Harry Potter is over . . .
It’s not as weird as I thought it would be.
. . . er, if you’ve watched the last seven movies, you probably don’t need a summary. If you haven’t watched the last seven movies, you’re probably not reading this review.
Oh, fine. Harry, Ron, and Hermione are racing to destroy the last of the Horcruxes, one of which is hidden at Hogwarts. Meanwhile, Voldemort is attacking the shit out of Hogwarts. He and Harry face off for the final time . . .
1. I’m going to get this out of the way before I really start my review. I enjoyed Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, but I also felt a bit dissatisfied when I left the theater. There are two main potential causes for my dissatisfaction: one, a few key scenes that were badly translated from book to film, and two, a few people in the audience who were consistently driving me crazy throughout the entire movie.
Hell, there’s really no way to say this without sounding like an awful person, so . . . there were a couple of mentally challenged children at the showing I went to, and they made very loud wooing or hooting sounds every time there was a piece of magic or after something serious happened, like an important character dying. It takes something out of the viewing when a person you’ve spent the last ten years watching is tragically killed off, and then . . . WOO!
You try to judge a movie solely based on the film that is presented, but I think everyone knows that’s not really what happens. Who you’re with, what mood you’re in, if you’ve read the book or not . . . these things affect your experience, especially on a first viewing. It seems worth noting that had I not been sitting a few seats away from these kids, I might have been able to stay in the story longer and thus liked the film better. Maybe.
2. Now, to some things I did like: as usual, I enjoyed all of the acting. It’s been kind of neat, seeing these kids grow up, particularly Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint. (Oh, and Matthew Lewis. Watching little, round, eleven-year old Neville grow up into six-foot tall, adult Neville running around with a big sword is just crazy.) Usually, you watch child stars in a few things and then they disappear for years or go into a tabloid tailspin and die. With the Harry Potter films, however, we’ve really watched these kids grow into adults . . . which sounds kind of creepy, now that I think about it, but seeing them develop as actual actors instead of just kids just jumping around, reading lines like they’re in a school play . . . I don’t know, there’s something kind of nifty about that.
In this particular film, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint don’t have very much to do next to Daniel Radcliffe (something I’ll sort of revisit in a later note) but I do like their scenes together, particularly the one that everyone’s been waiting a decade for. I also think Daniel Radcliffe does well, and I’m really interested to see his next film, The Woman in Black, and how he does in something outside of Harry Potter.
3. My biggest acting shout outs, however, have to go to two people: Maggie Smith and Alan Rickman. First, Ms. Smith.
I adore Maggie Smith, and one of my—well, not exactly problems—but disappointments with the film series is how much they underuse her because I think she’s pitch perfect as McGonagall. She gets a little more screen time in 7.2 than in previous films, and man, she sells every single moment she gets. Her girlish, “I’ve always wanted to use that spell!”? Love.
As for Alan Rickman . . .
. . . well, of course he’s phenomenal because he’s Alan Rickman, but this film was definitely his movie to shine. I’d estimate that his actual screen time was no longer than twenty minutes, but he bring such emotion to his performance . . . it’s brilliant to watch, really.
4. I also liked almost all of the action sequences. The whole movie pretty much is one long, giant action sequence, and sometimes that kind of thing can be exhausting if it’s not paced well, but overall, I thought David Yates kept it together . . .
5. . . . except for a few scenes that felt a little rushed to me. I mean, this is it. This is the fight we’ve been waiting for, a battle so huge that a whole movie is almost entirely devoted to it, and yet . . . in some ways, it doesn’t feel epic enough to me. Like I said, the action scenes are good, as far as they go, but there’s something lacking in scope, I think. Admittedly, this is Harry Potter’s story. The film should probably center around the title character—you know, it’s traditional—but I almost think the movie focuses too much on Harry Potter. Every wizard known to man is pretty much at this fight. Every wizard you’ve ever met over the seven previous movies is duking it out . . . and we only get a few seconds on a lot of important side characters. I get time constraints and all, but I think you lose out on some of the breadth of what’s happening when you gloss over 95% of the cast, especially . . .
6. . . . when it comes to two very important scenes from the book that are heavily altered or otherwise just not good enough.
Now, I’ve read all seven of the Harry Potter books, but I’m far less familiar with the later ones, particularly The Deathly Hallows, which I haven’t read in its entirety in over five years. Going into the film, I knew I’d forgotten half of what was supposed to happen (like, pretty much the whole Gringotts scene), so I wasn’t expecting accuracy to be one of my larger problems with the film. But, boy, was I wrong.
Of course, I’ll go into more details during the Spoiler Section, but to just hint at what scenes I’m referring to:
Scene A: Involves Fred Weasley.
Scene B. Involves Mrs. Weasley.
This movie did not do these two characters justice.
