Thursday, 28 July 2011

A Few Issues With Harry Potter 8

Now, before you read the title of this post and go all Avada Kedavra on me, let me just say: I loved Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows.  I loved the book, and I thought that the two-parter adaptation was pretty spectacular.  But as I was watching the final instalment in the cinema tonight, I couldn't help but feel that the film was a little uneven.  Below are some of my personal best and worst bits.  Please be warned, SPOILERS abound!

Best: The film was in two parts.  I'd cynically assumed it was a money-making ploy on the parts of the studio, but having watched both films back to back, there really was enough going on to carry over four hours of action.

Worst: The film did not need to be in 3D.  I've always been a little sceptical on this matter, but apart from a few specific effects (the magical shield around Hogwarts, the ripples in the Pensieve), it felt gimmicky and largely unnecessary.

Best: The scene where Harry is surrounded by the ghosts of his loved ones in the Forbidden Forest.  Yes, some of the dialogue was heavy handed, and the resurrection stone could be seen as a simple rehash of the Mirror of Erised from book one.  But as somebody who has lost a parent, I couldn't help but get a little misty-eyed at the late Lily Potter's line "we never left".  It is well documented that Harry's life as an orphan stemmed from JK Rowling's own grief following her mother's death.  It is in scenes like this that her storytelling feels most authentic.

Worst: The "limbo" scene at King's Cross.  It was fairly faithfully adapted from the book, but even on the page it seemed nowhere near as original as Rowling's other ideas.  Obviously Christian metaphors abound, and while I have no problem with allegory, the ghost of Dumbledore was far too similar to transparent Obi-Wan from the second and third Star Wars films.  It has to be said though, the vile mini-Voldemort was a gruesome success.

Best: Bellatrix Lestrange's death.  After dancing around like Morticia Addams on crystal meth for a couple of years, it was nice to see Molly Weasley take her down with that immortal line; "not my daughter, you bitch!"

Worst: Bellatrix Lestrange's death.  It should have been Neville to take her down.  Don't you think?  After Bellatrix tortured his parents until they lost their minds, I'd have quite liked to see him skewer her with that magic sword.  (Having just read the last part of that sentence back, it sounds a lot dirtier than intended.)

Best: Young love.  I always thought that the romantic relationships appeared out of nowhere in the book, but on-screen they have taken the care to develop chemistry between pairs.  Ron and Hermione's soaking-wet first kiss down in the Chamber of Secrets made a number of people in the audience cheer.  Harry and Ginny didn't get much screen time together, but I liked how they portrayed her as his equal.  And Neville's mid-battle line "Have you seen Luna? I'm mad for her!" was a little bit glorious.

Worst: The epilogue. I was never truly comfortable with the way Rowling tied up her story in a big neat bow by writing the "19 Years Later" segment.  Yes, it was comforting to know that Harry grew up and married Ginny and stayed life-long friends with his school companions, but the whole naming of the offspring after every last dead character felt a tad twee.  But that's my problem with the book.  My problem with the film's version of the epilogue is: if you want to make these young stars look older, try doing a bit more than giving them all bad hair and making them look a bit fat.

Oh, and before I forget.  Just a few more tiny annoyances...

The trio's heist at Gringott's and escape via dragon seemed like it belonged in one of the earlier, more childish books.  Perhaps this was intended as a callback, but did anyone else feel that it just didn't fit the tone of the film?

The constant slow-motion, hissing moments where Harry sees a glimpse of Voldemort's mind.  This became more and more repetitive, much like the scenes in Lord of the Rings when Frodo would become entranced by Sauran and/or the ring.

Whatever happened to Tonks and Lupin's baby?  When the Order of the Phoenix converged at Harry's House in Part 1, Tonks tried to deliver some good news, but Mad-Eye interrupted.  This is never mentioned again.  Did the film-makers decide that killing off a new mother was just too depressing?  (Even though that is exactly how the saga began...)  I expect this will be explained in some deleted scene.  On another note, who else choked on their own tears, seeing the bodies of Lupin and Tonks very nearly holding hands, like they did in the tower? Sob!

Voldemort's death.  I much preferred the book's climax, where Harry's defensive magic wins over Voldemort's aggressive curse (which I am sure is a statement on the power of pacifism or some such).  It just said more about the characters than the film's fancy magic lightshow and weak explanation of how the elder wand switched owners.  In fact, I was so expecting this scenario that when Voldemort died and began to fall apart, I thought No, this isn't it. He must have something up his sleeve...

Rant over.  These points aside, I really did love this film.  Alan Rickman steals every single scene he is in as the tragic Snape, the Battle of Hogwarts did not disappoint, and even some of the best secondary characters got a moment to shine (I'm thinking specifically of McGonagall and Neville, for both of whom I have a soft spot).

And as strange as it sounds, I felt something akin to pride by the time the credits rolled.  Having first read a book about a little boy wizard ten whole years ago, it was nice to wave him off tonight.  I reckon a lot of people feel that way, feel that Harry Potter and his story belongs to them.  And in a way he does.  As that wise man Neville Longbottom says at a crucial moment in the final film: "Harry lives on in us."


  1. Interesting take on the films. I'm glad you enjoyed it, whatever the details. I too thought Alan Rickman was terrific.

    The issue with the Elder Wand switching owners was the same in the book as it was in the film, though.

    They did mention Tonks & Lupin's baby, just when Harry was talking to dead Lupin: "What about your son?" But then the whole treatment of the Tonks & Lupin relationship is one of my least favourite things about the last few books. Some people believe it only exists to deny fans who believed that Lupin & Sirius were a couple. Hmm!

    I wanted Neville to get Bellatrix, too! It just made sense.

    And happily I got to see the thing in 2D. I made sure.

  2. I may well have got mixed up over the elder wand in the end, it's been a few years since I read the book. Voldemort's defeat just felt rather anti-climactic to me full stop.

    And you're right, now I remember them mentioning the baby in the woods - although I don't remember any mention prior? Shoddy continuity!