As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, my sister and I saw Harry Potter the Exhibition at the Boston Museum of Science earlier this week. I am going to start this review with my overall impressions which will be spoiler free. After that, I’ll go into more detail about some aspects of the exhibit which you may prefer to be surprised by if you plan to see it. To my mind, it would not be a problem to know what’s coming from my descriptions, but you may feel differently so I will give you a warning before beginning that part.
Overall, I loved this experience. We had what I would consider an optimal viewing experience since the museum was almost deserted during our weekday visit, I can imagine that during busy times, such as school vacation weeks, it could be much more difficult to see everything. It is important going into this exhibit to understand what it is: it’s an exhibit of many costumes and some props used in making the films, they are displayed in small stage sets which do a great job of giving them context and creating an environment. It’s important to understand though, this exhibit is not about the making of the films. There is no look behind the scenes or education about the filmmaking process. The optional audio guide is primarily the voices of the artists who created the various costumes and props telling stories and talking about aspects of the process, while these clips were mostly very interesting, they were too short for my taste, I wanted more.
The creators of the exhibit done a terrific job of creating environments for the objects to live in that help you to feel the context, and I found this extremely effective. The objects and costumes themselves ranged from interesting to magnificent and extraordinary. We spent close to an hour and a half touring the exhibit at a very leisurely pace, looking at objects in detail and listening to each audio guide recording. Both of us enjoyed the experience very much. My basic recommendation is, if you have a chance to see this exhibit and it’s appealing to you, do it.
Spoilers begin here
in my post yesterday I talked about how important I think the opening of an exhibit is, at least to me. The opening of this Harry Potter exhibit was terrific. After our tickets were taken and we got our audio guides, we were instructed to wait in a queue line. (We were the only ones in the line.) Shortly, a British sounding gentleman in costume led us into a sort of courtyard area. At the front of it was a small stage, on the stage was a stool, and on the stool was an object which could only be the sorting hat. We were each called up to sit on the stool, the sorting hat was placed on our heads, and we were each sorted (both Gryffindors.)
Then the doors were opened to a building façade, and we were led into a dark room with about eight beautifully backlit posters for the films. We quickly discovered that these were not really posters, but rather large high-definition video screens mounted sideways. Shown on the screens is an excellent montage of moments from the films, clips interplay between screens driven by sound effects and the familiar and powerful musical score. I really enjoyed it. As the montage built to its climax, the whole right wall of the space rolled up like a giant window shade leaving us looking into a bright light, as were called forward into this newly revealed space we discovered that the bright light is the headlight of the Hogwarts Express locomotive. Another British gentleman quickly ushered us through that space and into the exhibit itself. Quite an opening.
The next thing we saw was a short hallway filled with portraits some of which were video screens containing animated ghosts — I thought that this was mildly interesting but because the video screens looked so different from the stationary portraits I did not experience any suspension of disbelief, or sensation that I was looking at anything other than a video screen.
From the air began the incredible array of tableaux of costumes and props in appropriate settings which I described above. About two thirds of the way through was a full size, walk-through set of Hagrid’s cottage. This served as a transition into the darker characters and the Forbidden Forest. Here in addition to costumes were full-size models of some of the creatures which were created primarily in computer graphics. All very cool.
Then we came around a corner into a small sort of anti-room with walls covered in notices in individual frames just like in the film, this was the entrance to the Great Hall. The Great Paul was not a full set, but rather a set of tableaux arranged to suggest the space (of course creating a full great Hall would’ve required more space than the entire exhibition probably used.) In this space were displayed the most lavish costumes, primarily from the Yule Ball scene.
At the exit of the Great Hall was another short hallway of the portraits some of which were video screens, the ghosts in the video screens were all applauding. I was somewhat disappointed to discover that this was the end of the exhibit. After the incredible themed opening experiences, I was expecting some sort of grand finale which never came. I’m sure the intention was that the Great Hall would fill that purpose, but it just didn’t work for me. I had actually been wondering in the back of my mind as I walked through the exhibit what the finale would be. I thought I had figured it out, nowhere in the exhibit was there a reference to Dumbledore’s office, and I thought that somehow we would find ourselves they are with something cool happening as a finale. Instead we got a gift shop. Now don’t get me wrong, it was a very nice gift shop, with lots of cool things, but it wasn’t the finale I was looking for.
Overall I would still give the exhibit a rating of eight on a scale of 1 to 10, which from someone who is as picky as I am is actually quite a complement, and better than I expected it to be.
Have you seen the exhibit? Would you like to? I’d love to hear it in the comments.