7. While I’m talking about source material, though . . . Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is not my favorite HP book. I mean, I do like some of it a lot, but I think it’s a bit convoluted, not to mention has probably my least favorite epilogue to a series, you know, ever. One of the things I think the film did well with, though, is streamlining a lot of the extraneous detail that I think clutters the novel. The plot of the book is often bogged down and kind of hard to follow at certain points. The movie does a commendable job in clearing that up. (Although, sometimes, they’re a little too zealous about streamlining for my tastes.)
8. Unfortunately, some problems with the source material cannot be fixed, not unless you want to enrage billions of fans by changing a pivotal plot point in the series. So, there’s this thing that happens in the book (Spoiler Section) and I didn’t know how I felt about it when I initially read it . . . although I leaned a little towards cop-out. And when I saw that part in the movie . . . yeah, it definitely screamed cop-out. It felt cheap, weak. And while I really don’t know that the filmmakers could have done much to prevent it (the story’s resolution really does depend upon this one thing happening) it still strikes me as a poorly written solution to provide a happy ending.
9. I didn’t see Deathly Hallows, Part Two in 3-D. If you read this blog with any regularity, you probably know how I feel about 3-D, even the good stuff. The only movie I have any interest in maybe seeing in 3-D is the latest installment of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series that comes out next year . . . because it has CHAINSAWS, 3-D CHAINSAWS. Otherwise, nope, no way, not doing it. You can take away my midnight showing, but you can never take away my freeeeeeeeeeeeeeedom . . . or my extra three dollars, which I will probably spend on oversized Milk Duds instead.
10. Finally, that epilogue that I absolutely hated? Yes, of course, they included it in the film as well, but it didn’t bother me here as much as it did in the book. Probably because it was mercifully brief . . . and, occasionally, unintentionally hilarious.
Enough with the vague notes? Want some actual details on what I did or didn’t like?
Okay. My very favorite character in the whole book series is Fred. Not Fred and George, mind you, but Fred. And when I read the seventh book and George got his ear shot off, I distinctly remember thinking, Fuck, George can’t die now. It’s going to be Fred. Rowling is totally going to kill off Fred. (It’s about balance, see. Also, law of the cinematic jungle: Carlie’s favorite character almost always inevitably dies.)
So, sure enough, Fred bites the big one, and I was totally bawling. And while I wasn’t looking forward to sobbing my heart out in the middle of a crowded theater (been there, done that, thanks a bunch, Serenity), I really wanted to see this scene in the movie. It’s the saddest scene in the whole book (okay, Hedwig was surprisingly depressing too) and I wanted to see if they’d lengthen it or make it more explosive or whatnot.
What I didn’t expect them to do was cut the fucking thing and have Fred die offscreen with Tonks and Lupin.
Now, offscreen deaths—when done right—can be appropriately tragic. It’s one kind of pain to fail to save your friend (or mentor or whoever) from dying in front of you. It’s another kind of pain when you find out that your friend (or mentor or whoever) has died before you even knew that they needed to be saved. Tonks and Lupin are killed off like this in the book, and it works okay for them—particularly so in the film series, where they frankly just aren’t as important as they are in the novels.
But Fred—Fred is a very important side character. Fred and George are in every single HP movie. They’re a huge comic relief to the series, and they often have some of the very best dialogue. More than that, Fred is a Weasley, and not even a Weasley that no one cares about, like Percy. His death is supposed to be heartbreaking. It’s supposed to be this huge deal.
And the film gives his death as much as time and consideration as it does to Lavender Brown.
No. No, this is wrong. I take serious issue with this.
It’s especially problematic for me in regards to Mrs. Weasley. I mean, you see the Weasley family grieve for approximately ten seconds, but then the film moves on to other things, and Fred is pretty much forgotten. The thing is, though, when Mrs. Weasley is being a badass dueling with Bellatrix Lestrange? Her grief for Fred should be fueling this scene. She’s lost one kid. She isn’t going to lose another. “NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!” is the most awesome moment in the whole HP series . . . it’s tantamount to Sam Gamgee’s “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you!” line in LOTR . . . but here, it’s just stripped of all its emotional wealth and total badassery. Sure, the scene’s in there, but it’s no longer than forty-five seconds, and Mrs. Weasley deserved a lot more than that. Hell, Bellatrix Lestrange deserved a lot more than that.
(In a side note, I have to give props to Helena Bonham Carter pretending to be Hermione pretending to be Bellatrix Lestrange earlier in the film. She conveys so much in just her facial expressions. It’s a really well acted scene.)
Okay, so they skimped out on Fred’s death scene and Mrs. Weasley’s awesomeness. Boo. Thankfully, they did not skimp out on all of Snape’s scenes. Yay! This is one point where I think the film actually improved on the novel. (Yes, yes, a film can never be better than the novel, blah, blah, moving on.) The greatness of these scenes is mostly due to the incredible power that is Alan Rickman, whose grief for the woman he loved makes you feel more sorry for Lily Potter (a chick who’s been dead for 17 years) than for anyone else in the film. Snape’s flashbacks are easily the most powerful and emotionally charged scenes in the whole movie. I feel a sympathy for Snape that I never really felt during the books, and that’s kind of cool.
