Harry Potter & the Last Hurrah

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Lucy Healy-Kelly takes up arms in Dumbledore’s Army just in time for  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

How It’s New York: Erm, probably a more fitting place specific heading here would be ‘How It’s Planet Earth’. This week the eighth and final Harry Potter film opened here in New York, so it is screening, here. Everywhere. And in the world. Everywhere. If you are a resident of the Tri-State area, or indeed of planet Earth, then you have about as much chance of avoiding Harry Potter this month as (as Albus Dumbledore might put it) the Chudley Cannons have of topping the League.

How It’s Irish: Over the past decade the Harry Potter series has provided a rich stomping ground of opportunity for some of the best actors in the UK and Ireland. There are people in the world to whom Fiona Shaw is the Cork born, award winning actor seen most recently here in NYC in BAM’s production of John Gabriel Borkman, but to a legion of young fans of a certain lightning foreheaded wizard she is Petunia Dursley. Brendan Gleeson as “Mad Eye” Moody  (who appears in the upcoming wide-release The Guard, which we saw at Tribeca Film Festival and adored  read our minireview here!— and can’t wait to see it and attend the press day) and the late great Richard Harris as Dumbledore also have memorable turns among the adults cast.  Evanna Lynch has made a charming Luna Lovegood, and Devon Murray as Finnegan has been a key member of team Harry all the way through. And we did win the 1994 Quidditch World Cup, you know.


In truth though of course, the Harry Potter phenomenon is no more or less a New York or Irish story than it is of Paris or Delhi, Buenos Aires or Tokyo. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is an occasion worldwide because it is the culmination of a decade’s worth of storytelling, and it was the last glimpse of a new installment in a tale which took seven books and eight films to unfurl. JK Rowling is preparing for the reelase of her new site www.pottermore.com which promises to shed more light on the world of Harry Potter, but whatever prequels or sequels may lie in the future, this chapter of Harry’s life is closed. Lovers of Rowling’s books have waited three years for this Deathly Hallows to reach the screen. If you never opened a book, then this is the film where all will be revealed. Either way, as the marketing campaign would have it – It All Ends.

For lovers of the books, the movies can never fully capture the plot and detail and, literal, magic of Rowling’s exhaustive universe. But a comparison between book and film does not do Deathly Hallows Part II justice, as it is in its own right a rollicking good ride. It would be pointless by now for the movie to waste much of its comparatively short 140 minute runtime with explanation or exposition, and instead it focuses on the big picture in every sense of the word. The Dragon assisted heist from Gringott’s Bank, the Voldemort showdown and Hogwarts under seige are all thrillingly paced and meticulously realized, and this Part II is a showier, more action packed business than Deathly Hallow’s more solemn and thoughtful Part I.


The film’s US release date was Friday July 15th. The day before, the Regal Theater in Union Square had sold out 14 of its 16 screenings (which began at one minute past midnight) and lines had started forming early on Thursday evening. Cheery bunches gathered along 14th and Broadway, setting up camp with their wands and capes and (toy) owls on a balmy summer night. This was not a ‘family’ film event and there were no children in the audience, but instead it was primarily made up of the 20-somethings who grew up alongside Harry, Ron and Hermione. Many came in costume; home made t-shirts with the Deathly Hallows symbol drawn on, lightning bolt earrings, Gryffindor scarves. There was a Dobby the House Elf wearing a large sheet, two menacing Death Eaters, a rather brilliant Professor Trelawney, Luna clutching a homemade copy of the Daily Quibbler and a distinctly Bowie-styled Draco Malfoy. With everyone in their seats 2 hours before the screening began, munching popcorn and kitted out in special Potter shaped 3D specs, there was palpable excitement long before the opening credits (as a friend commented ‘even the Warner Brothers logo is exciting.’)

But it is the emotional connection the audience has to the characters which make this such a rich movie-going experience. The visual effects elicit oohs and aahs, but it is the characters who provoke the audience to riotous laughter, joyous applause, indignant boos and outright disconsolate sobbing at various points throughout the film. It’s hard to imagine a 16th Century audience at the Globe Theatre having been in any way more viscerally engaged. 

The books had the advantage of length and scope over the movies to allow the depth of character development which I feel is at the heart of what kept us all hooked for so long. But it is to the credit of some truly talented actors that each character retains such a strong identity and evokes such reaction in the midst of a sprawling plot and a large ensemble cast. Helena Bonham Carter’s gloriously unhinged Bellatrix, Ralph Fiennes channeling pure evil with obvious relish, Alan Rickman’s painfully conflicted Snape – they’re all superb. They were brilliant characters in the first place, and they’ve been realized on screen with such relish and love. Maggie Smith’s MacGonagall and Julie Walter’s Mrs Weasley both have marvellous moments which could draw an air punch of pure pleasure from even the most Harry-weary. This movie really belongs to the young ‘uns though, and our central trio and their friends have come a long way since their Sorcerer’s Stone days. Luna, Ginny, Fred and George and Neville are all a little older (if not necessarily wiser), but it’s sheer joy to watch them have their moments as the Battle of Hogwarts rages. At the Regal’s 12.02 screening, each triumph or downfall is deeply felt, and shared by an enraptured audience in a way that is rare in such a behemoth Summer blockbuster.


As a film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows more than holds its own. But it is as a movie-going experience – be that here in New York or wherever you’re reading this – that it becomes something special if you’ve stuck with Harry on page or screen for the past ten years. Its young alumni have already moved on; Daniel Radcliffe currently proving his Broadway chops in a well received performance of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and Emma Watson’s haircuts evoking as much chatter as a host of grindylows. But for the long time fans who know It All Ends Here: slink off for some movie magic, and enjoy the thrill of joining the ranks of Dumbledore’s Army for one last hurrah. 
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Copyright 2011 New York Irish Arts