How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Pot(ter)


In the past few weeks, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows fever has swept over the Internet like a giant magical tsunami, engulfing every movie blog it encounters. But somewhere, in the midst of the chaos, shock waves began to ripple through many a wi-fi enabled coffee shop as less-than-glowing reviews were bandied around the Internet.

Critics are picking apart The Deathly Hallows as if it were a still warm corpse, which begs the question: will the Deathly Hallows fail to maintain the series’ success in the face of these negative reviews? No, of course not, don’t be so ridiculous. However, the reviews did get me wondering about how the film has become such a global phenomenon and that in the last two months it has turned people from the age of five to fifty into a merch-buying, film-watching, wand-waving lunatics?

Is it the cast? Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint have blossomed from awkward child actors to confident young performers whose ability to develop these characters grows with each film. Radcliffe has proven that he can carry us through these tense final chapters and Rupert Grint’s hapless yet brave Ron Weasley has consisted mostly of balancing moments of terror or wonder with realism. Emma Watson takes on a much larger role in The Deathly Hallows as she and Harry spend a great deal of time together (much to Ron’s chagrin) and she proves that she’s up to the task, more so than in the previous films.

Filling in the supporting characters are the some of the finest British actors working today: Julie Walters, Maggie Smith, Helena Bonham-Carter, Jason Isaacs and many more besides. But is it the acting that pulls in the Potter punters?
Well, no, most likely not. As many screaming teenage fans as Daniel Radcliffe has (or panting 40-year-olds in Emma Watson’s case), people don’t watch Potter movies for the performances – if I’m being really honest, they have often felt like an afterthought. No, I don’t think there are going to be any little golden statues for the Potter stars what with Watson’s particular brand of eyebrow acting and Grint’s constant gurning, so the appeal must lie elsewhere.

How about the spectacle then? These movies are flashy productions with massive budgets, perhaps people just want something that goes ‘whizz bang’ on the big screen, possibly in 3D? Yes, that’s a strong contender; after all, no one wants to go back to the low-quality renderings of Basilisks and shoddy green-screen work of the past in this post-Avatar world. We want something that’s big and brilliant and that’s going to take our breath away and, for my part, it worked. The Deathly Hallows features one particular piece of animation that is both stunning and innovative in terms of CGI and storytelling so at least no one can accuse this series of not evolving visually.

If that’s not good enough for you, perhaps you’re more swayed by more adult material that the series has progressed towards. Yes, this is the darkest film thus far but it could have still been darker. There’s murder (mostly off-screen), torture (mild), vicious snake attacks and the always dreaded Dementors. However, SPOILER ALERT! for those of you who read the book and saw the film, the scene at Malfoy mansion was handled in a hasty manner which leads me to believe that the decision to cut the film there was a last-minute one. Hermione’s torture at the hands of the deranged Bellatrix is one of the more harrowing scenes in the book but suffered from a children’s film rating and restrictions on child torture – typical! It seems the film suffers from its family based audience and isn’t up to snuff with those who like their Potter a little bleaker.

So, if it’s not the darkness and sense of impending doom that is attracting the crowds, could it be the relationship and development of the leads? It’s probably not the element that’s going to have you rushing out to buy tickets, but it’s what holds the series together, especially The Deathly Hallows. The main trio’s friendships are tested, romances are explored and fought over along with burgeoning sexuality and teenage hormones finally coming to the forefront. Many complained that this was actually a problem in The Half-Blood Prince but I think The Deathly Hallows strikes more of an easy balance. Harry and Hermione’s friendship is seen in a new light when they spend and an increasing amount of time together whilst on the search for Horcruxes with Ron. I recently re-watched the entire series and, if it wasn’t for Ron’s presence, Harry and Hermione could easily have been a couple and there are gentle hints to it throughout the series, thus compounding Ron’s fear that the two have been getting cosy in the tent while he’s not looking.

Though SPOILER ALERT! the much publicized kiss between Harry and Hermione is satisfying to see onscreen, teenage angst and love triangles isn’t everyones cup of tea and many may dismiss the movie further because of it.

I’d question whether or not the story is the thing that keeps people coming back for more but I think that if none of the above elements did anything for you, then it’s unlikely that the story is the only thing that you’d pay to see.

Which leads me to my final element – is the thing that is driving people to the cinema in their millions the mere idea of drawing closer to the end of the series and completing the story? Exciting as it is, The Deathly Hallows is only as good as the sum of its parts and the film is only the first half of a two-part story, so you’ll have to have already seen the preceding films and like everything about those enough to continue on. Then again, what are the chances that someone is going to see The Deathly Hallows without having seen the other films? I’m sure there are a few folks out there who would but what would be the point? There’d be no sense of satisfaction or anticipation of the next and final instalment. These films are not meant to be stand alone episodes like Bond movies, they exist alongside one another and judging them based on each films’ own merits is difficult they each carry a piece of an over-arching story.

At the end of the day, chances are that Potter’s appeal is a little of all of these things. Yes, the actors aren’t exactly of Meryl Streep’s calibre but when coming to the end of a series, we kind of have to love and accept them regardless. It’s not as dark or as violent as it could be, but if it were then I think it would be too much for adults and children alike – it’s one thing to read it, it’s another thing to see it. In terms of the teenage relationships, they’re unavoidable but necessary both plotwise and to the growth of the characters. And the fact that it’s the beginning of the end is really just the icing on the cake of what I think was a damn fine Harry Potter movie.

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