Friday, November 12, 2010

Potter-Watch (28 of 77): The Road Movie

Welcome to the last conglomerate Potter-Watch before the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1! We have a week until the big release which is bound to break all kinds of records in a fantastic way. I'm going to make my prediction right now that it will at least break the opening day record, due to huge midnight release earnings, and even more from the rest of the day. It may go on to break the opening weekend record, but it will be more difficult since the film is not releasing in 3D. Still, the fan base should trampoline this film to success over the weekend, as well as over Thanksgiving break. It will probably be the highest grossing film in the franchise to date, and the fifth non-3D film to date to make it past the 1 million mark.

There have been quite a few featurettes being released, including one that goes into the main plot point of the titular Deathly Hallows, and one that explores all the different characters. I'd like to show you the latter, but there isn't an embed available. I'd show you all of them, but I feel that Warner Bros. is steeping too far into their old ways of ruining the film a bit too much. It does give an idea of all the different layers this film will have, right down to the smallest details. What I will show you is the featurette focusing on the Ministry of Magic, which plays a very important role in this film. It shows Bill Nighy as Rufus Scrimgeor and Imelda Staunton returning as one of the most despicable characters of the series, Dolores Umbridge. Check it out.

What sets this film above most is the focus on the main three characters specifically. A lot of characters are returning, and that should be rather fun for those who've been initiated into the series. If you are brand new to it all, you really don't even matter. Sorry, but it's true. Early on, though, the cast and crew kept coming up with terms to describe the two Deathly Hallows films, and the phrase that escaped most often for Part 1 was "road movie". A lot of people have moved past it, but it's still very much true. These three are on their own in a very strange and beautiful landscape. They're running from those who want to kill them, and they can't really trust anyone. By any definition, this is indeed what you'd call a road movie.

Finally, before I leave you with practically no Potter news until after the release of the new film, the film premiered in London yesterday, and reviews are already hitting the net. The first two actually hit before the premiere even started, so that's suspicious, seeing as they were both very close to being negative. I don't consider The Guardian to be a reliable source when it comes to this sort of thing, so it's not surprising that they offer a review almost as negative as their review for Half-Blood Prince. For the most part though, reception has been rather positive, especially from the Potter fanbase. They admit that the film will not have an awards presence this year, which is something I've been tossing and turning over for the past few days. I gave it a good shot, didn't I. I guess it really is time to get serious. Though some reviewers have hinted at a possibility for next year's film to make a huge impact, and the technical categories are still likely shots for this film. I found the video review from UGO to be particularly insightful, because it just seems like a reliable point. I leave you with a hilarious video from YouTube user Tobuscus, and my top three choices for my favorite Potter moments. Tomorrow begins my week long review of the first six films. Enjoy!

3. Dumbledore's Death (Half-Blood Prince)

Of all the death in the Potter series, which haven't quite registered emotionally in the way they should, this is admittedly the most emotional and important of them. A year after Dumbledore and Voldemort fight over the soul of Harry Potter, a similar fight goes on over Draco, who is a much harder target for Dumbledore to win over. It's such an intense scene as Draco is on the edge of killing the only one Voldemort ever feared, and you can tell that Dumbledore is doing everything he can to stall Draco just long enough. He can see that Draco isn't emotionally capable of taking a life, but the consequences should he fail are too horrifying for him to risk it. It's definitely a powerful turning point for this character who has been all bark but no bite until now, but now we actually worry about this little douchebag.

Then the tension breaks as Snape arrives, and Harry makes the decision he'll soon regret to let him go forward. After the most suspenseful silence the series has seen to date, Dumbledore is murdered by the man he trusted most. I'll admit that this wasn't emotionally satisfying at first, but after the Death Eaters flee the grounds, there's a truly emotional sendoff in the courtyard, where all the students show up in sorrow and sadness. It really was the saddest moment of this series, despite the griping that several have instigated in. Deep down, this is a series about growing up, and part of that is leaving your mentors and father figures behind, and this was a rather poignant way of doing that.

2. Voldemort's Rebirth (Goblet of Fire)

There are several massive action sequences in the fourth installment of the series, and that's a rather large focus of the film. Some of the films have had definite problems with pacing, but not this one. It always feels like it's going at the right pace, and it all leads up to that finale. There's an undercurrent of dread throughout the entire film, and builds and builds until this point, and then everything is released in the most terrifying way possible. It's pure havoc and chaos when Voldemort finally rises out of pot as an amorphous blob, slowly taking form into this hideous snakelike humanoid. You can say that Ralph Fiennes has been hamming up his performance of Voldemort over the course of the films, and you would be correct.

However, he is as perfect as he could be in this scene. He has such confidence at that moment that it simply clicks on all cylinders. The sheer menace of the scene is frightening, for both Harry and the Death Eaters. They had never expected their master to ever return, and they were in fact counting on it. This throws a wrench into everything they planned. Then is the one on one between Harry and Voldemort, and you see Harry get the crap beaten out of him. He is tortured and humiliated by this crazed adult who takes out all the aggression he's had over his death on Harry. The battle ends on Priori Incantatum, when Harry sees his parents one last time before he escapes. It's a hopeful cap-off to a horrific situation, and it may be the most important scene in the continuity of the series.

1. He's The Dog (Prisoner of Azkaban)

Everyone has a certain scene of the series that has absolutely defined what it has meant to them. For me, that scene is the ultimate reveal that happens at the beginning of the climax of Prisoner of Azkaban. It's a very biased opinion, because I had not read the third book in the series at the time of watching the film. I had no idea exactly what I was in for, and it's really the best film for it. For the entire duration, we are led to believe that Sirius Black was not only a Death Eater, but the man responsible for the death of Harry's parents. He never laid a hand on them, but he did betray them. We'd been led to believe that Azkaban had twisted his mind to the breaking point, and that he had set out to kill Harry. We were so certain of it, and nothing could've been more surprising than the truth.

From the dread filled start with the surprised appearance of a disheveled Sirius Black, to the surprise appearance by Remus Lupin and revelation that he's a werewolf (though I could kind of guess that from the beginning), to the startling appearance of Peter Pettigrew, I was gripped to my seat. It was the first time a literary translation had surprised me in such a huge way, and I absolutely loved it. It brought every single dangling plot point to the fore, and the fact that Scabbers actually has such a huge meaning to the plot is magnificent. Nobody could have possibly seen that coming, so it came right out of left field. I understand if it wasn't the best scene for everyone, but it was the best for me. It carried the most meaning and impact, both visually and cinematically.

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