Saturday, July 16, 2011

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" — movie review

Movie: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Length: 130 minutes
Rated: PG-13
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes
Director: David Yates


(Almost entirely) SPOILER-FREE:
The Movie Qua Movie

One-word review: wow.

I can't imagine seeing HP7B with no familiarity at least with the preceding moves (though you could try with Gilbert Cruz' game attempt to sum it all up in five minutes), so I'll assume knowledge of The Story Thus Far. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 starts on an ominous note, pauses for a pre-dive breath, and then plunges into a narrative from which it seldom comes up for air.

Everything works here. All the actors are note-perfect, the special effects are top-notch and ubiquitous to the point where they are as naturally interwoven as the beautiful landscapes in the Lord of the Rings movies, the music punctuates the story unobtrusively yet effectively, the camerawork is deft, and the pace is relentless. As a movie, HP7B is a nearly unqualified success. (For a movie that isn't about lesbian zombie anti-Christian anti-American communists to garner 97% positive rating from Rotten Tomatoes' 208 reviews, with a 100% rating from its "Top Critics," is a rare feat.)

It is simply a marvel to view making-of sequences such as this one and this one, to realize the (no pun intended) wizardry that goes into crafting this movie. One literally never knows when he is viewing London or the beauties of Scotland, or when it is a sound stage and software. But real artistry goes into this movie on every level.

Of course, technical fireworks alone could not make up for wretched writing or poor acting. (You did see the Star Wars Episode 3, right? Enough said.) So, how were the actors, one by one?

Last movie, Emma Watson's Hermione Granger was the scene-stealer. She's a marvel and a heart-breaker once again (more on that below). However, this time the stand-out performance is Alan Rickman's Severus Snape. Through his career Rickman has proven himself to be an actor of great ability and depth, capable of both comedy and drama. However, for 7 movies his portrayal of Snape has been held to the book's relatively narrow depiction of the professor as an angry, dark, seemingly negative yet enigmatic figure. The narrative line finally allows Rickman to explore and bring out this character's unseen depths and, oh my, does he.

To say that Rickman's performance singularly remains in the mind amid so many stellar actors is to say something, indeed. Last time I complained of Dan Radcliffe's limited range in portraying Harry Potter. I have  recently seen Radcliffe say in interviews that this is his only performance in this series that he can watch without a cringe, feeling he's done his best work. Agreed. I don't think Radcliffe left an empty shelf in his repertoire, bringing out the conflict and misery and force and determination of the series' titular center very movingly.

Watson and Rupert Grint shine yet again, but this is expected. It is Julie Walters and Maggie Smith who finally are given the opportunity to show what Molly Weasley and Professor McGonagall really had "under the cover," so to speak. And Ralph Fiennes fills the screen with Voldemort as one of the more despicable and dangerous movie villains in recent genre films.

The only disappointments are once again Michael Gambon's Dumbledore and, to my surprise, Robbie Coltrane's Hagrid. Gambon has boasted that he doesn't bother to read the books that are adding to his wealth, and it has shown. In a scene that calls for conflicted layers of joy, regret, guilt and satisfaction, Gambon brings no greater flavor than that of a slice of processed cheese: barely adequate, reads the lines all right, and not much more. Of all the cast, one can now say that he was the poorest choice — which is unfortunate, given the centrality of Gambon's role.

As to Coltrane, after one outburst, a scene calling for deep emotion from Hagrid was given nothing but flat grimness, which was less than I expected of him.

To give one more fine character actress a nod, Helena Bonham Carter studied video of Emma Watson so as to do Watson's Granger appearing as Carter's Bellatrix Lestrange. The result is beautiful to behold. Think of it: First, we see Carter playing Watson playing Hermione. Then we have Carter playing Watson playing Hermione playing Carter playing Bellatrix. It is perfection in acting, from facial expressions to physicality.

Deathly Hallows Part 2  is dark in tone and emotionally intense. In particular, once the story reaches a scene in a boat house, the emotional screws begin tightening inexorably. This intensifies through an increasing arc in which the art of Rickman, Ratcliffe and Watson might move a stone to reach for a hankie.

This chapter's darkness and intensity and fantasy-violence make the movie a poor choice for younger or more "sensitive" children. However, it is refreshing that no Michael-Bay-like cretin felt the need to add the slightest salacious sniggers or profanity (other than one harsh word that I noted in a climactic scene).

