movie posterMy challenge in writing this review is to stay calm.  Calm calm calm.  It would be so easy to go crazy with the caps lock of excitement and the misspellings of apoplexy.  But I won’t do that.   I will breathe in and breathe out.

 

 I loved this movie. (calm)  A lot. (breathe)  Look!  I’m doing really well!  It’s just going to be hard for me to tell you why I loved it, but I will and I’ll do it with no spoilers, so don’t worry.

 

I think there are three major factors that made this movie into the stunning piece of work I so enjoyed – Men, Time, and HRH. (HRH does not stand for His Royal Highness.  It’s my lame abbreviation of Harry, Ron, and Hermione as a single entity.)

 

My first point: Men

 

 

You know that manly thing that guys have about their jaw lines and neck that you only start to see when a guy is an adult?  I know you girls know what I’m talking about.  I was rather mesmerized by this trait in our newly adult guys throughout the movie.  Rupert Grint and his hulking smiling self (who looks REALLY good in a Quidditch uniform, btw)… Daniel Radcliffe and his meaningful looks that make me feel like a really old lady…and even Tom Felton (Draco) and his brooding, terrorized, and determined angst…they all had me riveted.  Is it because they’re grown up and rather cute or is it simply because they’ve become better actors and now work under a director who knows what to do with them?  Whatever it is, I was hooked.  In Ron and Harry’s case, I giggled rather shamelessly at them throughout.

 

I can’t say enough good things about the older gentlemen in this cast.  Jim Broadbent as Slughorn was probably the most brilliant addition.  He so perfectly nailed the insecure but ultimately loving and supportive professor and I forgot he was Jim Broadbent.  I love it when that happens!  I was delighted that the large majority of Slughorn’s storyline was left in the film.  It was a delight to see him act with the ‘students,’ most especially Harry…and that one perfect scene with young Voldemort. *evil laugh*

 

Michael Gambon and Alan Rickman are top notch and always will be.  (Of course!)  However, it was in this film that they finally matched the characters of Dumbledore and Snape that I had created in my brain when I read the books.  Maybe what David Yates needed was the graver plot to bring out the meat of these characters. Alan Rickman executes his lines with beautifully pregnant pauses and Gambon radiates an unrelenting calm. By the end of the film I could see the fate of both characters in their eyes and it was chilling.  I’m already hankering for the next films.

 

Speaking of pregnant pauses, we arrive at point #2: Time

 

 

My favorite thing about Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was the time that Yates took in each scene.  There are silences and seemingly inconsequential moments that really show us the kinds of people and relationships we’re dealing with here.  I was even more grateful for all the extra time in this movie.

 

Yates took time not only with the characters, but with some beautiful quiet shots that flesh out the world for us.  The film exists in a grayed out palette with sweeping scenic panoramas of the castle, the ocean, and even the room interiors.   There is a terrifying calm throughout the whole movie which terror is reinforced as we experience lingering and silent looks at Draco contemplating and working to accomplish the horrific task he’s been given by the Dark Lord.  We get good long shots of Dumbledore alone in his office as if to remind us how much we value him as Harry’s mentor and one of our favorite characters.  For those of us who have read the books, the extra time that Yates takes for moments like these causes our spines to tingle with anticipation.  For those who haven’t read the books, these moments provide important insight into the characters.    

 

As for characters though, we really can’t deny that we love the students the most.  Harry and his posse are in their penultimate year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and they definitely own the place.  With these characters, Yates uses his extra time to show us how close they’ve become and how much they truly love and value one another.  We get moments of quiet conversation in the dorm rooms or in a corner of the hallway.  We get sidelong looks or a helpful hand to hold at just the right time.  These moments not only enhance the general feeling of the film, but bind the characters together for us.  Yates uses these moments to show us just how much the students have grown up and how much they can actually handle.  I’m not just talking about the romances (though those are quite hilarious and delightful).  I’m talking about these kids becoming the eventual leaders of the wizarding world. 

 

Which brings me to the third and final point: HRH

 

 

This is the best film for HRH, by far.  Not only is their acting better, but we’re finally over Harry’s puberty angst from book 5.  We’ve gotten past Hermione’s acrobatic eyebrows and melodrama.  Gone are the times when Ron served only as the dim-witted best friend.  In this film these three are the Trifecta of Awesome.  Seeing them together was positively soul-strengthening and I finally came to believe that Harry will have what it takes to lead an army against Voldemort.  Harry knows how to work the room.  He knows how to bolster his friends, comfort them, help them, and make them laugh.  He takes care of them and they take care of him.  The combination of good acting and a great (and funny) script showed just how competent HRH have become as wizards and as people. 

 

Another cool thing about HRH is the team of awesome characters they turn to for help.  Ginny, the rest of the Weasleys, the luminous Luna Lovegood, Neville, and the professors at Hogwarts–all of these characters were beautifully portrayed in this film (especially Luna!) and I’m excited to see the roles they play in the final act and showdown.

 

I’ll go on record and say that I think this is the best Potter film yet.  I said that about Order of the Phoenix (and I meant it), but I have to place this one at the very front.  With all my talk about the character interactions and the good acting I never even got around to talking about the stellar film-making itself.   The subtle and gorgeous editing, the seamless special effects, and the clever costuming and cinematography are worth an entirely different review.  Maybe on another day.

 

Despite my flowery prose I have to admit — the movie wasn’t perfect.  It was astonishingly true to the book in most cases, and in some glaringly obvious cases it wasn’t.   You’ll all know exactly what I’m talking about and, while I understand the reasoning behind the changes, I still wished for a few choice moments I enjoyed while reading the book.  However, thank goodness we still have the book for those parts. 

 

As for the film, I’m off to see it again this weekend.   

 

Note to those bringing little kids: This film is rated PG, but is most definitely the darkest of the bunch.  All the violence you read about in the book?  It’s in the movie.  I’m actually amazed they got away with that rating, though it’s not overdone or gory.  I’d recommend a screening before you take any kids under the age of 8.