Sunday, July 17, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is Excellent but the Ending is A Little Disappointing.

Just went to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 yesterday. Overall I enjoyed it, but have to agree with my 12 year old's assessment: it was really good, but I was a little disappointed. Please take care about the SPOILERS that follow.

(By the way, after seeing the movie a second time, I added to my list of great things about the movie, in
The Five Best Things About Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)
The best things for me about the movie were: (1) the very cool performance of Matthew Lewis as Neville Longbottom. One of the high points of the last novel was the way Neville transformed and became a leader at Hogwarts. Lewis' performance was perfect - exactly what he needed to be and all the better for being unexpected from this, excuse me, but previously rather geeky kid. He looks great covered in blood. He's confident, excessively brave and loyal. Neville rocks.

(2)The performance of Alan Rickman as Snape. This is nothing new; he is always amazing, but in this final installment, he gets a chance to really show full dimensions to Snape -- everything we have been denied before -- and he does it perfectly. The scene where Snape is cradling Lily's body and mourning [yes, I know, not in the book], gives me shivers. One of the highlights of my reading the book had been the poignant friendship and sad unrequited love between Lily and Snape. I have been looking forward, for a long time, to seeing their relationship play out in vignettes in the pensieve. Although not really a "couple," Snape and Lily are one of the best couples ever and I wish there could have been even more time in the movie devoted to this story. I was so glad to enjoy the superior skill of Rickman to flesh out that relationship. I looked forward to this the most about the movie and I was not disappointed.

(3) The performance of Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall. It was wonderful to see almost all the Hogwarts' Professors get at least a brief screen moment to reprise their roles. And was thrilled that Maggie Smith was able to show her powerful wizardry skill and duel with Snape. She makes a really cool badass. My only regret is that my favorite exchange in the book, between Harry and McGonagall was not included in the movie.

"We shall secure the school against He Who Must Not Be Named while you search for this - this object."
"Is that possible."
"I think so," said Professor McGonagall dryly, "we teachers are rather good at magic, you know."

Being a great fan of the books, I always notice when the Potter movies depart from them. But I also completely understand this. I find it more interesting to think about why the writers and director may have made the choices they did (such as to eliminate the scene with the Carrows in Ravenclaw Tower or the absence of the house elves from the final battles) rather than nitpick about what they could have done better. It has to be incredibly hard to adapt a powerfully loved (and very long) book to the screen and they usually do a wonderful job of making difficult choices and making it work. But in this installment I was disappointed by the ending and its departure from the book in one key point.

As it is written, the final duel plays out between Harry and Voldemort in the great hall in a very public way -- with death eaters, professors, students, and members of the Order of the Phoenix all around. The movie chose to make this final duel more of a private confrontation between Voldemort and Harry. I think it was a mistake. One of the best parts of the book is when Harry starts calling Voldemort by his birth name after the horcruxes are destroyed and Harry knows he has the upper hand.

"You don't learn from your mistakes, Riddle, do you."
"You dare ---"
"Yes, I dare," said Harry. "I know things you don't know, Tom Riddle."

In this scene Harry takes a great liberty and gives a great insult. It needs to be public.

The point of this duel should be to establish how the wand lore mattered, to show publicly that "Tom" is now just a man - a mortal, and that he could be killed; it should establish, publicly, how Dumbledore died and it should vindicate Snape's memory.

Moreover, I think it was important for this scene to (for the sake of wizarding future) allow Harry's actions to unfold in front of witnesses so that no one holds Harry up as a demi-God, to let the community allow him be just a man too at the end of all this. The book's portrayal of that last final confrontation was already perfect. I regret that I wasn't able to see it filmed.

My younger son asked: "do you think anyone else will make a Harry Potter movie." So sad. He and I both felt robbed of the proper climax for this series. I'll have to read that section of the book aloud to establish its place back in our memories.

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is Excellent But the Ending is Disappointing."  LostinBritishTV

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