*Warning: Contains Spoilers.*
In the purest use of the term, in cinematic parlance, none of the Harry Potter films are particularly “good.” Sure, they are filled with eye candy (visual effects and actors alike), but the acting is often dry or forced, and the scripts too often make assumptions based on readers’ prior knowledge of the books. This is more apparent in the first films, when they were trying to stick closely to the books. By the last films, the script had to take license just to squeeze the story into the limited time of cinema. Deathly Hallows benefits from being split into two films, though I still see this as a money-making move on WB’s part and less a story preservation technique.
As I said in my Potter-thon post, I’ve long since made peace with the divergences in the film adaptations. Harry Potter is one of the few things I love more than cinema, and my enjoyment of the films is greatly reduced when I compare plots. The last couple films (Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows) have benefited from my grad school sabbatical of reading the HP books, and I have not read the entire series through but once since the Deathly Hallows book release. On a personal side note, I’m sad to realize that my Deathly Hallows, Part 1 post was lost in the Mythic Thinking Shake-up of 2011.
*Below there be spoilers*
I appreciate that with DH2, the script writers finally stopped making assumptions about reader knowledge. In fact, this is the first film of the 8 that does this so well. Before he died in Half-Blood Prince, Dumbledore failed to give Harry the laundry list of where to find the remaining horcruxes. The cup of Hufflepuff (which is just another gold cup in Belatrix’s vault, no significance given to it) is found by logic and Harry’s connection to the Horcruxes. They speak to him and he can feel them (this becomes key in helping Harry understand that he is a Horcrux too). Utilizing Harry’s failed occlumency lessons, Harry is able to learn about the other 2 horcruxes they can’t identify through logic: Nagini and Ravenclaw’s diadem.
The acting in this film was far superior to the previous ones, especially by those characters who step up during the battle: Neville, McGonagall, Dumbledore and Snape. I’ve never seen Alan Rickman pull off such a depth of dramatic acting before. The visual effects, likewise stunning. The “King’s Cross” scene, one of my favorites from the books, was one of the best in the film.
But I left the theater with some mixed feelings, and here’s why. Most of them are concentrated on the last third of the film.
When he is going to the forest to die, Harry resurrects his parents, Sirius and Lupin. In this scene, powerful as it is, Harry asked Lupin something about his son. Son? This was not mentioned in the film. Tonks tries to hint at it before the “Seven Harrys” scene, but that does not mean it should be mentioned here. Nor does said imaginary “son” appear anywhere in the film. It should not have been mentioned.
Molly Weasley’s famous line is anti-climatic. In the book, I always got the sense that she was stepping in to defend Ginny from Belatrix, not stepping up to challenge her. There was no fire to her line, and frankly I didn’t find it believable. When she offs Belatrix, I didn’t cheer as much as I did for the book.
Ginny’s only emotion toward Harry was when she thought he had died. Not any sign of happy relief to find out that he was alive. I get that she was overcome with grief, losing her brother and all, but come on. She didn’t even acknowledge him after he defeated Voldemort.
Which is another problem. Sure, Hogwarts was destroyed. Sure, many people died. But Harry’s victory just went unacknowledged. Not even a handshake or congratulations by a professor here or there. You can get away with something like this in a book, because you can write about how the hero was satisfied, etc. But since we can’t read the hero’s thoughts in a film, something should happen to illustrate this point. The only point I got from this ending was that Harry was more alone at the end of his mission than he was when the books began. Yet, the ending of the book was supposed to be about building Harry’s new family and letting the old one go.
I have always disapproved of the epilogue, and the epilogue in the film is no exception. I’m glad they kept the same actors and aged them a bit, but there is just no life in the film’s epilogue. The acting falls flat again.
This leads me to conclude that the Harry Potter films are just pure entertainment, and supplements to the books, but that they cannot stand on their own. This is, of course, the danger of any adaptation from book to film. But it can be done. Even Tolkien purists will acknowledge the quality of Peter Jackson’s films. Indeed, Jackson took the “right” kind of licenses when making that trilogy. The Potter films just fall short.
Our server at the Alamo Drafthouse was mentioning to customers that last night was the end of their childhood. This does raise an interesting thought, one that merits consideration at another time.