Never having seen Harry Potter on the big screen, and not even making it to the end of Alfonso Cuaron's entry, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, it was with great trepidation that I entered the theatre for his latest. My motive was superficial, to be in a cool space for two and a half hours while a heatwave raged without.
Some months ago I went to see Doubt at a local multiplex on similar grounds, battling boredom rather than heat, going in with apprehension that yet another populist entertainment was going to test my endurance. Idleness swept me in, with expectations at dirt level. A moviegoer of long standing, my patience for popular films wears thin quickly, and too often I think the worst of movies on the infrequent occasion that I make it out, falling back on a deep-seated desire for works of substance along the lines of Children of Men or The Thin Red Line. What a snob!
I was blown away by Doubt, a rousing drama and actors showcase. So much for my snobbery, which was forgotten nearly from the first frame. Can I tell you the same thing happened with Harry?
The opening didn't do much for me, so I wasn't grabbed from the first, but once done with that I was drawn in and enthralled. What starts the movie is a great contrast from the rest, conducted almost entirely with dark and pensive quiet. For long sections there is no music at all: for a film scored by John Williams, how remarkable is that? We are allowed to engage the images and characters on our own terms. In and of itself, this is a noteworthy quality to a blockbuster entertainment.
Characters populate Harry's world, not least among them the effervescent Luna Lovegood. She steals all of her scenes and embodies the strangeness of being a teenager, with its requisite mental and physical confusions. The irreplaceable Jim Broadbent does the quacky professor role great justice, and Rupert Grint has a winning charm that makes Daniel Radcliffe look stiff; to give the lead his due, we do see him loosen up later in the film, to great effect.
What really won me over was the cinematography and production design. Again, since we are not beset by a bombastic musical score, the eye drinks in tremendous beauty in every scene. Hogwart's attic in particular evokes feelings of childhood wandering through odd places where you might find any manner of wonderful object.
There is a scene that centers on eulogizing a spider. Without spoiling it, allow me to praise the whole affair, wholly macabre and touching and carried off with a fine balance of humor and pathos that represents in fine what works overall. What I expected to be ridiculous, even silly, captured my fascination and enjoyment.
Though I can honestly say this hasn't converted me to Harry's side as another in his legion of fans, it is a surprisingly good movie and greatly entertaining. I'm glad to hear that the director, Peter Yates, is on board for the next one -or I should say, "ones", since they are splitting the last chapter into two parts.