First, a word of warning. I am going to be critical of this movie. Also, I’m sure it was lovely for those who’ve never read the books. For those of you who’ve taken the time not only to read the books, but to immerse yourself in the greater meaning of the story, I hope you will share your feedback, as I’d love to get more insight to how others saw this movie. Also, spoiler alerts. J
So, to jump right in. I found this second installment to be rather disappointing. After 7.1, I had high hopes. Going at midnight was a tremendous mistake as the theater was full of raving 16 year olds who were surely out past their curfews, so I have waited to write this until after I was able to return and watch the movie again in a much more sparsely attended theater. I will say that the difference was remarkable – the laugh lines were ignored this go round (much the way I found them the first time) and there was a general gloom in the theater this time, as well.
Let’s start with the good. In some ways, this movie reminded me, once more, of just why I love this series so much. The mythology (the epic battle for humanity, the deathly hallows…), the philosophy (Dumbledore’s ontology: “of course this is happening in your head, Harry; that doesn’t mean it isn’t real”), Severus Snape (oh, dear lord, I love that character), the redemptive character of love, the complexity of a well-wrought tale at its finest, it’s all there. Snape’s post-mortem memory sequence blew me away – it was done so beautifully, and Alan Rickman is one of the finest actors, no doubt. His dedication to the role is astounding, and the pain he plays is moving.
Now for the not so great, which was, for the most part, the rest of the film. For starters, the direction in this film was terrible. The awful clippy/snippy/terse style was shared across actors. I have a feeling that much of this was done for laugh lines, but outside of the massive group of crazy teenagers at the midnight showing, there were no laughs. Instead, it felt forced, fake, out of character. One particular example was the reunion scene in the room of requirement as our holy trio move in from Hogsmead. This scene was obnoxious, at best, and difficult to watch. This kind of directing is what destroys great stories.
The confrontation between Harry/the Order and Snape is another scene which was poorly written/edited/directed, or some combination of the three. It felt, again, forced. The travesty committed upon the phenomenal Maggie Smith – who’s fantastic acting and delivery somehow redeemed the shoddy lines and direction – was utterly remarkable. “Boom!,” for instance. The entire sequence where McGonagall takes over Hogwarts was utterly out of character for McGonagall. And while I understand the need for comic relief in such a dark story, there is a time and place – and defiling a character for the sake of laugh lines is absolutely unforgivable, in my book.
The omission of much of the story of Helena Ravenclaw, or the Grey Lady, is also a dire subtraction. The story of the Diadem adds a layer of complexity to Voldemort, and we can see a romance to his thought process. The diadem is a complicated addition to Voldemort’s set of Horcruxes, especially as Helena is tied – through romance and murder – to Slytherin. There is a reverence, then, in Voldemort’s selection of the diadem. To leave this story – one which would have taken little time to tell – out of the film in favor of a bland moment merely thrown in to establish the diadem story is silly and, in my opinion, dumb.
The make-out scene after Ron and Hermione kill the goblet is another one which, though I’m sure was done as tension relief, was absurdly inappropriate. From there, it only gets worse. The last thirty minutes of the film were, in my opinion, the greatest travesty committed to this story. Let’s walk through it, shall we?
First, Harry walks out of the headmaster’s office to find Hermione and Ron sitting alone amid a ravaged castle with tons going on around them. Somehow knowing that Harry is hanging out in the head master’s office? Just sitting. Hanging out alone. This is, primarily, out of character for both of these characters. Additionally, Harry then TELLS THEM that he is heading to the forbidden forest to meet Voldemort, and there is a teary eyed moment of good-bye. I wanted to groan and yell at the director – do you just not get it?! Seriously, this is utterly besides the point of the entire sequence of events! Harry’s self-sacrifice is SILENT. It is silent for a reason. It lacks good-bye. It lacks the seeking of pity. It is a beautiful and painful moment in the book, as the reader is the only one who knows that Harry is going. He knows that his friends will try to stop him or go with him – which they would do – so to needlessly change this scene is untrue for all three characters involved and serves absolutely not cinematic purpose.
