So I just went to the midnight showing of the last Harry Potter film that will ever be made. It's the end of an era, for sure. And yes, let's get this out of the way: I basically enjoyed it. But I have to admit, I didn't feel the magic as much as I expected to.
Art, in my opinion, is best when it says something about the human experience. And when a film reflects real life (either directly or abstractly) in a poignant, powerful way, you can tell the difference. You can feel the magic in it.
The film we saw eight months ago, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1," had genuine magic in it. The scene where Hermione dances with Harry in a tent in the wilderness is my absolute favorite scene in the entire film series. It's emotionally engaging. It develops the characters. I got a real sense of sadness, hope, friendship, and fear from that moment. All of that was achieved without any flashing lights or magic words - even without any dialogue or camera tricks. Now that is good cinema.
Witchcraft and wands are great fun and all, but there's something to be said about how the most emotionally powerful moment in over nineteen hours of footage is a scene in which two magical folks do something that any Muggle could do: dance.
At any rate, this new film, "Part 2," finishes off the Deathly Hallows story and the entire Harry Potter saga with essentially two hours of climax. So perhaps there's no more time for character development because they already did that eight months ago when they filmed the first half of the book. But that's a poor excuse. I really should have felt something more. I really wanted to feel something more. As much as I liked the movie, I wanted to love it, and I felt like I couldn't.
People died left and right in this film. There are a lot of casualties in the final battle. But I felt nothing, even when looking death straight in the face. What's worse, it seemed like many of the characters felt nothing as well. There were brief periods of mourning, and then the film moved on eagerly, trying as hard as it could to be an action movie.
The only death in the movie that really got an emphatic reaction out of the audience was the death of a villain. I saw no tears in the theater when heroes laid down their lives, but I heard plenty of jeers, cheers, and laughter when a certain villain was defeated. Is that something to be proud of? That the strongest feeling we got out of this experience (or at least, the feeling we most strongly expressed) was a celebration of killing?
That sort of thing is excusable, if you're a mindless action movie. But isn't Harry Potter supposed to be more than mindless action and explosions? Isn't it supposed to be an epic drama about love, friendship, sacrifice, and courage?
I offer a disclaimer: I haven't read all of the books yet. Therefore I have had to look at these films with a sort of unique perspective. My concern is that most of them refuse to stand on their own two feet. Instead of developing their characters and asking us to care about life and death, they would rather assume their audience is already in love with the characters. If they assume that work has already been done, it gives them more time to focus on pretty effects and things blowing up.
I'm not entirely disappointed, but I'm certainly underwhelmed. Believe me, there are plenty of pretty effects and things blowing up. Plenty of "magic," in one sense of the word. But to this Muggle, it all just didn't feel magical enough.