Monday, July 18, 2011

The End of the Midnight Madness: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

"Wingardium Leviosa!"



"Avada Kedavra!"

Hearing those pretend, faux-magicky-language spells shouted out by tween voices, watching them flick their substitute wands (anything from a twig to a drumstick to a chopstick to a sewing needle) with grandiose flourishes, checking out all the robes, cloaks, scarves, glasses, lightning bolts drawn onto foreheads... let's just say it takes me back.  I was there, nine years and four months ago, when the first installment of this storied seven-book, eight-movie franchise exploded onto America's silver screens.  I was standing in line (in those barbaric times before assigned seating), waiting anxiously to rush in and claim the best seats for our group of young, fresh-faced aficionados of witchcraft and wizardry.  I was watching with wonder as Harry Potter's bespectacled face first filled the screen and I was listening as John Williams's majestic score first filled my ears.  And I haven't missed one film since.

Looking out over the sea of eager fans, the old and the young, the costumed and non-costumed, those desperately trying to hold onto one last shred of dignity and those who had long ago abandoned all hope - you could tell it was the end of an era.  Now, almost 20 hours and more than $7 billion later, we were all about to take part in the last midnight showing of the last Harry Potter film EVER.  And you could tell that everyone was thinking the same thing:  IT'S FINALLY ABOUT TO END!

Haha, I kid, I kid!  Everyone was very excited and emotional about the series drawing to a close.  Especially those of us in our generation, who had very nearly grown up with these crazy kids, and followed them though many wondrous and varied adventures.  Think of what we've seen Harry, Ron, and Hermione go through in the seven movies since we met them back in 2001: they go to school, someone tries to kill them, they save the day, they go back to school, someone else tries to kill them, they triumph unexpectedly in some task, they go to school again, someone... :::come to think of it, maybe it is just about time for this series to gracefully take a final bow...

...sitting in a tree...
But the beauty part about HP 7-2 is that it doesn't start at the beginning of another nondescript school year.  It puts you right in the middle of our three heroes' quest to find "horcruxes" (pieces of Voldmort's soul) and destroy the Dark Lord himself.  (They're all using his name now; the whole "You Know Who" angle actually gets an explanation and a nice payoff by Dame Maggie Smith).  But that's about all I remember from the previous film in the series.  That and a vague recollection of Ron quitting the band for a while.  And of course the image of the ghostly forms of Harry and Hermione making out (pictured) is forever burned into my retinas.

But the grand prize for creepiest imagery in the Harry Potter film series has to go to {[(SPOILER ALERT)]} that creepy Voldemort fetus that's just hanging out with Dumbledore in Harry's imaginary "you've-just-been-killed-but-have-the-choice-to-come-back-to-life" room.  Aside from that soon-to-be-plastered-all-over-the-internet image, the only redeeming quality of that sequence - plotwise and execution-wise - was that it gave us an excuse to see more of Sir Michael Gambon as Dumbledore, even after he died in movie 6.  He's the cherry on the cake of a very impressive cast across the board for these films.

But as far as the story behind that sequence goes: Am I alone in thinking that Harry's unexplained ability to come back from the dead constitutes an unforgivable blight on the whole series?  I mean, I get the Jesus metaphor (or even possibly a baptism metaphor?), but Jesus is a deity.  It makes sense that he would have superpowers.  Harry Potter's just a guy.  What makes him so special except that he's "chosen?"

Maybe it would be easier to understand had I read all the books, but I stopped reading after the fourth one.  I know, I know, I quit reading before the books start getting really good, everyone says.  But why should I continue on with a dull and predictable literary effort on the blind promise of it improving, when I could get a much quicker and more dynamic retelling at the theaters?  No, uh-uh.  At least I enjoy the movies; the books make me feel like I'm plodding through molasses.

And when I say I enjoy the movies, I mean more that I enjoy the experience of going to see the movies.  I don't know if they'd stand up to repeated viewings, especially plotwise.  I enjoyed catching snippets of the endless marathons that seemingly took over all of cable TV for the week leading up to the Big Event.  But the real excitement in seeing a movie like this lies in being a part of the record-breaking flood to the box office on opening night.  It's getting dressed up in costumes for the event.  It's listening to the screams of dozens of tween girls as the lights dim (although for us, that didn't happen until at least 3-4 minutes after the movie had started.  Plus the whole thing was out of focus.  I know it's a late show, but Pacific Theaters should've done better for this milestone.)

It's also seeing the debut of the Dark Knight Rises teaser trailer... BUT OH WAIT, we didn't get that either.  And it's not like it was limited to 3D screenings.  I guess we just got the short end of the stick, having to be content with Warhorse and Happy Feet 2.  That was a disappointing aspect of the proceedings, but all in all the seventh movie provided a very adequate and action-packed cap to this - dare I say - magical franchise.  I'm sorry to see it go, but I had fun watching it leave.

67 Congos


19 Years and 351 Days Later.

It's been nearly two "HPCycles" (what used to be called "decades") since Warner Bros. decided to re-release the Harry Potter Octoilogy every ten years, each film coming out on the ten-year anniversary of their original release dates.  I thought the Midnight Madness was finally over that night all those years ago, when I wrote that blog post about it, my 45-year-old self says to himself, as he waits outside the old building that used to house a "movie theater," a relic from when large spaces in the physical plane were necessary for large crowds to gather.  Because now, in the year 2030, everyone is linked to everybody else through the Internet connections in our minds!

Or something like that.  And there are flying cars and robots and junk.  And everybody has kids, yet nobody looks any older.  That was back when I saw film 7-2 for the first time in theaters, my future self's interior monologue continues.  To think that people actually thought Warner Bros. would just let the franchise die back then.  Rather than make some biting commentary about the greed and lack of originality in movie studios these days, my future self just shrugs and heads into the building.  The floating robotic attendant scans his retina and teleports him into his assigned seat.  He grins as the popcorn and soda he telepathically ordered materialize in front of him.  Hey, it got me shelling out for a ticket showing after showing.  And I don't even like Harry Potter.