In sum: The two hours and ten minutes both speed by, and feel as if one's gotten three hours worth of plot, character and action. How did they do that? Movie-making magic.

WARNING: increasing spoilers ahead. Don't want them? Stop!


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You read that, right?


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If you go on, it's on you.


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All right, then:



The Movie qua Adaptation (spoilers)

I'm a purist and a bit of a Potterhead — if standing in line at midnight to get the book when it came out, taking time off work and reading straight through it day and night with my dear wife; and standing (sitting) in line seven hours with my dear Josiah, qualifies me as a Potterhead — and I was absolutely delighted with it. Everything I most hoped would be done well was done well, and much of it even better than hoped.

Of course I would have gladly watched a five-hour movie that gave time for a great deal more of the book and its dialogue, but that is unrealistic.

My dear wife (a rigorous and unsparing critic) and I agree that the adaptation was done masterfully, with only a couple of exceptions, which will be noted below. We agree with virtually everything that was dropped (e.g. dropping a bothersome gnat of a character tagging along with "Bellatrix" in Gringott's), and are happy with virtually every change.

After mourning at Dobby's grave for a moment, Harry tears right into Griphook and Ollivander. He has squared his shoulders, and is driving on for the goal with no more distractions or bypaths. There is no time for the book's debates and dickering, and one doesn't miss it. A brisk if uncomfortable agreement with Griphook, a dose of Polyjuice, the quartet is off for Gringott's, and the pacing virtually never slows but for occasional necessary pauses.

Gringott's dragon is one instance of respect for the source material. With artistic eloquence, we are shown through sight and sound (not exposition) that the goblins have sorely abused and mistreated this fearsome creature. The encounter with the goblins is thrilling, but not drawn out, and Harry when plunged in the water gets a plot leg-up from his connection to Voldemort. Again, the narrative spares us the book's repeated speculations about Voldemort's awareness and the process of his checking Horcrux locations, instead making him aware of the "death" of each item, and showing Harry feeling the same.

The first bit I really wanted to see handled well was, of course, Voldermort's murder of Snape, and Harry's subsequent viewing of his memories. It was pitch-perfect. Rather than directly portraying the murder on-camera, Yates shows the trio hearing the sounds, which are more brutal and heart-stopping than if we had watched it ourselves. Voldemort departs, Harry rushes to his dying nemesis, who imparts his memories, urges Harry to view them, and says what the book only hints: "You have your mother's eyes" — and dies.

The viewed memories then ratchet up the emotional weight, showing the side of Snape never truly seen before. As in the book, we start with Lily, Petunia and Snape as children, then move on into adulthood. Here technology once again serves the story, making it possible to de-age Alan Rickman so he can portray a younger Snape.

The movie's additions to the book make still clearer Snape's undying love for Lily, his devastation over her murder at Voldemort's hands, his manipulation by Dumbledore into being Harry's reluctant guardian — and his horror at Dumbledore's setting up Harry "as a pig to be slaughtered." When Harry reels back from the Pensieve, clutching at his heart, the intensity almost reaches its climax — but not yet.

For me that climax comes in three movements. The first is just afterwards, when the movie again veers from the book. Harry does not sneak out of the castle under the Invisibility Cloak. Instead, he meets Hermione and Ron and tells them what he has figured out (that he himself is a Horcrux), and what is about to happen. "I think you figured this out days ago" he says to Hermione, and then it comes. Her face crumples into tears and she barely manages, in a small voice, "I'll go with you," then embraces him, sobbing. Heartbreaking, and actually more emotionally satisfying than the book.

The next comes in Harry's encounter with his parents, Lupin, and Sirius, in the forest — though it is odd he goes from his mother to Sirius, ignoring his father. Was that a deliberate reflection of how his father's memory was tarnished for him by what he'd learned of the abuse Snape suffered? Or just a screenwriter's glitch?


The third is, of course, when Harry walks into Voldemort's rabble, to die.

This is followed by Harry's encounter with Dumbledore at King's Cross. Though Dumbledore repeats the phrase, adding stress, one wonders how many will catch the Gospel allusions intended by Rowling. Regardless, it moves the story on to Harry's final encounter with Voldemort.

Harry's final battle with Voldemort varies considerably from the book. In the book, the encounter is almost perfunctory. Harry and Voldemort talk at some length, but Voldemort casts his spell and dies, bang. The movie draws it out at length. That might have bothered me more if I hadn't already been aware of the decision, going in. As it is, I feel that the battle was well-paced and well-choreographed, leading to a satisfying climax.

