor character for humorous effect (such as one girl who was dressed up as Hagrid, complete with beard). The audience was also very jovial and well-behaved. For example, the man who checked our tickets stubs was named Dave. By midnight, everyone had learned Dave's name and, every time he came inside the theater to announce something, the entire theater would wave and yell "hi Dave!" before falling silent and listening intently. At one point, Dave announced that a group of girls told him it was their friend's birthday. Then he had the entire theater sing Happy Birthday to the girl. There was a strange, community-like atmosphere about the premiere.

Anyways, when it was announced that there was forty-five minutes until the show, everyone cheered. At the ten minute mark, everyone cheered again. The movie theater etiquette rules seemed to reverse for our community-like fandom gathering. Instead of getting quiet, everyone talked loudly during the trailers and yelled things at the screen, and many people chanted "Harry! Harry! Harry! Harry!" between trailers. I was worried that this kind of behavior would foreshadow how people would act during the film. However, when the movie began, everyone shushed each other and yelled, "no more talking!" Then people stayed quiet for the rest of the movie.

So what did I think of the film? Well, let me be frank about my history with the Harry Potter films. I, uh... haven't like them. I love the books and I've read all of them more than once, but I've hated the films. I was willing to level with the first couple of films, though the second one was pretty damn lousy. It wasn't until the third movie, however, that I was filled with bitter hatred. The third book is my favorite in the series, and the third movie... I wish I could go back in time and obliterate its existence. It was a massacre of a fantastic novel. The fourth movie was only a minor improvement, and that's not saying much. It wasn't until the fifth movie that I thought a director might kinda be getting the right idea about how to put together a Harry Potter movie, and things stayed relatively the same for the sixth one as well. But, overall, I thought all the films were fairly lousy for one reason or another.

But I think the seventh installment in the film series might be the first one that's starting to get the formula right (though it's unfortunate that it's taken till the final book for anyone to start doing the novels justice). Here's the thing. People have to understand that, just because a book is about witches, wizards, and magic, doesn't mean it's a fantastical, lighthearted romp through the daisies. The Harry Potter series is dark, and it needs to be treated as such. I mean, sure, there's a whimsical air to the setting and storyline but, at its core, it's a very dark tale. I really agree with the director's decision to rate the seventh film PG13, in part because it allowed him more liberty to darken the film, and in part because the Harry Potter fans have grown up along with the films, and it's time we're taken more seriously.

The seventh film is very brooding (much like the novel), but never becomes dull or muddy. The darkness is sprinkled with lighthearted humor throughout, and action scenes are well-placed and frequent amidst the teenage angst that permeates the majority of the 2 1/2 hours of film-time. I expected to get bored, but never actually did. I also noticed that the special effects have improved immensely. The House-elves, in particular, look a million times better than in previous films. They looked painfully cartoon-like in the earlier installments, but in the seventh movie I could actually believe a House-elf might exist. The acting has also improved a lot. The child-actors have all matured into their roles really well, and the adult cast is amazing as always. Alan Rickman continues to impress as Severus Snape, and I was particularly impressed by the performance of Rhys Ifans as Luna Lovegood's father, Xenophilius Lovegood (for a fun bit of trivia: Rhys Ifans also plays the primary villain in Hannibal Rising). And, of course, I was delighted by Helena Bohnam-Carter's fantastically evil portrayal of Bellatrix Lestrange. She is, without a doubt, my biggest frustration. I mean... she murdered my favorite character in the series, so I'm supposed to hate Bellatrix, right? I went into the fifth movie wanting to throw popcorn at the screen the first time we see her. But then they went and cast Helena Bohnam-Carter for the role... and then she went and made it one of the most wonderfully absurd performances in the series. I want to hate Bellatrix Lestrange, but... I can't hate her when she's played by Helena Bohnam-Carter! I don't mean that as a negative or anything, cuz she's amazing, it's just... that's how it is.

