Thursday, July 21, 2011

"Lightning has struck!": Midnight screening of final Harry Potter film

The final installment in the Harry Potter film series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, opened at midnight last week on July 15. While I have attended other midnight screenings and have been a Harry Potter fan for years, this is the first time I bought a ticket for a midnight Harry screening. I am so glad I did because it was a wonderful experience.

A small group of friends and I were the first group in line for the midnight screening at the CineMark in Melrose Park just after 8 PM. Several of the ushers asked us if we knew what time it was, and you could tell they thought we were out of our minds, but we didn't care. We played Uno to pass the time and were also able to see some unique Harry Potter outfits, notably a guy dressed in a decorated t-shirt that read: "Real men don't sparkle. Team Wizard." We were allowed into the theater around 10 PM, which left us with more time to check out the costumes of the other Harry Potter fans. Some made their own shirts touting the end of the series with the symbol of the deathly hallows, and others wore the colors and uniforms of the Hogwarts Houses -- Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. I myself wore a Harry Potter quidditch shirt, and brought along my illuminating Hermione wand. I was most impressed by fans dressed as characters from the series -- I saw Harry, Hagrid, Dobby, Bellatrix, Narcisa, Professor Trelawney, and Luna.

As it came closer for the previews to start, the audience started to clap and chant and I could literally feel the excitement from everyone around me. They were vocal in response to the trailers (lots of excitement for Sherlock Holmes) but became silent once the movie started. Part 2 picks up right where Part 1 left off, with Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) taking the Elder Wand from the hands of the dead Dumbledore. While Part 1 set the scene for Part 2, with Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) searching for and destroying horacruxes (a horacrux is an item that Voldemort infused with part of his soul, and hid, in order to insure his immortality), the much more action-packed Part 2 focuses on their return to Hogwarts and the fight against Voldemort and his Death Eaters. 

Some observations, without being too much of a spoiler:
  • I enjoyed the scene where Hermione poses as the mad Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) in Gringotts after taking Polyjuice Potion. Watching Bonham Carter play Hermione trying to be evil and horrible (and failing) was fun.
  • I loved seeing Harry, Ron, and Hermione return to Hogwarts and re-join the other characters we've met throughout the series, like Neville (Matthew Lewis), and Luna (Evanna Lynch). While the characters have spent seven years at Hogwarts as students, the actors filming these eight movies have been together even longer. Seeing all the students and teachers back together again, ready to face Death Eaters, Voldemort, and risk their lives, was very powerful.
  • Ralph Fiennes is disturbing as ever as Voldemort, and I thought the army of Death Eaters waiting to begin their attack on Hogwarts was a very creepy sight.
  • The shot of Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) looking out a window at Hogwarts. It's early in the movie, and at first we only see him from behind, but I found it to be a moving visual, already knowing Snape's secrets from reading the book
  • I knew the deaths of certain characters were coming, but it was still shocking to see in the movie.
  • The audience in my theater was awesome. They cheered and clapped at moments like Ron and Hermione's first kiss, Neville's taunts of the Death Eaters, and Molly Weasley's duel with Bellatrix, just to name a few moments. The audience went wild for Neville, especially. 
I loved the movie and had a great time seeing it with a packed theater of devoted fans. Throughout the course of the movie I clapped, laughed, gasped, held my breath, and cried. I was filled with so much excitement that when I returned home at 3:30 AM I could not fall asleep. I look forward to watching Part 2 on the big screen again. I saw the 2D version and I would like to see if/how 3D changes the experience. All in all, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is a brilliant, epic conclusion to the film series that started in 2001, and not only does the film do the book justice, it reaffirms the quality and magic found in J.K. Rowling's books.