Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, the final installment of the epic decade-long Harry Potter series is indeed as satisfying and titillating as all the reviews claim, and catching the midnight showing in Beijing was a surprisingly interactive experience.
The excitement no doubt was ratcheted up by the extra three weeks of anticipation bearing upon audiences here while the rest of world buzzed with Potter-mania. In China, any kind of fandom takes on its own unique characteristics, but nowhere does this show through more endearingly than with Harry Potter.
Walking into the theater, I was delighted to find a gaggle of Hogwarts students standing near the elevator, with sweeping black robes, colored ties (there were Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin – very egalitarian) and very real-looking wands. Another group made a huge hand-drawn poster. (This I found funny: At a rock concert, it might catch Bono’s attention, but Daniel Radcliffe isn’t exactly going to point and shout "Thank you Beijing!!") Then there was the breakout of applause when a six-foot foreigner dressed as Lucius Malfoy entered the lobby with a trail of other hodgepodge characters (and a patronus). Photos were snapped in every which direction and there were even a few small media outlets interviewing the rabidly Potter-crazed.
Now on to the movie: Since the movie has been out in other countries for a few weeks, most of you have probably read the reviews elsewhere. In case you haven’t, it has beautiful shots, heart-wrenching moments of love, loss, victory and defeat and incredible acting performances by Ralph Fiennes, Maggie Smith and Helena Bonham Carter. Even the three not-so-young actors did a fine job. But the real star of the film was Alan Rickman; one girl in the theater nearly hyperventilated every time he came onscreen.
Also as anticipated, the movie is an emotional roller coaster. J.K. Rowling has imbued the characters and story with so much relational complexity that this emotion was going to be an inevitable and also highly anticipated aspect of the final film. Flashback scenes showing the kids growing up throughout the story were especially moving.
We watched the film in 3-D, and while the Dementors floating over Hogwarts in the opening scene was a spectacular (and chilling) visual, I would agree with reviewers who say that the 3-D really isn’t necessary. I do hope to watch it in 2-D again just to try and catch more of the details. Next time I’ll have to remember to bring tissues.
As for whether the film is safe for kids, that’s a hard call to make. Those who’ve read the book can anticipate a very dark and bloody ending to a children’s franchise, and there are probably about 28 scattered minutes of the two-hour-long movie that would be considered completely "kid-friendly." That said, though there are a quite a few violent scenes, the really disturbing parts of the film are less graphic, more conceptual. So, if your child is about nine or older, and has read the books and knows what to expect, it should be doable. Parents with younger kids who were hoping to use them as an excuse to watch the movie might want to hire a babysitter and just enjoy it on their own. (But don’t tell the kids that’s what you’re doing. That would just be cruel.)