Then comes the end-scene nineteen years later, the friends (and Ginny) aged as well as technology can do, seeing their own children back to what one presumes is a rebuilt Hogwarts. Harry's moving words to his son, Albus Severus — that he is named after two Hogwarts headmasters, the second of whom was the bravest man he has ever known — lose none of their power. Satisfyingly and appropriately, the camera lingers on the three friends who have been the narrative center of all eight movies, and we are done.

I close, singling out two pluses and two minuses.

First and second plus: my dear wife and I really hoped that the characters of Minerva McGonagall and Molly Weasley, criminally mishandled in the movies, would finally get their due. They did. It is almost as if the writes felt guilty, enhancing McGonagall's encounter with Snape into a bold duel, and then highlighting her again in leading the defense of the castle.

Molly's duel with Bellatrix feels a bit hurried, but my fear was that it would be deleted altogether. One only glimpses Bella attacking Ginny, then Molly shoves her aside, growls "Not my daughter, you [bad, bad woman]," and the duel is on. Bella's confident smile is knocked away, and Molly very satisfyingly dispatches her. Applause from the audience.

The first minus is relatively minor. Much has been made of Harry's scar, for eight movies. Nothing is made of its absence. I had to ask my family if we were even shown that it was gone. They say it was. I did not see it. This deserved more emphasis.

But worse is the virtual elimination of the Gospel element Rowling intended and crafted and built up to. One wonders how she tolerated its elimination. However, by all I've seen her say and do since, I do not get the impression that Gospel proclamation is a great priority to her.

In the book, Harry makes a big point to Voldemort of the fact that he is failing to kill the children of Hogwarts, that his spells keep missing. He explicitly explains that this is because his sacrifice of himself in love has shielded them, so that Voldemort can no longer directly harm them. This is the second major occurrence of this theme, the first being Harry's mother's shielding of him by giving her life for his. Harry takes on himself the curse (Horcrux), dies, destroys it, and thus delivers Hogwarts. Then the last enemy is defeated by the Harry, who has come back to life.

Love it, hate it, criticize it, Rowling's attempt to echo the Gospel events is crystal-clear to a close reading. (Though, of course, much is missing from what would be a fuller development of the Gospel per se. It is a story, not a sermon or tract.)

The move simply dispenses with this crucial plot-point. In its stead, movie-Voldemort is simply told that his want isn't working well for him. Also, in the book Harry urges him to repent, persistently calling him "Tom"; not in the movie. Voldemort is simply given up as hopeless. Disappointing. Again I wonder: did Rowling even try to preserve that element?

Also missing, but less of a loss: the theme of Voldemort seeking the Deathly Hallows in order to become immortal and invincible. They're introduced and explained in a wonderful sequence during 7A, but in 7B they're just there. Nothing much is made of the threat they pose in Voldemort's hands, of the fact that Harry at one point possesses all of them.

One could wish for "Director's cuts" that would restore critical missing elements to all the movies, but the most important omissions (for all I know) were never scripted nor filmed. Maybe my children or grandchildren, should the Lord tarry, will see a re-visiting of this (and The Lord of the Rings) that is equally adept but more leisurely, and more respectful of the source-material.

In final sum: this franchise has gone out with a tremendous bang. This movie is the best of the lot. Eight thumbs up.

39 comments:

hobo soup said...

Hello from across the pond. I took my wife and son to the see the film yesterday, we all thought it was excellent. It was akin to roller coaster ride. Would like to see them bring out part A and part B together one disk as it has been a while since I saw the first one, and needed to think back to the previous films ending. In my opinion this film and the 2 and 3 stand out as the best in the series. Would have been interesting to see how the films would have turned out had they had the director from the third movie?. Thanks for in depth review.

Susan said...

1. Oh, when Molly Weasley stood up to Bellatrix and the inevitable (expected?) result played out, the entire theater burst into cheers and applause! I've always thought that Helena Bonham-Carter should play less funky roles because they are so edgy, and boy, she totally bugged me in in this last movie! (Which makes her a great actress...although I still think she should veer back to more "normal" roles, such as the Duchess of York in The King's Speech.)

2. If memory serves me correctly (it was, after all, waaaaaayy past my bed time), another funny incident occurred during the course of the movie: At the end of the final duel at the tattered Hogworts, Voldemort was in a completely different form than we've known him to be in. It was at that very moment when a man's voice rang out in the dark theater:

"What is THAT!?"