When Harry gets to the forest, in the book he is wearing the cloak of invisibility – one of the deathly hallows and the cheater of death! In the movie, this is stripped, and, apart from the brief and unmentioned use of it at Gringotts, is left untreated at all in the movie. Another huge mistake. But we will address the issue of the Hallows debacle in a moment. As we move toward the final duel – a time wasting, out of canon scene drawn out, presumably for the action draw – the missteps become more unforgivable. First, some background on the profundity of the final scenes in the book.
Harry is Voldemort’s “equal” not out of any real equality, but rather because Voldemort gave him this status. Voldemort self-fulfilled the prophesy and named Harry as his equal. The only reason Harry actually survived was because Voldemort’s unstable soul rebounded into Harry upon the death spell. So, just as a piece of Voldemort lived in all of the other Horcruxes, so this is what kept Harry alive. Fine, we get that part from the movie. What we do NOT get is the fact that Voldemort and Harry are NOT equal. They never were. Harry doesn’t live because he’s somehow stronger or more magical or able to defeat Voldemort. Harry lives because Voldemort underestimates the power of love, the most redemptive force in Rowling’s world, and fails to think things all the way through. Prophesy only has the power we give it, then, and according to Rowling, we all have the freedom to choose our destiny. Harry’s destiny is tied inextricably to Voldemort’s – but this is only because both of these parties chose this destiny.
Okay, that being said, let’s get back to the movie. Harry goes and attacks Voldemort and flings them both over the edge of the balcony with some cheese-tastic line that doesn’t make sense. They go spinning around the castle, only to land, isolated, in the commons. Blasphemy does not even begin to describe what I felt toward this scene. Both of these are instances where Harry is being cinematically placed as superior or equal to Voldemort, which is, as we’ve already seen, not the case by any stretch of the imagination. The fact that the two are isolated is ridiculous, especially as they are, in the book, surrounded by Harry’s supporters. Harry, on the other hand, only reveals himself to still be alive AFTER everyone remained fighting – there was no grand moment of disclosure in the middle of some touching moment with Voldemort – the people, hopeless and without their symbol, continue fighting Voldemort. Everyone, in the end, sees the triumph of good over evil, and the triumph of the novice with love and purpose over the master who’s only concern is his own power.
Next, the exclusion of the spells during the final battle – avada kedavra, the killing curse, and expelliarmus, the disarming curse – is a similarly fatal mistake of this film. Again, the exclusion seems to be aimed at creating a false sense of equality (Harry is not only called out but recognized amongst the fake Harry’s at the beginning of the novel for using this spell.) It is important that Harry succeeds so succinctly using so simple a spell; and the film makers decided that this was far too sorry a detail to include. Ridiculous.
Now, for the disaster of the treatment of the Hallows. First, Deathly Hallows is the name of the book. Second, they are mostly ignored through the entirety of the film. Harry would never be so presumptuous as to destroy the elder wand. In the book, he delivers it back to Dumbledore’s grave, assuming that there would be no natural progression of loyalty after his own death. This is a touching scene which treats the wand with the reverence it deserves. The resurrection stone is left, where he dropped it, in the forest to be lost forever. The cloak, Harry keeps, as it is the only thing that has ever truly belonged to him, being passed down from his father. The fact that none of this is addressed is lazy.
Finally, the most angering of all, is the epilogue. Though I had mixed feelings about it in the book – I mean, because we couldn’t imagine the happily ever after on our own? And what about those names?! – I despised its inclusion in the movie. Not only did it seem utterly ridiculous, but the use of the same actors in terrible make-up was laughable. New actors should have been found to play the nearly forty year old characters; they looked utterly ridiculous. And how can you even focus on the terrible names of the children when the actors all look so silly?
Putting the epilogue aside, my primary issues with the film revolve around a completely misguided and misunderstood representation of the story for the sole purpose of creating a battle scene that looked cool. It’s offensive to the story and its entire philosophy to degrade a central and final theme over a cinematography choice. The moral of this story is that the selfless nature of love, no matter its inexperience – and perhaps even because of its naiveté – overcomes evil and the will to power. This was lost in Harry Potter 7.2, and that is a real shame.