A Potter nerd's guide to Deathly Hallows Part II
Anxious about seeing your favourite wizard on his final cinematic outing? Here are seven things this Potter nerd loved and hated about the movie.
I am a Harry Potter nerd. Not the biggest one, perhaps. I've gobbled up every new novel, though I have seen only two of the movies (Philosopher’s Stone and Prisoner of Azkaban) and feel no compelling urge to see the rest. And I've reread the Potter books but once, whilst awaiting the final book. Yet, as the release date for the last Potter movie grew nearer, and news of Pottermore broke, the hysteria infected me. So it is I found myself scrambling to see Deathly Hallows, Part II on last Friday night.
On balance, I enjoyed the movie. As a book, it is so well-suited to cinematic adaptation that my first reaction upon reading it was that Rowling had written a screenplay rather than a novel. The characters are well entrenched, and the climax has to be seen to be believed. This is one of those rare movies, besides, that is faithful to the novel on which it is based, and the consequence is a gleaming blockbuster.
This fidelity has its faults as well as its benefits. The novel is not Harry Potter’s best outing. The final chapters — the redemption of Snape, that long, glorious fight to the death, even the dismal epilogue – all smack of a writer trying to tie up seven books’ worth of loose ends into one epic narrative.
The summary quality of Deathly Hallows won it much criticism as a book, but it works surprisingly well in the movie, where the intensity of the action and the gorgeous sets offset the lack of plot. But for all the atmosphere, Deathly Hallows II remains an eminently forgettable movie. (I am not qualified to judge if this is a quality all Potter movies share)
This small demurral aside, here are the seven things I loved and hated about the movie as a Potter fan. (I assume you have read the book and know what happens; if not: spoiler alert!)
One, don’t watch it in 3D. The movie is all in dark tones, as befits a Final Showdown, and much of the texture is lost with grainy 3D-glasses. If, like me, you already have shoddy eyesight, watching it in 3D will ensure you have a headache for the rest of the night. Doubly true if the theatre you watch it in is a skinflint that re-uses old glasses without cleaning/fixing/testing them. To actually see the movie, I had to go twice, after spending an obscene amount of money for the privilege of blindness.
Two, the fight sequences – and there are a lot of them – are sumptuous. So is Hogwarts, as eerie in this movie as it was in Azkaban. The Gringotts dragon is as monstrously cool as I remembered, and the scene where the trio breaks into the bank is worth the price of the ticket all on its own. Helena Bonham-Carter playing Hermione impersonating Bellatrix is the essence of hilarity in an otherwise grim movie.
Three, the Kings’ Cross scene, with Dumbledore, is one of those instances where the movie is better than the book. Or at least not as hopelessly vague. The Hermione-Ron romance, similarly, benefits in the awesomeness of Emma Watson. I might watch Deathly Hallows Part I simply to be able to see its entire arc.
Four, the torn fragments of Voldemort’s soul are as creepy as Ralph Fiennes himself. Further creepy is the snake Nagini, and Neville Longbottom steals the show by decapitating her. This is one of my favourite moments from the book, for Neville (you will remember) begins the series as a famous coward. I love that it’s as obvious as it is odd that the Sword of Gryffindor is ultimately wielded by him, and the scene translates beautifully on screen.
Five, Snape’s story is sadly bungled. Snape is one of the few truly tragic figures within the Potter universe, and his unrequited love of Lily Potter is both crucial to the plot and the stuff of epic ballads. I am hesitant to make this point before watching Half-Blood Prince, but the extent and force of his Pensieve memories – and their impact upon Harry — are shortchanged by this movie. Alongside Alan Rickman’s hideous eye make-up, the effect is more bloated vampire and less misunderstood mastermind.
Six, they should’ve ended the movie with the three heroes gazing across the Hogwarts ramparts. The epilogue is even more pointless here than it was in the book, for the movie omits Teddy Lupin. This was a loss people less in love with his father (the werewolf Remus Lupin) are likely to forgive. But I will always think of Teddy as Harry’s true heir and one of my pet fantasies is a Rowling book about him. Sirius Black, after all, was much more a father to Harry than James Potter. Then again, Prisoner of Azkaban is my favourite Potter, and I am incapable of objectivity when it comes to the minds behind the Marauder’s Map.
And, seven, saving the best for the last, Maggie Smith is so stunning here that she redeems every Potter movie ever made. When Prof McGonangall preens “I always wanted to try that spell” during the attack at Hogwarts, it makes you want to devote your life to perfecting transfiguration (and a Scottish brogue).
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