July 15, 2011

Mischief Managed

Well, it's over

Last night, we went to the midnight showing for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2. Actually, it was a double-feature with both parts 1 and 2, which I think was the best way to experience it. The movies really do fit together seamlessly, as though there's just a commercial break between the two. I was impressed with that aspect of it.

I'll keep most of this as spoiler-free as possible, and I'll let you know where the "spoilers" are. I'm not going to include a plot synopsis, though. If you are just now entering the world of Harry Potter, the very last movie in the series isn't the place to start. If you are going to the movie and have to ask "Who is that?" about half of the major characters (like the person sitting behind me) you would probably do better to stay home and watch the previous movies first.

There, now that's out of the way.

You probably know that I have a deep and abiding love for the Harry Potter universe, and I have a deep and abiding loathing for what director David Yates (HP 5, 6, 7a & 7b) has done to it over the years. The list of reasons why is long, and not because "oh, he changed this little thing from the books." Obviously, you will never get a word-for-word scene-for-scene book adaptation. There's just no way to do it and have a really good film. (The possible exception being the first HP movie, which you can almost read the book along with. I miss Chris Columbus.)

But the main reason is that it was fairly obvious from the beginning he didn't care much about the characters or character development beyond what allowed him to get to the next high-value action or flying scene. It seems like that's where he is most comfortable working, and that's great if you're making a Transformers movie. But Harry Potter is at least equally as character-driven as it is plot-driven, if not more so.

However, by breaking the last book (Deathly Hallows) up into two movies, both of these aspects were able to be serviced without one having to give way to the other. In DH pt 1, we're mostly following Harry, Hermione and Ron around through lots of introspection and conversation. In DH pt 2, it's essentially just The Battle for Hogwarts. They were able to take their time and care with the first DH because there was no need to rush through the important character growth scenes between the three of them to get to the final battle. So, the decision to split the last book into two movies was really a wise one, and I wish they had done it with some of the earlier books, as well...if only they didn't have to worry about those pesky kids aging! :)

Nearly all of DH pt 2 takes place during The Battle for Hogwarts. There's nearly constant motion and action which keeps the pace moving quickly - very important for midnight showings!

And obviously, there were moments throughout the movie that were added to the story (not in the books), and most of them were great. The parts that made me cringe in the previews ("Let's finish this how we started it - together!" "I have seen your heart, and it is mine!") were still cringe-worthy in context, which was a shame. I don't care who you are, you will not improve on Rowling's dialogue. That was one thing I really did miss. Rowling is really skilled at giving her characters defining one-liners, and most of them were cut out. It's not as though it "ruined" the story, and anyone who hadn't read the books wouldn't have noticed. But they were good moments of character and I missed them.

One of the things I was glad that was not messed with:

I was very, very concerned that Neville would not be given his moments of glory, as he had been basically ignored since Yates took over production. And yes, the order of events involving Neville was different, but the important parts stayed the same. Neville plays an essential role in defeating Voldemort, and even though it didn't follow the book exactly, I really, really liked the way they executed it in the movie. Well done.

I also really like the way they handled Harry's return to Hogwarts and Snape's exit from Hogwarts. Yes, it was dramatically different than the book. But I thought it was effective.

I also thought that Snape's Memory was well done. Much better than Yates did the memory scene in HP5, where you barely understand what's going on. Here, we do. And they kept in the "Look at me" line, which I was hoping for, but had to follow it up with the mallet-over-the-head "You have your mother's eyes" line. Yeah, thanks, Captain Obvious.

There was also a bittersweet moment for me that didn't have anything to do with Potterverse. In one scene, Padma Patil played by Afshan Azad is given a close up and a blood-curdling scream. She's also in another scene or two but without any lines.

It definitely gave my heart a twinge knowing this beautiful young woman is now living in hiding from her family, and this is very likely the last time we'll see her on screen for a long time. But that's an aside.

Now, you are probably wondering mostly (as I was) what did they add in/what did they cut out? After all, Yates has this annoying habit of putting in things that seem arbitrary (like burning down the Burrow in HP6, only to have it, well, magically be whole and rickety as always in HP7a) and don't really service the story. So, this is where I will get slightly spoilerish and talk about specific scenes in the movie. If you don't want to read it, skip over this bullet portion of the post.

