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The Battle of Hogwarts is the best kind of fan film

The Battle of Hogwarts - Theater Review
Release Date: 07/13/2011 - MPAA Rating: Unrated
Clacker Rating: 5 Clacks

With Harry Potter week in full swing here at CliqueClack, I would be remiss to not mention the other Potter film premiering this week ... a short fan film made purely out of love for the Boy Who Lived and his world.

After a trip to Canada this weekend, I spent the long trip back to Indiana rereading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows for the umpteenth time in preparation for Part 2 on Friday. Eventually my eyes tired, and I had to stop reading right before my favorite part of the book — the Battle for Hogwarts. Clocking in at around 150 pages and rumored to take up the large majority of the last film, the battle is just full of thrilling, heartbreaking, amazing stories … only a handful of which we actually get to see. And that’s why I was so thrilled to watch The Battle of Hogwarts.

I actually learned about this project back in June, when the trailer popped up online. Released in five parts over the course of this week, The Battle of Hogwarts is a short faux-documentary (set 20 years after the battle) that explores the events of that long night. The filmmakers (Unrendered Media) aren’t making money from the project — they’re simply fans who wanted to honor a great book and film series. As I’m writing this, two of the five chapters are online, but director Nick Acosta was kind enough to send me the rest of the chapters early. And man, is it good.

First and foremost, it’s brilliant how they used The Wizarding World of Harry Potter for the shots of Hogsmeade and outside Hogwarts. Even though I visited the amusement park last year, it was easy to suspend disbelief and get lost in the scenes. I’m just amazed to see the park empty during the day — visitors were packed like sardines when we visited, and it’s strangely eerie to see it without the crowds. From a technical standpoint, I was very impressed by the moving photographs that are so iconic to the Harry Potter franchise. There was very little difference in quality from the moving photos in the movies and the ones here. Really, the quality of the cinematography overall is incredibly high for a project like this.

The Battle of Hogwarts touches on a number of topics in the different chapters, but what’s interesting is how imperfect this post-Voldemort era is. Despite the natural whimsy oozing out of the film series, this fan film pulls no punches when it comes to dark realism. The losses during that night are staggering, even years later, and you can see it all over the faces of those survivors interviewed. It’s also implied that much of the wizarding community is unsure of what happened that night and questions if Voldemort is really gone for good. We as readers actually know much more about what happened that night than the public, and that ran through my mind during the entirely of the film.

Many of the current students don’t even really know what the battle was about … just that people died over something. Their parents don’t like talking about the war, and the children never thought to ask. It’s a sad commentary on how quickly important pieces of history can be lost to the next generation. It actually made me quite angry, to be honest. Don’t they realized what happened at their own school, the sacrifices made to save the world? But we also discover Rita Skeeter has been hard at work once again twisting the truth for her own profit. Even after he saves the wizarding world from Voldemort for the last time, Rita and her tabloid cohorts pick him apart. And while he doesn’t seem to be nearly as vicious, the documentary’s filmmaker and narrator clearly has a strong fascination with Harry’s reincarnation on that fateful night; there is a bias in his narration.

Scattered throughout the five chapters are characters affected by the war that we never got to meet in the books. We see a former Death Eater, whose story made me think immediately of the Nuremberg trials; he is quick to attest he was just following orders and that Voldemort had threatened his family. We also meet two former students who went deep into the Forbidden Forest to defend Hogwarts during the battle and a member of the Order who went into hiding after the Ministry fell.

The film mixes familiar faces with the “new” characters. The actress playing Luna gets her voice down pat, although she’s almost a little too dreamy in my opinion … book and film versions of Luna are more lucid. A very Lenny Kravitz-looking Dean Thomas is quick to defend Harry’s privacy, especially when the narrator starts asking particular questions. And the last chapter (premiering Friday) features a big surprise that I refuse to spoil. I’ll say this much … the last six or so minutes of the project include some of the most emotional and effective moments, and that’s saying something. I kept feeling the urge to pause the video and indulge in all the set details.

I really liked how they took notes from Rowling’s interviews and used them in the script. Many bits of information from the kids’ adult lives that Rowling has made canon were included. My particular favorite was the interview with Hannah Abbott Longbottom, former member of Dumbledore’s Army, new owner of the Leaky Cauldron and wife of Neville. By using details that are canon but not directly from the books, the documentary feels that much more legitimate.

At its core, The Battle of Hogwarts is a love letter to the story of the Boy Who Lived and a thank you letter to Jo herself. If there’s anything negative to say about the project, it’s that it’s too short. Like so much of the rich world Rowling has crafted over the course of this series, Potter fans can’t help but crave the stories left to be told. The Battle of Hogwarts gave us just a taste; by the end of the fifth chapter, I was left wanting to see so much more.

 

Photo Credit: Unrendered Media

Short URL: http://clak.us/m25z

Categories: General, Reviews

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