I will touch only lightly on the movie itself, as it just opened today and don’t want to spoil anyone else’s experience.
It was everything I hoped for, and save for a nitpick by my niece afterward that I agree with, it was perfection. We saw it in 3-D, even though I knew it would likely bring on the spins. I was, but it was worth it. Chooch said he didn’t feel 3-D added much, and maybe it’s my condition, but I noticed constant use of it to more fully immerse the viewers in the story. In hindsight, he thought maybe that’s the difference between good and bad 3-D, it’s not in your face, so to speak, like (my example) the old SCTV “3D House of Pancakes” skit. It was subtle and masterfully done in my opinion. Yes, I was extremely dizzy afterward, with nausea and a returning migraine. But I’m glad we sprang for it. It may be the last time I’ll have the chance to see Harry in 3D on the big screen, after all.
Watching the actors grow and develop their skills along with these beloved characters over the eight movies depicting this beautifully written but very dark children’s series has been bittersweet. I was amazed at the acting chops they demonstrated, and in fact the entire cast truly brought their A-game. I hope to see it again before it leaves the theaters, at least one more time, so I can more fully enjoy each and every nuance.
I will say this is not a film for young children or those with sensitive dispositions. As in the books, terrible things happen. I won’t go into it, but will instead point you to a SPOILER FILLED review written by my favorite kid review site, Kids In Mind. The site offers reviews based on a numerical score for nudity, violence/gore, and profanity. It then lists every scene in which each of these occur with description. I’ve used it for years, and have never found error with their reviews. In a quick reading of the Deathly Hallows 2 review, I find the descriptions to be wholly accurate. I highly recommend that you spoil yourself, if you are considering taking young ones to see it. There are things that can be unseen, and if you’ve not read the books you owe it to your kid(s) to know what they’ll be seeing to make an informed decision on their behalf. /steps off soapbox/
Now for the real reason for the post, to describe the journey. Christmas of 1999, my son Naughty Bear was given the book series (up to that point , 3 books) by both grandmothers, and the first book by an aunt. We’d not heard of the series, but all three of these wonderful women sensed that NB would love it. We split the difference, keeping one book from each of the sets given. He tried reading it, but at 8 couldn’t really sink his teeth into it. That spring, his dad left me and the boys and I moved in with my parents as I was an unemployed, stay-home Mom of two. While trying to find our way in our new life, we reached for J.K. Rowling’s magical world. Instead of him reading the books alone, I read the Sorcerer’s Stone aloud to him. LT was 4 and had little to no interest other than being in the room with us and sharing this special time, and played around us or snuggled with us as his mood warranted.
We enjoyed the book, but we were hooked when Fred and George entered the story. The light-hearted shenanigans they brought to the story where the turning point for NB, and we then read with gusto as quickly as I could. I then read the next book to him, and when my voice would give out he would read sections aloud to me. This was how we finished the books available to that point, and eagerly awaited book 4. We were transfixed by this world, full of loss, new friendships and the transformative new life little Harry found.
That Halloween, my Mom hosted a Harry Potter Halloween party for the family and close friends. My dad set out the Christmas light reindeer made to look like a unicorn with a pool of blue lights at its feet as if it were in front of a lake, taking a drink. My former sister-in-law and family friend made an ornate cardboard front for the door, making it look like stonework with a Hogwart’s shield on it. We set up a wand making station, and held a scavenger hunt for the Goblet of Fire that nearly ended in disaster as the kids thought one of the clues led to my Mom’s actual cat. We served theme foods (Mad Eye Moody deviled eggs comes to mind) and had Jelly Bellies since Bernie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans were not yet available. Everyone came in costume, even the 3 month old baby in the sorting hat costume made by his mom. My Mother went as Madame Pomfrey and handed out chocolate coins to the children all night for their “restorative powers.” It was an amazing night, that I think shows a small amount of the way that my family embraced that world.
When the movies started coming out, for the first few I played hooky with Mark and my folks to go see them on opening day. Yep, if his grades were good, and they always were, I pulled him out of school to go to the movies. Judge me all you like, it was one of the few irresponsible choices I made, and I stand by them to this day.
So when this one came out, and my boys are actually here to see it with me (Thank God for the timing), we turned it into a big family event. We met at my brother’s house at 11 pm, as it’s 4 minutes from the theater. Chaos ensued, as it always does with us, and we headed off to the theater at 11:15. By the time we got there, we couldn’t get seats together. I expected that we wouldn’t all 9 have seats together, but I had expected to sit together in small groups. Nope. We had to settle for solo viewings, save LT and his cousin, who I was able to finally get seated together. It was highly stressful as they either over sold, or more likely, had people sneak in from other theaters. I finally managed to get everyone a seat, then almost lost mine as I ran to get drinks before the movie started. Luckily, my seat was next to an adorable couple, aged around 16 years old. They had wands and great excitement, and he saw what I was dealing with and guarded my seat with vigor, as did Chooch who was seated behind me.
Side note: The trailer for The Dark Knight actually has me wanting to see it now. The snippet with Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) sold me completely. That man remains one of my favorite actors. The Sherlock Holmes trailer resulted in “meh,” but the trailer for John Carter looked pretty cool. The Twilight trailer for the upcoming movie, brought immediate booing and laughter at the dramatic scenes. Apparently, Bella and Edward are fairly despised, but Jacob is adored. The only cheering that happened was when he was shown, and the rest of the trailer was mocked. I was really surprised to find that there seemed to be a rivalry between the two franchises. I’ve never had interest in that series and know only what people have told me, so was shocked at the reaction. These Rowling loyalists don’t seem to dig the sparkly vampires one bit!
Once the movie started, cheering began and I saw people raise their wands at the screen in excitement. At different points during the movie, there was heartfelt cheering, uproarious laughter, total silence, gasping and a great sense of unity. At the end of the movie, some then raised their wands saying “Mischief managed.” I get goosebumps again thinking about it.
I’m extremely grateful that I did not re-read the last book as I had intended. There were things completely forgotten, and when they happened I was as shocked as if I had never read the books. It was a total and complete roller coaster ride. I’m happy to say that my adoration of the tale was not from blind devotion, but rather true appreciation for what I find to be a rich and beautiful world filled with joy and pain, just like our own world.
As is true with the Lord of the Rings, my favorite characters are not the “heroes” of the story. Samwyse stole my heart there, and Neville Longbottom has had his name in my heart since, hm… The third book? Maybe the fourth. He, Luna and Snape are by far my favorites, although Mrs. Weaseley is right up there as well, especially after this installment.
The family gathered after the end of the movie and we excitedly shared our favorite parts and utter amazement at what an amazing experience it had been. It was bittersweet, knowing that this part of that experience is over even as I’m happy to finally have seen the final movie. As I expressed last night in Twitter, I’m very grateful that Ms. Rowling put pen to paper to such exquisite result. The impact on my life and that of my family has been huge and unexpectedly extraordinary.
Thank you, Ms. Rowling, from the bottom of my over-flowing heart containers.