Not a lot to add to my old review except to say, of course, I still love it. I get all the flaws people point out about this movie – most of all, having watched this time with two non-readers, how badly it caters to even those who have kept up on the movie side … I mean some stuff won’t make sense to you if you haven’t at least skim-read the novel – but you know what, I’m kind of blind to them. There’s an atmosphere and pace here that just takes my breath away. I was actually willing to believe on the first viewing that I’d just been blindsided by the wondrousness of Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood but it’s actually incredible how little screentime she has so it’s not just her. There’s the If… like departure of the Weasleys, surely the most gloriously anti-establishment moment seen in movies in years; the gloriously creepy performance of Imelda Staunton, the “I must not tell lies” scene I swear, up there and comparable to the appearance of Hannibal Lector in The Silence of the Lambs; and the one criticism of others that I have to disagree with … the death of S****s … couldn’t have been done more clearly or perfectly in my opinion.
The DVD extras are disappointing – a 45 minute doc of people asking “what does it all meeeeeeannnnn,” a patronising guide to editing and a sort of awkward “sorry we cut your part so much” thing by Nat Tena (really fun in itself, but worth a whole second disc?) – but the movie is more than worth the buy. It’s easily one of the best of the year, though I’m sure I’ll be juggling it, Azkaban, and/or movies 6 and 7 as “best in series” for as long as I live.
13th July, 2007:
Whoosh. Where to begin. As usual this is going to come out in a gush because I want what I write to be as fresh as possible and I don’t want to miss a single thing that’s buzzing around in my head. The biggest book squished into the shortest movie … and quelle movie. I have to begin by grudgingly, nay, beamingly exclaiming, this isn’t just the best in the series so far, not just as good or better than Azkaban, but I actually think maybe a freakin’ masterpiece. It hit the “as good as Azkaban, definitely, but it’ll take a second viewing to be really sure if it’s more,” point by around 30 minutes … and soon after I was simply riveted.
Again, as always, I had intended to and probably should have read the book again beforehand; I found myself realising only a few minutes in how little detail I remembered from the mammoth novel. The Sirius thing and Umbridge, of course, were cemented. But even outside of those, and boy are those lovingly (if that’s the right word for Umbridge) recreated, I felt this managed to bridge the gap insanely well between the loyalty of the Columbus movies to the novels and the joyous cinematicness of Cuaron’s marvel.
But it’s not the adaptation and general technical perfection of this one that finds me comparing it to the Cuaron movie the most … the thing that really makes this one stomp the rest of the series into the ground is the fact that the kids finally match up to the giants of the British acting world they share a screen with. Even in Azkaban I found the performances of Radcliffe and co. a little niggling. Here, even the kid playing Neville Longbottom has clearly been honing his thesp skills. Heck, even the random eyes moving around in the background of the Dumbledore’s Army scenes demand a second viewing to peruse. And the casting of Luna Lovegood? I’m sure it won’t surprise some who know me if I say, I think I have a new movie crush, lol. Evanna Lynch is absolutely wonderful, and I don’t recall that character ever really grabbing me in the books.
Add the mindblowing visual effects, the usual perfect editing and production design (the wallpaper in Sirius’ house deserves an Oscar on its lonesome), the most original score in the series since John Williams penned the till-now slightly-overly-repeated themes, a wonderful new, entirely Potterish way of doing that old cinematic cliché of the spinning news headlines, and, I don’t know … generally wonderful Potter-ness? And I’m not joking, I feel this is the series’ masterpiece. But at the same time I feel like rather than Cuaron’s outsider-ish way of stumbling upon genius in Azkaban, I feel this one is more the result of a process and this is now a perfect system that can only make the remaining two installments as good, if not better. The only thing I’d change is I’d make Tonks’ hair a little pinker, lol. Oh, and though I initially wanted Helena Bonham-Carter to play Tonks here, her performance as Bellatrix LeStrange has certainly put to bed my worries about her as Mrs Lovett later this year in Sweeney Todd.
Addendum On a sidenote … as there has been since the second movie, there will come with this movie so many reviews wasting more than a few words on how “dark” the series is getting and how it’s not for little kids anymore etc. I just wanna say, get it into your heads, people, it’s Harry Potter. It’s dark. This is a series that in the books and their adaptations has grown with its audience. If you think the fifth installment where they’re well blossomed and having first kisses and all is a great movie to take your six-year-old to and you come home incensed by what they’ve been “exposed” to … you simply don’t deserve to have that six-year-old, you idiot. It’s a PG-13 in the US, a 12A in the UK. Read the effin’ guidelines, and critics, stop making these people think they need to be told by you of all people how “dark” a movie is when it’s practically written on the frickin’ tin. It’s dark. But there’s as much love and magic in each frame of this movie (gosh, just beginning with the way the distance between Harry and everyone else is portrayed, I well up just thinking about it) as there was in part one, if not more … if you’re ready.