Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Movie Review: Harry Potter

Well, it's almost over. The first half of the final Harry Potter film is out, and that's a good thing, because each film gets a bit darker and scarier, and this one is plenty dark enough
This is life during wartime for Harry and Co., with stretches of tense boredom interspersed with brief periods of terror. At this point the wizarding world stops being fun.
 It's easy to make a comparison between Voldemort's return to power and the rise of the Nazis, and indeed the uniforms of the new security guards at the Ministry of Magic make this comparison pretty blatant. However, the interesting thing is that the parallel is probably closer to what went on in Continental Europe than in Britain during World War II. Wizarding England is not under siege, like it was during the Blitz, but is fully occupied more like Vichy France. Harry's friends and supporters hide in the woods and listen to underground radio.
Dan Radcliffe continues to do a solid job of playing the title character, but Harry has always been the least interesting character in the story. He has his set course to follow in fulfilling his "chosen one" archetype (and yes, his friends blatantly refer to him as "The Chosen One," in case you've never read your Joseph Campbell). What happens around him is possibly the most interesting.
One of Rowling's great storytelling talents is in her characterization of the ordinary people during those tough times, especially as embodied by the Weasley family. Arthur and Molly Weasley in particular, show us exactly what it means to be fighting to protect home and family.
Other secondary characters are equally interesting. Evanna Lynch's portrayal of Luna Lovegood may actually represent an improvement on the book's characterization. She makes the character a lot more sympathetic, and implies that, in spite of her goofy, head-in-the-clouds demeanor, there's a lot more to her than in the first impression.
On the Dark Side of things, we also see a lot more depth than expected. The Malfoy family gains some of our sympathy, especially in the case of Draco, as we see his boyhood fantasies of power replaced by the nightmare of what he actually has to do just to survive Voldemort's attention. It's pretty well implied that for all the dark stuff going on in the movie, the poor guy's probably seen a lot worse happen offscreen.
While some of the secondary characters get to shine during "Part One," the coming battle in part two is where we really see this particular genius at work. Harry has his part to play as Chosen One, but Molly Weasley gets the best line (not just because of what she says, but because of why, I'll get into that when the next movie arrives) and some of the other characters, who we first met as awkward, goofy 'tweens, have grown into genuinely heroic people.

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