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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

October 22, 2010 at 11:12 AM

“Harry Potter” at Pacific Science Center

Last night, I joined a crowd of Muggles and witches and very small Harry Potters (including a five-year-old fan in full Harry costume, including glasses — beyond adorable) to preview “Harry Potter: The Exhibition” at Pacific Science Center. It’s a travelling collection of about 200 costumes, props and miscellaneous items from the “Harry Potter” movies, and a fascinating phenomenon in and of itself: I can’t think of another movie franchise that would inspire such a caravan of commerce. (I suppose the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy could sustain it, or maybe James Bond, but as far as I know, they haven’t.) And while it’s undeniably fun to wander the exhibit’s dark hallways and view its offerings, I do need to emphasize a crucial point: It’s very expensive. I enjoyed myself, but I saw it for free. Those who have paid $26 for daytime adult admission ($24 for kids 6-15), or $19 for special evening admission that doesn’t include the rest of the Science Center ($15 for kids — and note that all tickets, if you buy them in advance as it’s recommended that you do from PSC’s website, will have an extra $4 added on) may be expecting a little more — or may be dismayed at the wildly pricey gift shop you must navigate at the end. (Buy what looks like a plastic replica of Harry’s wand for $49.99! Or a very ugly Azkaban T-shirt for $26.99!) You have been warned.
That said, hardcore Potter fans will get a kick out of seeing the kind of closeup detail you won’t catch in the movies. Harry and Ron’s cozy red-velvet-draped beds, from their dorm room in Gryffindor, each have a Roman numeral faintly etched on the top beam; somebody, it seems, thought about the process through which some administrative wizard at Hogwarts assigned each student a bed — with a number. In the hall of portraits, which opens the exhibits, you can meet “Tobias Misslethorpe, Founding Editor of Witch Weekly“; on a desk, you can see bound copies of Professor Gilderoy Lockhart’s literary oeuvre: “Wandering with Werewolves,” “Holidays with Hags,” and “Voyages with Vampires.”
The costumes, eerily standing empty as if worn by ghosts, are a treat to examine closeup (though, of course, you can’t touch). Professor McGonagall’s dress robes for the Yule Ball are of regal velvet; Voldemort’s sickly-green tatters blow in an artfully created chill breeze; Delores Umbridge’s pink tweed suit is as fuzzy as a miscolored kitten. It’s sweet to see young Harry’s khakis-and-sweater casual outfit from the first movie — he was so little then! — and to see the mothholes in Ron Weasley’s uniform sweater. There are, in fact, Hogwarts uniforms on display for most of the main characters, which made me wonder: Obviously these young actors grew dramatically in the course of making the films — so how many versions of those uniforms are out there? I’d guess, if you look closely, that in the movies we often see Ron in a uniform that’s a little too small; it would make sense that the Weasleys couldn’t often replace it.
And I paused for a while in front of Hermione’s wand, which is a surprisingly delicate, lovely instrument entwined with tiny vines. Had I just never noticed that it was so artful, or had the movies never paused to show us? That’s the pleasure in “Harry Potter: The Exhibition”: you can slow down and see the details that, caught up in the magic of the movies, we just might miss.

Harry and Ron’s beds — and uniforms — in “Harry Potter: The Exhibition.” (Photo by John Lok/The Seattle Times.)

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