Let’s see, what else . . . okay, so Harry goes off to face Voldemort alone, and on his stroll through the Forbidden Forest, he runs into a bunch of ghosts. Now, this is another scene that I loved in the book . . . it was so simple and so honest . . . but while I don’t think they quite captured it as well in the film, it’s at least a decent effort (unlike the Weasley scenes, oy). Harry allows Voldemort to kill him so that Voldemort will inadvertently destroy his own accidental Horcrux. And then . . .
. . . we go to the King’s Crossing Limbo Scene. This is the scene where I have a problem with the source material. I must be clear here: I did not want these books or movies to end up with Harry Potter dead. That would have been horrible. I would not have been pleased. That being said, the fact that Voldemort only kills the Horcrux . . . but doesn’t exactly kill Harry . . . but Harry ends up chatting with what’s possibly/probably Dumbledore’s ghost . . . and then Harry wakes up fine . . . it’s a cheat. It’s not explained enough for me. I think it’s weak writing. I don’t know that the film could have made this scene better, but it stuck out badly to me, even more than when I initially read it. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s a Writer Joe/Writer Susan Moment.
Writer Joe: So, Voldemort kills Harry.
Writer Susan: But Voldemort can’t kill Harry! This is a children’s novel! Okay, maybe not anymore, but kids learned to love READING on this series. They’ve GROWN UP with Harry Potter. We can’t just kill him off and call it a day! Do YOU want to be responsible for scarring a whole generation of kids? Do YOU want to be the next Bambi’s mum’s killer?
Writer Joe: Gosh, Writer Susan, I don’t want that at all. But what do we do? Voldemort has to kill Harry. I mean, that’s the only way the story works. I guess he could come back to life . . . ooh, he could use the Resurrection Stone!
Writer Susan: No, no, he has to arbitrarily drop that on the ground because he’s Ready to Die . . . or something. I don’t know. I’m not exactly clear on why he can’t use the Resurrection Stone. But he definitely can’t do it.
Writer Joe: Well, unless the Killing Curse only magically kills the Horcrux inside of Harry, but doesn’t actually kill Harry himself for no apparent reason that I can think of, and then Harry somehow winds up in special Limbo world talking to someone’s ghost who “explains” all of this nonsense to the audience . . . I’ve got nothing.
Writer Susan: . . . hmmmmm. Hey, you know what I think we should do? Have the Killing Curse magically kill the Horcrux inside of Harry, but NOT Harry himself, and then have Harry somehow wind up in special Limbo world talking to DUMBLEDORE’s ghost who “explains” all of this nonsense to the audience.
Writer Joe: . . . I like the way you think, Writer Susan!
Well, anyway, cheap or not, Harry lives. He eventually kills Voldemort, and all is good in the land of Oz (well, except for Fred and Tonks and Lupin and Snape and Lavender and Dobby and Hedwig and Mad Eye and anyone else who died or might have loved these people) and we have a nice moment with Harry, Hermione, and Ron before we zoom on to the epilogue.
My problem with the novel’s epilogue is this: it’s cheesy as hell. It’s feel-good to the point that I want to vomit rainbows. It’s J.K. Rowling using five hundred or so words to write AND THEY ALL LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER in 72-inch bold font. Seriously, I wanted these books to end on an up note. I didn’t want to be thoroughly depressed and crying my eyes out . . . but the way this series ends, it’s so cheerful that it’s like the anti-Dementors invaded, like no character will ever have a sad or unhappy thought ever again. Honestly, it’s takes away from everything you just read. It would be like Frodo deciding to stay in the Shire at the end of LOTR, so he can live a joyous life giving motivational speeches about not letting amputated phalanges hold you back in life, speeches which he often puts on hold so that he can break out into spontaneous group renditions of, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” with all the other hobbits tuning in.
The epilogue bothers me a little less in the film, if only because I don’t have to hear about every single child being named after every single dead person except for Fred. It’s also brief, which makes me happy. The “let’s make 20-year-olds into 40-year-olds’s” makeup also makes me happy because it’s totally ridiculous, especially on Ginny and Hermione. I don’t think they even bothered to change Hermione at all, and the only thing they do to Ginny is give her a Jackie O haircut, which doesn’t age her in the slightest. (If anything, it makes her look younger, like she’s playing dress up in her mom’s clothing.)
And . . . that’s about that. Finito. Finished. DONE.
Not a bad movie . . . but not a great conclusion to the series. Good individual action scenes and some nice nods to the whole series . . . but also some rushed action sequences that took away from the emotion and the epicness of the final battle. It’s like 7.1 got all the emotion, and 7.2 got all of the action. 7.1 is the better film, period. Good acting all around, though. Some nice humor here and there.
Death cannot stop you . . . unless you’re anyone but the hero in a children’s/young adult fantasy epic series. Then, it can totally stop you. But if you’re said hero, congrats! Welcome to Limbo!
Also, love is the most powerful force in the world. That’s pretty much the moral of all the HP films.