Classic. :)

(Oh, and I'm up because I had already slept quite a bit. I was surprisingly energetic throughout the day, running on about 4 hours of sleep after the Part 1/Part 2 marathon. May end up falling asleep again!)

Frank Turk said...

Just to say it out loud: Helena Bonham Carter is categorically one of the least-inhibited actresses (or actors) on our time. I think she could do anything she wanted to do, and in my view it's either a fantastic nod to her own sensibilities or a gigantic loss to all of us that she only chooses to do weird.

The exception proves the rule: she is so out of character in the King's Speech, so out of type, that you can't even remember it was her at the end until you see the credits.

Almost off-topic, I know, but I can't wait to see her do the bit Dan describes here.

William Dicks said...

Hi Dan,

We are going to watch HP7B tonight. We have also seen all the previous ones too.

Just a question for your viewpoint. What would you say to people that claim that Christians should not be watching HP because of its depiction of evil and witch craft and magic?

I have some friends that are very much against it.

GrammaMack said...

Wow, indeed. I was teary-eyed just reading this review; better pack extra Kleenex in my purse this afternoon.

I read the spoilers, preferring to know beforehand what they've changed. Because I watched each of the other movies as soon as I finished each book, my brain tripped on the changes enough to bring me out of the movies, so I'm better off prepared.

The gospel element was the huge surprise for me in these books, which I'd refused to read because I'd heard they were evil. As one of my sons says, the good stories all reflect the very best story of all, and this is a very good one indeed.

JMJ said...

Is this in 3d? Worth it for 3d? Thoughts?

Marla said...

From GrammaMack:

"As one of my sons says, the good stories all reflect the very best story of all"

So true... I often find this is especially ironic in science fiction where most of the writers are denying God's existence from the get-go, but still 'borrow' from HIS story.

Thanks for the review Dan - I am looking forward to viewing this with my oldest daughter next week upon her return from camp.

Agree with you about Michael Gambon.. what a disappointment.

Kirby said...

Saw it last night with "most" of the family.

Overall - I liked it, a lot.

re: Rickman - totally agreed. I was pretty much hooked into the movie when Snape was looking over Hogwarts and its new dark militarized format, and seeing in his eyes how conflicted he was. He hated all that he had to pretend to be, and yet carried the part perfectly. In fact, until you said something about Watson in the last review, he was hands-down my favorite actor in the whole cast. and still is. His Shakespearean acting has served him well.

re: special effect. very awesome, including the statuary coming to life, and the shield around hogwarts (although my mind immediately went to Naboo), and the rail car at Gringotts. Although my son pointed out that the dragon was not diamond clad (which is a detail I didn't recall).

re: The Love-of-your-mother-in-you-is-the-difference plot line. I was really hoping for that.

re: Power-corrupts-those-who-are-not-humble plot line. I was really hoping for that, too. That could have been Gambon's big moment in this film at King's Cross Station. Yes, I know, time, time, time.

re: Professor McGonagall. I really like her. She was a GREAT character in the book, and they picked a great actress to play her. It was cool to see her "bust a move" a few times in HP7B.

re: some things just happened too fast: Overlooking the dead friends at Hogwarts just went too fast for me. It was not sad enough. Although, I thought that was one of Grints better moments. And Mrs. Weasley dispatching Bellatrix didn't work as well because I couldn't remember how evil Bellatrix had been in the rest of the books and movies.

re: the extended fight scene between Harry and Voldemort. That actually worked for me because when I read it in the book, I thought, "that's a 30-second scene in a movie if they don't add the dialogue" and if they'd waited until then to explain the Harry vanquished Malfoy who actually vanquished Dumbledore who owns the Elder Wand twist - That wouldn't work either. So, I'm glad they stretched it out.

re: Fiennes - He did alright. His best moment was his reaction to Neville's sermon. That was the most devious Voldemort I'd seen.

re: Hagrid. They didn't give him a chance in 7B. I chalk that up to screenwriting.

re: the Gospel. I saw glimmers of that in the book but I would be hard-pressed to write a book report on them. I get the whole Harry had to die and come back to life. Knowing the author's nominal faith, I'm conflicted as to whether she meant it as a gospel presentation or a great story line. Maybe I can make of it what I want to in spite of not knowing.

