We went to see the latest in the Harry Potter franchise last week: Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows, Part 1.
First show. First day.
I bought the tickets before I went to Seattle. I stuck them on the shelf above my desk, showed everyone (in the event of a house fire so FDPG could grab them on the way out, because she WOULD do this for a HP movie), and left for Seattle, promptly and very idiotically forgetting where I'd put them. Every so often I'd pause, in the middle of a Williams Sonoma, or a Target, or a Macy's (had to check out Martha's new line of housewares), and angst over what I'd done with them, because they weren't in my wallet where I'd left them.
Yes, snigger all you like. Fortunately I have come to terms with this highly irritating personality quirk of mine, because I have a personal assistant named FDPG, who remembers everything and anything I say or do.
"Mum, you hid Dad's Christmas presents under your bed in that green box."
"Mum, you left your car keys in your green raincoat."
"Mum, the library CDs are in the van - we have to return them today."
"Mum, last night you said we could have the rest of that chocolate cake for breakfast."
Luckily when I got home and asked her, FDPG knew exactly where they were and all I had to do was get everyone to the movie theatre at 10am the next day. This meant we would have 1 hour and 45 minutes of Official Line Up Time. We'd seen Half Blood Prince the previous summer and it had been bedlam, considering that all us nice polite Canadians were lined up in three sections then set loose on one set of doors. I was not going to do that again. So I loaded some episodes of Doctor Who on my new iTouch (birthday present from He Who Buys New Computers And Donates The Freebies To His Spouse), popped a few ziplocks of popcorn, and off we went to the cinema.
It was really cold.
There were only three kids in the line-up. Mine.
Everyone else asked us at least 20 zillion times if they were skipping school. After the 20th time I started saying "Yes."
Then some odd man leapt out of a car with a cape and a wizard's hat on and, in a very charming English accent, asked FDPG if she wanted to talk to a person on the radio. Ha, that's like asking a drowning man if he'd like a life preserver. He handed the cell to her and she discussed everything she'd liked about all the previous movies, including details as to length, cast, bits left out, etc, to a DJ named Angie on the other end. The man in the cape and hat gaped at her a bit, then asked me how old she was. "Nine," I said. "Wow," he said, "she's a good talker."
Yup. She sure is.
Finally the movie staff took pity on us, probably because it was freezing cold outside, and opened the doors. Unlike the last time we streamed in fairly sedately. I decided I quite liked adult geeks; they are nothing if not meek. Max had his ticket and instructions to run ahead of us and snag 4 seats in my Preferred Seating Area. The excitement was palpable.
So we sat through seven commercials (telephones, pop, soap, banks, and internet connections), five previews (Cowboys & Aliens, Green Hornet, TRON Legacy, Green Lantern, Red Riding Hood) and just when we thought we were nearing the start of the movie, the manager walked in and said "We're having a slight problem with the machines. Please sit tight and we'll try to get it sorted as soon as possible."
It was enough to make us all laugh a little, in disbelief. "What does this mean?" Dominic asked. "Aren't they going to show us the movie?" I felt vaguely sick in the pit of my stomach. The people in the theatre all turned as one and stared at the man in the projection room, who was fiddling with the movie tapes. He waved and smiled politely (we are Canadian, after all).
Eventually, they fixed the machines and we all settled in. Rufus Scrimgeour opens the movie, in the form of Bill Nighy, intoning as only Bill Nighy can: "These are dark days." Then the story cuts to Harry, Ron, and Hermione, all in various grim stages of Preparing To Hunt The Horcruxes. Kenneth Turan has said that this movie is solid and dependable and unsurprising, and it is, but unlike Mr Turan I don't see it as a negative because I had two little kids in tow (and I still haven't forgotten Max's reaction to Goblet of Fire when he was 8, I was not expecting those last 20 minutes at all and neither was he). It's also quite long, clocking in at around two and a half hours; I know this because the man below me kept checking the time on his iPhone (note to man with iPhone: I now know your name & password because I saw you punch it into your keypad, you idiot).
As with the other movies in the series, time passes quickly in Potterville. I had some fun picking out the scenes we'd seen in the previews. I was sorry not to see more of the old stalwarts from the earlier films: the Dursleys (esp. after hearing that Dudley had to wear padding because he'd lost weight), Tonks, Fred & George, McGonnagle, even Lucius. And while I do love Rhys Ifans he seemed far too young to be Luna's father. But seeing Snape as trails of oh-so-graceful black smoke, then a spell-snapping ultra-cool grouch, streaming into the Malfoy's mansion almost made up for it. I might even have sighed aloud, along with all the other women in the theatre. I will be forever grateful that this franchise was not allowed to germinate in the Hollywood Machine; some actors are so good they hardly need spoken lines and Alan Rickman is one of them. There are others, too, but they barely have any scenes this time round, and that perhaps is my one quibble: there isn't enough screen time for some of the real heavy weights this series started with. Not that I want a Part 3...
But it's really only a quibble. There is a lot of action, some impressively atmospheric scenery, some Adam Ant-ish bother boys (the Snatchers), and lots of semi-comic semi-adult action (David O'Hara as Runcorn but really Harry as Runcorn, Ron being kissed by Reg Cattermole's wife while the real Reg Cattermole looks on). There are two scenes the entire theatre jumped at, one involving Bathilda Bathhurst. If you've read the book you'll know what I'm talking about; if you haven't, well, it involves a honkin' big snake, some dark corners, and some flies. In fact, all the scenes I jumped at involved the snake. She has a habit of ending the scenes rather, err, abruptly.
It's a grim movie now that I think about it, well, as grim as a kid-friendly Harry Potter movie peopled by excellent actors can possibly be. Voldemort isn't around much but his presence pervades the movie as a sort of literal gray pall, from his gray robes and the gray air in the chamber, finding echoes in Wormtail's silver hand, the silver candlabra in the Malfoy house, the grim interior of the Black house, and the constant gray weather outside. It's all quite oppressive. And when the film ends, and I won't tell you where it does, you are almost shell-shocked. Almost. Another journey with Harry and Friends is over, but you aren't left entirely wanting, because there's always Part 2 to look forward to.