No review can alter the course of HP6, its success pre-ordained in long forgotten delirious accounting meetings at Warner Brothers.
JK Rowling’s world is now so pervasive it would difficult to find anyone who has not at least heard of the Harry Potter, if not started a band based on him, written a fan novel, or listened to audio books whilst sleeping in HP pyjamas. Taking this into account, there is minimal exposition and the assumption is made that by now you should now the story to date and if not, why not?
From dark beginnings, with the superbly realised “deatheaters” London based Millenium Bridge scene, we gradually return to a more recognisable Hogwart’s before a penultimate act more akin to Tolkien “lite” than the HP series.
The much rumoured “sexing up” of the characters allows them to indulge in some petting and general relationship angst. Whilst some younger children may find the “lovey dovey” stuff a bit boring, a good old fashioned Quidditch match should grab their attention back. There are some touching scenes notably Weasley (Grint) having been subject to a strong love potion. Although all of the principal younger actors (Malfoy included) appear more at ease with themselves and their characters than previous movies, they are still clearly no match for the “older” talent on display.
Jim Broadbent’s (Prof Slughorn) again disappears superbly into another splendid character role, so much so he almost seems like part of the furniture (pun intended).
Snape (Rickman) again steals every scene he is allowed to sneer in and Dumbledore (Gambon) continues to add gravitas to the proceedings.
The tone of the movie seems to be pitched about right for the target audience who have grown with the series, scary but not too intense. The effects are top notch (just compare your old DVD copy of “Philosophers Stone”) and the acting effective, Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix) with her trademark madness, another standout.
As befits a “set up movie” the end is quite abrupt and appears to segue from tragedy to light hearted banter seemingly without pause. Despite a missed chance for Potter (Radcliffe) to really show his acting abilities in “that Dumbledore scene”, HP will return, the last book is split into two movies (filmed back to back) to do the book justice or double the box office, depending on your level of cynicism.
The movies, perhaps even more so than there source material and even Rowling’s original intentions, now transcend their more humble beginnings and strive to “mean something”.
Does it succeed in the lofty heights it sets itself, growing up, making your own way in the world, loss, responsibility and friendship?
Mostly yes and in a summer dominated by a vacuous movie about indistinguishable robots fighting each other, any movie that aims high is to be treasured.
Big budget, mainstream appeal movie making, at it’s finest.