So, all in all, it was better than all the rest, and maybe there'll be a redux with two movies per book with an emphasis of the stronger themes. until then, it's been a pleasure.

sonofthunder7 said...

Yeah, it's in 3D. I watched in 3D, and while I'm not really a big fan of it in general, I thought it was done well(i.e., not too over the top).

And YES. Thanks Dan for the review...I just saw this last night over here in Scotland. I can echo most of your points, although I do wish I'd known beforehand about the changes to the end(Harry's duel with Voldemort), because that's what I was most looking forward to. I couldn't wait to see them circling with everyone else looking on, Harry asking Tom to show a little remorse...

But alas, it was not to be. I also felt Neville's moment would have been even better if it stayed true to the book, but again, alas.

While the book highlight for me was Harry's final duel with Voldemort, the movie highlight was - no doubt - the Snape sequence. Closest I got to tears the whole night...amazingly well done. Rickman once again proved his excellence.

Again, Dan - great review.

DJP said...

Re. the consensus about Rickman and about Gambon:

In a recent interview with Rickman, he's charming and modest. He marvels at the fact that, as a young man, he would be sitting "in the cheap seats" watching Gambon acting on stage; then he says what a dream and an honor it is to be working with him and to be friends with him.

But I take it most of you would agree with me that he not only works with Gambon, but vastly overshadows him in how he captures and brings his character to life.

Virtually every casting choice in this series was not only good, but (in the secular sense) inspired. Who could have been a better McGonagall than Maggie Smith, or a better Snape than Alan Rickman? One simply wishes that a better Dumbledore had been chosen.

Fred Butler said...

I'm a purist and a bit of a Potterhead — if standing in line at midnight to get the book when it came out, taking time off work and reading straight through it day and night with my dear wife; and standing (sitting) in line seven hours with my dear Josiah, qualifies me as a Potterhead — and I was absolutely delighted with it.

I guess I can understand this kind of fandom.

Just as long as you don't overdo it by dressing up like the characters while standing in line at the movie house and name all your pets after the Weasley children.

DJP said...

Turk — Carter is a wonderful actress. Her involvement with Tim Burton perhaps = either cause or effect of her leaning to the odd roles.

Almost off-topic, I know... You? "Off-topic"? Inconceivable!

DJP said...

...name all your pets after the Weasley children

Oh no, that would be silly.

Ahem.

DJP said...

William DicksWhat would you say to people that claim that Christians should not be watching HP because of its depiction of evil and witch craft and magic?

I've discussed this before, but too lazy and busy to look it up. So in brief:

Every Christian should be convinced in his own mind, have his own convictions, and allow others to have theirs (Rom. 14:5). HSAT...

The Bible depicts evil and witchcraft, so that in itself shouldn't be an instant disqualifier.

The issue is: does Rowling depict it positively? For the most part, the answer is an emphatic "no." In Rowling's world, no one can "become" a witch or wizard. You're either born one, or you're not. So magic cannot be depicted as a laudable goal to seek, because in her definition it is no more "seekable" than skin-color. Less.

Further, she depicts the magical world as full of wonder, yes, but also full of ugliness, selfishness, greed, folly. Its justice system is ridiculous, its hierarchy worthless, and many of its practitioners corrupt and horrid.

I don't like her friendly portrayal of lying in Harry, but what she really highlights are love, loyalty, and sacrifice.

Final thought: the absolutist position would rule out enjoying or even viewing any secular art. Any non-Christian book, play or painting that portrays life without Christ as good and positive and meaningful is a lie and preaches a lie. But to avoid even viewing such things with discernment altogether wouldn't follow Paul's standard, and would end up more silly than adorning.

DJP said...

On HP7B in 3D: we saw it in 3D. It gave my dear wife a bit of a headache. I thought it was fine and well-done, in some scenes pretty persuasive. Ebert dismisses it and says see it in 2D. I plan to see it again in a week or so, in 2D, and will try to remember to add my thoughts.

Rabbit said...

Excellent review, Dan. I agree with just about every point! We saw it at midnight, as part of a double feature that showed part 1 at 9pm. I highly recommend watching the films back-to-back if you can. Our family has read the books together, seen the films together, and all four of us give this one our heartiest double thumbs up. It's the best of the lot.

Major plusses: the growth of the acting abilities of Dan, Rupert, and Matthew Lewis (Neville); the spot-on performance of Evanna Lynch (Luna); and Helena Bonham Carter's performance is so convincing that I actually thought, “wow, Emma is really, really good. Wait. That's Helena."

