The first two films were near-faithful adaptations of the first two Harry Potter novels written by J.K. Rowling. Helmed by Chris Columbus, who directed Home Alone, among other films, the first two had that feel-good, cheery feel, despite the monsters. And anyway the ghosts looked like Casper and the troll looked like a CGI joke, so there was no real dread, no real sense of helplessness.
Alfonso Cuaron stepped in to direct the third film. Focus went from story details to style: the Whomping Willow was used to show the passing of months, the dementors were filmed underwater to approximate fluidity, and the film ended in a freeze-frame. Most fans considered it their least favorite film perhaps because it felt radically different from Columbus’s installments, but it was a beautiful film. However, details concerning the Marauder’s Map etc were edited out. It’s this annoying sickness that will hound one Potter film after another -important plot points get edited out, and we are left with scenes that, though enjoyable, feel like fillers.
The fourth film introduced new characters and surprised me with its humor, but there was a glaring error in the characterization of Dumbledore – he was the Zen teacher, what was he doing pushing Harry against walls and sounding like a crazed high school principal? The fifth film was blah, the only saving grace the lovely Helena Bonham Carter – she made a perfect crazy bitch. The sixth film was quite enjoyable and engaging for me – until it forgot to explain why the Half-Blood Prince is called the Half-Blood Prince. Not even a line? Really?
And then the last film, cut in two. It opens with an extreme close-up of Bill Nighy’s eyes, which, coupled with that determined voice and the flash of cameras and the news of dire things to come, made me settle more comfortably in my seat: ah, this is going to be good.
And it was. The film offers several memorable moments, and a soaring soundtrack. There is humor when the trio enters the Ministry of Magic, beauty in the lush landscapes and the misplaced innocence of a particular wedding, and horror in the torture of beloved characters (Helena Bonham-Carter, you crazy bitch, I adore you). The animation, which made me sit up and pay close attention, reminded me strongly of Guillermo del Toro.
There are still dragging moments, too much exposition, too many characters, but the film is a necessary step. Now that we’re so close to the end.