My one gripe with the film - which is, in fact, a gripe with the entire film series - is Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort. I'm sorry, but I simply can't stand his portrayal of Voldemort. Some have told me that Ralph Fiennes is a great actor, it's merely a flawed screenplay that makes his Voldemort so lousy. But I disagree... he should be able to make magic out of that script - it's Lord Voldemort for heaven's sake, we have seven books worth of material to go off of. There's nothing wrong with the character of Voldemort, it's the way Ralph Fiennes portrays him that I find flawed. And I think I've finally figured out what it is that I don't like about his performance: Ralph Fienne's Voldemort is completely lacking in instability. He's certainly conjured up the smooth, sinister, snake-like aspect of Voldemort's presence, but not the terror of it. A scary villain can't just be a smooth-talker, he has to have an underlying sense of madness. I never feel like Ralph Fienne's Voldemort is going to snap or burst into fits of mayhem. He just floats around and whispers on the periphery of the screen without really invading one's psyche. I would buy this portrayal of Voldemort more if we weren't dealing with a villain whose soul has been split into seven pieces and stuffed into random objects. I mean... wouldn't a man who's had his soul busted and separated be a bit more, I dunno... unstable? Whenever Voldemort walks into a room, I don't really feel like he's going to randomly kill someone or blow stuff up. He's just sort of... wisping around, trying to act like he's evil. Where's the terror? The Voldemort of the novels is very frightening - a fragmented creature constantly teetering on the brink between calculated villain and deranged murderer. Ralph Fienne's Voldemort can be cunning and sinister if he wants, but he needs to have that glint in his eyes - that spark of villainous madness that makes Voldemort frightening. Ralph Fienne's Voldemort might as well just become a smooth-talking advertisement for KY Jelly for all the fear he brings to the table.

Just sayin'.

My other gripe is an unavoidable one: the film, as always, assumes that the audience has already read the book. For example, Harry, Ron, and Hermione come across a locket that is a supposed Horcrux (a piece of Voldemort's soul put into an inanimate object). They start wearing it, and whoever wears it starts to become corrupt and enraged. But the movie never really says that wearing the locket is turning them into jerks (as opposed to the novel version, where we spend a lot of time listening in on Harry's perspective as he realizes the locket's making him crazy). Anyone who hasn't read the novels is going to assume that Ron's just an asshole. Even when Hermione says, "you wouldn't be acting like this if you weren't wearing that", one could assume she means wearing the locket is making him paranoid, not that the locket has evil powers. I understand that most people at, say, a midnight premiere have read the books, but... not everyone has. My friend Kat was there and she hasn't read the seventh book at all. The script should've made things like that more clear.

But overall, I'd say the film is great. I'd give it a solid 9/10 (and that's a lot coming from me). It was suspenseful, dark, exciting, interesting, artistic (I love the scene in which they explain the story of the Deathly Hallows), and I never got bored. Many of the scenes were filmed in a style more reminiscent of a suspenseful horror movie than a fantasy, but... what's wrong with that? The book was suspenseful. Overall, I loved it, and I highly recommend it.

And... I'm done being opinionated, lol. See y'all next time!


  1. I like the actor analyses. You really outdid yourself there. I found myself nodding along with it. I remember holding my breath anytime Voldemort appeared in the novel, but I didn't realize those shortcomings in the movies until you explicitly stated that failure. That section in particular was well worded and conveyed your passion strongly. Good work on that one, bravo!

  2. I couldn't agree with you more!!!
    I saw the movie on Friday and I must say it was MUCH better than I thought it would be!
    I hated the previous films (first was pretty good, the second okay, third one was AWFUL, the fourth one a bit better, the fifth one completey ruined the department of mysteries and Sirius' death, and the sixth one.. was.... not good >.<)

    I love the books. I've read them like ten times each and in two languages haha~ so it was so great to finally see a movie that captures the little details in the book ^-^

    but I agree with you, I think the movie is confusing if you haven't read the book, I watched it with a friend who hadn't read it and there were many aspects of the movie she didn't understand.. like the mirror Sirius gave Harry for example..

    I also don't like Voldemort in the films... he's too... mellow?? his whispering voice just makes him sound bored.. -.-'

    sorry about the long comment XDD lol~