As usual, we sprinted (literally) to the latest Harry Potter flick, with visions of broomsticks and butter beer dancing in our heads. But although we've embraced some of J.K. Rowling's grimly gorgeous elements - the skulls, the spiders, Ralph Fiennes without a nose - they've always been served with large heapings of fun, wonder, and generally giant smiles. Well, not this time.
(Also, if you're one of those people who types SPOILER ALERT in your Twitter feed, just stop reading here.)
You don't need to be Head Girl at Hogwarts to realize there are dark forces at work in the wizard world - just look at the giant movie screen, which barely strays from its grimy color palette of sludge gray, midnight blue, and bone white. And while Voldemort's scions infiltrate the Ministry of Magic, and kidnap / torture / maim anyone with warm blood, our scrappy heroines have limited time to destroy the Dark Wizard's seven-split soul and restore happiness to... um... the Universe at Large.
To illustrate the high stakes, and the pure evil of the Death Eaters, there's some graphically scary stuff in the movie's beginning. You see a Hogwart's teacher tortured to death, two Weasley brothers split open and screaming, and Emma Watson trying to calmly perform a spell while her hands are covered in someone else's blood. There's also a sickly sinister thread of Nazi-era cruelty, with words like "race traitor" and "half blood" hurled like spells at the main characters, and propoganda pamphlets declaring in big Bauhaus letters "MUD BLOODS AND HOW TO SPOT THEM."
None of this is different from the book, but seeing it on a giant screen takes it quickly into "terrifying" territory, and if your family was chased out of their Old Country by evil political machines (disclaimer: mine was) you might actually want to vomit and / or cry at certain points of the film. (Spoiler Alert 2: Bellatrix LeStrange, played by Helena Bonham Carter, carves the word "Mudblood" into Emma Watson's wrist with a knife. That's when I lost it.)
But okay, there were definitely some "fun" moments in this film: The beginning features Harry Potter in a neon lace bra and underwear. That was pretty amusing. Seeing Luna Lovegood's house is the crazy-cool adventure you'd expect, complete with flying plums. And there's a short dance sequence that proves 1) Emma Watson can really act, and 2) The only way to get through a really bad time is with clandestine rock 'n roll.
But maybe the most striking part of the film is the illustration of the Deathly Hallows - the mythical objects that Harry needs to survive. In an animated sequence, you see three wizards (spoiler alert 3: They're Harry's great-great-great-great-grandfather and uncles) acquiring power with mixed results. The animations are beautiful, thrilling, and so much fun - until you realize they're being drawn by Death himself.
That's pretty much the mood of the entire movie - it's cool, it's amazing, it's exciting... but the dark clouds are there for a reason, and until the lights in the movie theater come up, you won't be able to shake them.