Posted by: David Stewart | July 13, 2011

My thoughts on the final Harry Potter movie, prior to its opening

(Thanks to Laura, who provided us with free passes to a pre-release of this movie.)

I got to preview the final Harry Potter movie (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 2) this week before its official launch. Here are some thoughts:

  • For fans of the book series, HP7 pt 2 should be a great payoff to see the whole series fully realized in film.
  • Our preview was in 3D, and the 3D glasses were custom Harry Potter models which looked like Harry’s glasses. Pretty cute and a nice souvenir, but I’m guessing that the costs for the 3D presentation will be slightly higher because of few 3D glasses being recycled. Did I keep mine?  What, are you kidding?
  • Even for someone like myself who has never read the books, the story resolved some story arc elements in a surprising way. There were enough plot twists to make it a good payoff for me as well, and the best part is that they were a total surprise.
  • Movies which are adapted from books have a big problem. In a book, you can interrupt an action sequence for several pages of dialog, and not wreck the momentum of the story. After all, it’s common for a reader to set down a book and come back to it later. But in a movie, a long talky segment in the middle of an action sequence is a challenge. Often this is solved in the adaptation by rearranging the sequence of events. The director of HP7 pt 2 solved the problem in a very annoying way – in the preparation for a battle sequence, he arranged for huge crowds of extras to run around up and down stairs and around the actors having their talks. He was trying to maintain that tension of the scene, but it looked like chaotic and poorly directed action.
  • A hallmark of poorly written stories is a reliance on "Deus ex Machina" to solve problems, some external force or unknown ability that saves the day. As is often the case in the Harry Potter stories, there is some previously undisclosed rule or law or magical convention that solves story problems. This crops up again several times in HP7 pt 2 and makes it ultimately unsatisfying as a truly great story.
  • There are plenty of shout-outs to characters and plot devices which are used in earlier movies, from the cloak of disappearance to the room of requirements. Unless you have a phenomenal memory, you might just want to watch all seven previous movies just to be sure you are not confused – or ask the Potter fan sitting next to you to remind you.  Unfortunately, I think someone who saw this as their first exposure to the Harry Potter universe would be totally confused, since there is absolutely no explanation of what is going on.
  • The 3D effects were not annoyingly obvious. As is often the case, 3D movies can never look very bright, even in some of the scenes which are supposed to be washed in white. However, those cool Harry Potter glasses are pretty spiffy…
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