Deathly Hallows Part 2: a review

I’ve gotten tired of apologizing for my long absences on here, so I’m not even going to bother this time, K? Life happened/is happening, and this got left behind. However, an event so momentous has just occurred, and its immensity and relevance have propelled me to come out of hiding to comment on it.

I am talking, of course, about the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.

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Much has been said elsewhere about this film marking the end of an era, and to an extent that is true, but the theme park (parks?), Pottermore, and of course, being able to return to the books will I am sure keep the Potter love strong for a long time. Harry Potter is, without a doubt, the work of fiction that means the most to me, but it is perhaps because of that and not in spite of it that I don’t feel any particular sense of loss now that the final film has come out: Harry isn’t going anywhere for me. The momentousness of HP7.2 for me is that it is the adaptation of my all-time favorite book, and that it deals with some of the most iconic and significant scenes of the Potter series.

I saw the film at a midnight showing (after 6 1/2 hours of waiting in line) and just saw it again today, so I think I’ve digested it well enough to comment on it. While I wasn’t as blown out of the water by it as most reviewers seem to have been, I did like it a lot, and I think it is a fitting conclusion to the film franchise.

As someone who is normally very critical of changes made to the story, I was surprised at how not upset I was with the changes. I think David Yates and/or Steve Kloves is very good at making up for changes in ways that actually help tell the story. For example, cutting out Dumbledore’s explanation to Harry about what the remaining Horcruxes were in HBP could have been disastrous, but they made up for it by having Harry “sense” the Horcruxes, which was not only economical, it was also effective foreshadowing, and it didn’t contradict anything fundamental to the story. I liked that. Another example would be how they combined the “Sacking of Severus Snape” with the scene in the Great Hall. Combining those two scenes meant that they didn’t have to waste time getting students out of bed and explaining the situation to them, it meant Harry got to have a confrontation scene with Snape, and it meant that the battle lines were drawn a little sooner and more cinematically. It worked with the story and it helped the film. Most of the changes fell into this category.

The changes I was not happy with were the ones that I felt somehow diminished the story’s message or its thematic impact. The three biggest changes in this category were the King’s Cross scene, Harry’s final confrontation with Voldemort, and Harry’s conversation with Ron and Hermione before going into the forest.

King’s Cross in the book is a very long scene, and I totally get why they cut it down so much for the film, but there are several key pieces of information that I think have to come through in that scene that just didn’t. The first is why Harry didn’t die (or hasn’t quite yet). Lily’s sacrifice is the lynchpin of the whole series, and its role in keeping Harry alive here is, I think, crucial, both for plot and thematic reasons. The second is their discussion of Voldemort’s weaknesses. Specifically, I missed this quote: “That which Voldemort does not value, he takes no trouble to comprehend. Of house-elves and children’s tales, of love, loyalty, and innocence, Voldemort knows and understands nothing. Nothing” (DH 709). Maybe I just like that quote so much that I was just sad not to her it in the film, but I do think it is important to acknowledge that Harry wins not because of luck or skill, but because he is simply a better person and that in the end, Voldemort killed himself, and I’m not just talking about a rebounding death curse.

In regards to Harry’s final confrontation with Voldemort, I didn’t mind the bigger build up, the change in location, or the fact that they didn’t have an audience. I minded that they made this moment the climax. In the book, the climax is Harry’s self-sacrifice, and after he comes back from that he has already won—Voldemort just doesn’t know it yet. I understand that the way they did it in the film works better cinematically, and I actually did enjoy the scene, but I think that it lessened the impact and the power of Harry’s sacrifice.

Harry’s conversation with Ron and Hermione (it was mostly Hermione, though, wasn’t it?) was a great little scene, and very moving, but frankly I can’t see them letting him go. Not that easily, anyways.

But all these criticisms are coming from the book fan in me. As a film fan, I really have very little to complain about. There are a few things that I might have been confused about had I not read the books, but nothing too crucial. The acting was great (Dan sure has come a long way, hasn’t he?), the special effects were stellar, the pacing was perfect, and the cinematography was breathtaking. It was also a great combination of action and character (Neville FTW!). I truly think that David Yates is the best director to have come to the Harry Potter films, and he really proved it here. Despite my quibbles, this was a great film and a great way to end the series. I still prefer the book, but Deathly Hallows Parts 1 and 2 combined have come the closest of all the films to doing justice to the book, and considering how much I adore the book, that’s pretty darn high praise from me.

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~ by ntertanedangel on July 20, 2011.

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