  • After the Trio escapes from Gringotts and Griphook steals the sword of Griffindor, there's a scene where Voldemort has come to the bank and killed all the workers who "let" Harry escape. As Griphook lies dead, the sword disappears. I liked this because it gave some explanation for the sword having its own magic, allowing Neville to pull it out of the Sorting Hat and kill the snake.
  • All the people who die in the book die in the movie, but the scene where Harry walks through the great hall and assesses the losses is brief.
  • Hagrid is in hardly any of the movie. He's only in the very end, where Harry dies.
  • One thing I think they just threw in for the hardcore fans was a throwaway line by Neville about him having a crush on Luna for years. This has long been speculated about by the online fandom, even though JK Rowling goes back and forth in interviews over whether or not she believes it to be the case. In any event, that's not in the books so I think it was just a wink at the fans, and it was really cute, the way they pulled it off.
  • We get to see Hermione destroy the Hufflepuff Cup horcrux, rather than just hear about it after the fact, which I liked. Also, that's when Ron and Hermione kiss, rather than following a line involving house elves. I liked the way it plays out in the book better, but the way they handled it in the movie was good.
  • Yes, they shot the dumb epilogue. I guess they felt they had to, but honestly, it's not like it adds anything to the story. And those girls are just too youthful to age them 20 years believably. But, they didn't ask for my approval, so there ya go.
  • Molly kills Bellatrix. It's awesome
  • They totally change the way Avada Kadavra kills somebody. Apparently, in this movie only, the AK curse causes people to disintegrate. It was weird, but again, movies are a visual medium and they wanted to pack as much visual punch as possible. What's a little continuity error among friends, anyway?
  • Snape's death scene is much more dramatic in the movie than in the book. In the book, you get the impression that the snake gives him a bad bite and the mixture of poison and slow blood loss do him in. In this one, though it's off-camera, we "see" the snake brutally attack Snape.
  • The one big thing that they changed that was met with universal condemnation from our group was Harry's wand. If you recall, in the books, Harry uses the Elder Wand to repair his own wand, then replaces the Elder Wand in Dumbledore's tomb, thus breaking the spell making it the most powerful wand in the world and preventing future evil doers from obtaining it - as well as reuniting him with his own wand, which was very important to Harry. This is taken out of the movie completely. Harry destroys the Elder Wand and we never know how or whether he repairs or replaces his old wand. It definitely left a bad taste in the mouth of our group.

All in all, I walked away from the final Harry Potter movie with the same feelings I had when I first read the final Harry Potter book. Very satisfied, like I had said goodbye to old friends. We laughed, I fought tears (and was choked up through quite a bit of it), rolled my eyes at some of the cheesyness, but it definitely lived up to my expectations. It was a very worthy ending of my favorite book/movie series.

I hate David Yates slightly less.

Did you see the movie last night/this weekend (whenever you are reading this)? Did it live up to your expectations? Have you read the books or are you just a fan of the movies? What would you have added/taken away?


  1. Great assessment! I was worried about the same parts you were. Them flying around together didn't do anything for me but it did work. I wish we could have seen some more of the characters fighting...like the Weasley twins, etc. I was also sad that the cloak wasn't used more but I know that's hard to film! Totally DID NOT like that they were evaporated...uh, why didn't Cedric evaporate?!? And I thought Bellatrix died a little quickly but oh well. I did love where McGonagall said I've always wanted to use that spell! I could go on but....can't wait to see it again:)

  2. Hey, I am in total agreement on all of your points about the last movie. One thing I really wish they had done was have the Harry/Voldemort last showdown in the Great Hall, with the conversation, Harry calling him Tom, explaining Snape's roll, the question over the wand, everybody watching, etc.

  3. I think your assessment was fabulous! Most were the same things my friend and I discussed on our way home last night as well.

    I agree with Tina - I do wish the final battle between Voldemort and Harry had been played out in front of everyone like it was in the book. Honestly, I kind of felt the moment to be anti-climatic.

    Oh well - it was a blast as always and I can't wait to be able to watch movies 1-7 in order :)

  4. I read yours after writing mine (which should be up tomorrow). We very closely agree; we even both use the word "brutal" about Snape's murder. My dear wife agrees with you about Harry's/Dumbledore's wands.

  5. wow! what a review. i can't wait to see the movie...there's a theater in town that shows movies in English...going on post would be complete chaos. I just have to see it!

  6. One of the best reviews I have read so far!

  7. Great review - I was gnashing my teeth about the wand and my husband, who hasn't read the books, said "But she gets screenplay approval."

    How hard is it to work with the excellent material Jo wrote? It would have been so simple to go to the office, chat with Dumbledore's portrait for a moment, repair Harry's wand and end the film.

  8. I saw it at the midnight showing as well and thought it was amazing! I'm so sad that it's over. I really thought they did a good job but I wish they would have showed more of the Weasleys.

  9. I hate that it takes forever for movies to get here! It is killing me. Just killing me!

  10. Saw it at midnight and again on Sunday. Second time around I wasn't as tired and enjoyed it more. It was awesome. I cried in two parts (When McGonagall readies the castle and when Snape dies). Overall I had the same reaction: some eye rolling, but mostly teary eyes and laughing. Loved it.

  11. I treated my hubs to the movie on Friday. He's the big fan, not me. He was sooo excited!


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