Then we were in. A very mild-mannered theatre employee came out and said "Everyone here for the 11:30 Harry Potter movie can just go right in," which meant of course that all 300 people in all the various line-ups mobbed for the doors. I grabbed each twin in a Death Grip by the wrist and with Max close behind me we threw ourselves into the mass of teens, families, and older couples. It was a seriously distracting mix of people. It almost threw me off. Almost: we had to get in there and get 9 seats. Luckily I am not an easily distracted person when it comes to getting a good theatre seat, but that's only because I am extremely picky when it comes to watching a film in a large theatre space. I'm like Goldilocks: I need something not quite at the top, but not too low, and I hate sitting in the middle of the row. I need an end seat, in case I need a quick exit (I've done this all my life and have never once needed a quick exit so either I am excessively careful or I am more on the obsessive compulsive side than I care to admit), and I hate leaving for bathroom breaks (ask my kids, they will recite Sheila's Standard Lecture On Why Drinking Too Much At Movies Is Not Good).
First we watched 20 minutes of movie trailers. I usually like movie trailers, but this time they were a weird mix of slightly, err, mature movies, and ones we'd already seen when we'd seen Up! I sat through the chortling of my children as they watched guinea pigs flying through the air, as a kid asked for the gift of telephonesis, and as a giant pancake landed on a school. I surreptitiously withdrew the three bags of popcorn I'd made at home and stashed in ziplocks in my purse. I whispered "Don't eat this all before the movie even starts" and "try not to get the yeast all over your t-shirts" to everyone. I made sure FDPG knew to plug her ears in case things got scary: an excellent trick because in my experience the sounds are sometimes scarier than the action. And closing one's eyes does not require handwork, whereas plugging one's ears does (sometimes I feel a bit like James Bond, navigating my way through this Minefield of Complicated Mothering).
And once again Dominic whispered, oh-so-loudly, "Why do they always have all these trailers before the movie? We came here to see the movie, not these stupid trailers. We've already seen half of them."
Can't you just see the old man he's going to be?
Then the film started. You could almost feel the intake of breath. There was a serious level of excitement in the air.
(warning: reading further could spoil the movie for you)
The film diverges from the book in quite a few places, in case you were wondering. Some of them are quite fortuitous. There was more humour than I remember from the novel. And, if you're like me and you like the touches most directors sneak in as a sort of signature, another bird gets whacked outside Hogwarts. But I was not prepared for all that humour. This movie plays to laughs. Plays for laughs. There's hardly any creepiness in it, which was nice for poor old FDPG, who really quakes at anything and everything. She only had to plug her ears once, and I only had to cover her eyes once (in case she snuck a glance) and that was where the Inferi were grabbing at Dumbledore and Harry in the cave. They even snuck in a Blatant Comic Device in the character of Lavender Brown, who has some scene-chewing moments (and reminded me slightly of British actress Lucy Punch). And there are a number of Unexpectedly Witty Rejoinders between Harry and Dumbledore. There's also one incredibly deft and witty scene with Snape, Dumbledore and Slughorn in the Infirmary with Ron (I had to fight not to write "in the library with a candlestick"), ruminating about love. It's positively brilliant.
Some of the divergences are not so fortuitous. There is one scene where everyone raises their wands as a tribute, but instead of seeming like a bit of well-placed respect, it struck me instead as the sort of thing you'd see in a pop concert, with the audience asking for more. I don't know. It fell flat for me. And the fact that McGonagall initiated this, err, gesture, seemed even more wrong. There were other, small differences: Luna replaces Tonks as the one who finds Harry in the Slytherin Coach under his Invisibility Cloak; Harry is first sighted in a café picking up waitresses and reading the Daily Prophet in PUBLIC; the Weasley twins are hardly in the film at all; the Death Eaters burn down the Weasley house.
Oh the horror of it all!
But Luna is my favourite character so I wasn't too bothered by that bit. I love Luna. I love her batty, slightly breathless demeanour, and I love the way she drifts around in strange outfits. I also love how kind she is to everyone. She is unfailingly understanding.
And don't hex me but I was glad to see Michael Gambon (as Dumbledore) leave. He's always rubbed me the wrong way. I loved him in Gosford Park, among other things, but in my opinion he plays Dumbledore too befuddled and daffy. I miss Richard Harris. He was Dumbledore for me: wise, careful, clear. But he died before they could film the rest of the onslaught.
I do find it curious how so many of the Truly Bad Characters seem to be also the best-dressed ones. Malfoy is positively glistening with cool charismatic savoir-faire. He has a long black coat, slim black trousers, and slicked back white hair. He looks amazing. Almost as delicious as his father, Lucius (the image of Lucius at the Quidditch World Cup [Goblet of Fire], telling Arthur Weasley, through wonderfully gritted teeth, that Arthur's nosebleed seats will enable him to see the rain coming sooner than everyone else is one of my very favourite scenes ever). Similarly Snape always whips in and out of every scene in the blackest black imaginable. He's like a well-dressed and deeply malevolent bat, flapping around the film. Bellatrix is less well-dressed, certainly, but her sister Narcissa looks pretty snappy.
Finally, while I really really enjoyed the film, I had one quibble: it plays as a series of small vignettes (as opposed to a coherent story). I did not enjoy that. It was disorienting. I think that was why it doesn't seem to be a long film, when it actuality it clocks in at two hours and thirty minutes.
Oh, and before I forget, where the hell did Fawkes go? I was hoping the movie would play with this, but it didn't.
I'm still wondering.
Sheila's Movie O'Matic Rating: 8.5/10