You could feel the tension bubbling beneath the hushed giggles and gossip in the packed out cinema. The manager of this newly-built complex hurried to the front to welcome first-timers in the hope of wooing their future return. Noone listened, all waiting for the curtains to pull back and the now-familiar swooping notes of the Harry Potter theme to fill their ears.
The time had come.The dementors, the wands, the incantations, the fabulously saccharine wardrobe of Dolores Umbridge (the character, costume and dark punishment methods each deserving their own Oscar), the children’s roles developing along with their facial hair. Potter was back, with a new director, a slightly altered (and I have to say, less satisfactory) score and many more hormones to boot. Hermione Grainger knows no acting skills, I’m afraid, but I’m delighted to say that Ron and Harry have grown into their parts with aplomb demonstrating maturity and subtlety that is used to develop the parts beyond the merely perfunctory. Luna Lovegood proves herself a gifted addition to the cast and the development of Nigel (the eager first-year fan of Harry) and Neville Longbottom are welcome and skilled.
This director showed his skills in set-piece scenes. The post-Harry/Cho-kiss dissection between the three best friends was aglow with giggles, the swooping travels through London on broomsticks with accompanying swooping score, the bonding conversations between Sirius and Harry were each in their own right beautiful moments of cinema.
As ever, though, the books far outweigh the films in detail, narrative and character and plot development. Once again, the director and editor can do little beyond provide the edited highlights, depending ultimately on an audience love of the books, or an acceptance of sudden and unexplained scene shifts with little or no support. Harry and his friends fly to London, and ‘appear’ in the hall of the Ministry of Magic (the set of which sits imagnitavely between 1984, the London Underground tiling and the vaulted carvings of Whitehall– kudos to the design team). Cut to them in the Chamber holding the prophesies with no explanation of how they got through the various doors, vaults and corridors in between. Frustrating episodes such as this jar only momentarily, though, in an engaging and fast-paced film which will certainly delight fans and non-converts alike.