THE Snape scene is nearly everything I had hoped it would be.

We wished for greater roles for Lupin, Tonks, and Hagrid. Also wished for more time to mourn when we learned of certain characters' deaths. Heartily wished Richard Harris could come back as Dumbledore. Why is Gambon so unmindful, so off-handed in his treatment of Dumbledore???

From a parental perspective, there's nothing new on the scary front BUT the emotional wringing your heart takes is greater than any of the previous films. My 10 year old son unashamedly sobbed aloud in three places, and he knew from great familiarity with the book what was coming in those moments. Bring tissues and be ready to comfort the yoots.

I already want to go see it again. Not at midnight. :)

DJP said...

"Harry Potter, you listen to me!" Great moment.

(c:

CGrim said...

The audience applauded twice during the movie when I saw it: after McGonagall's duel with Snape, and after Molly Weasley's duel with Bellatrix. People like to see women in mama-bear mode, it seems.

The audience laughed uproariously during the entire "19-yrs-later" bit. I mostly chuckled, but I couldn't contain myself when I saw 19-yrs-later-Draco. I laughed and laughed, and my wife poked me in the ribs.

My two minor gripes: Like you, I wish they had Harry explain to Voldemort before he died WHY he lost. It would have been more satisfying and more accurate... on the other hand, I'm not at all convinced that Radcliffe could have delivered it correctly, so...

My other gripe is that I wish they had Neville kill Nagini as soon as he whipped the sword out. That would have been so much more emotionally satisfying, Voldemort being humbled face-to-face before the least assuming of characters. It's been 4 years, but I'm pretty sure that's how it happened in the book, isn't it? I was especially looking forward to Neville's vindication in this movie, and I feel they diluted it a tad.

I was also looking forward to Snape's vindication, which was excellent. The flashbacks were perfect.

Did Harry actually have the Hallows simultaneously? He dropped the stone in the forest before he got the wand, I thought.

Standout characters in the film: McGonagall, Snape, Neville, Luna, and I agree that Radcliffe did his best acting in this one.

DJP said...

I think you're right (from memory), and it's why I said "possesses" - in the sense that he'd dropped the stone and, IIRC, might have found it. He asked Dumbledore about it; my memory is that he could probably have found it again, but figured no one else would.

A more recent reader (or one with better memory) will set us right.

CGrim said...

True, also I suppose the wand technically "belonged" to him even when it was not in his possession.

Susan said...

1. Frank, I think HBC had that rebel spirit in her much earlier than her association with Tim Burton (he perhaps amplified it?). I've seen a clip of her at an awards ceremony when she was much younger, and I was surprised at how "harshly" she spoke in real life. (Then again, didn't her Edwardian heroine roles convey a certain defiance as well? So was her portrayal of the Duchess of York--I saw more of her in that role than I did the young Queen Mother, even though I still think she performs well.)

2. Not to be completely off topic, I would highly recommend watching HP-7 in 3D; that is, if you can get a seat that's in the middle section of the theater. I sat off to the left side, and not all of the special 3D effects were "in my face", so that's something to be considered if you like the full-blown 3D effects.

Fred Butler said...

I appreciate the devotion, even to the point of your cat. I guess I would be much more concerned if you gave the same level of passion to the Twilight films.

Ken Abbott said...

Dan: Completely agree. My wife and I saw the film yesterday morning and were thoroughly delighted. Of course, I had to go back and read the last 150 pages of the book when we got home.

Si Hollett said...

Having seen it, and it felt like a bit of an anti-climax - perhaps I'm being too much of a book purist here and the film will grow on me.

Given the irrelevance of the Hallows to the plot of the film, why have Ollivander fill the viewers in at the beginning, when he's never heard of them in the book (with good plot reasons)? At least they had the cloak appear for a bit at Gringotts, unlike the zero appearances of it in pt 1 (compare the book with its almost constant use). This is probably the thing that'll bug me most - that it's not obvious that Harry owned all three Hallows and was master of death when in the forest. The stone was pretty pointless without all the 'not pulling them out, them receiving me in' stuff, and the endless discussions about it in the book. It was all about the Elder Wand, and they didn't even get that as clear as in the book.

Not having the scene in Ravenclaw tower, with the Carrows, is a disappointment - but then I guess they are barely mentioned and you aren't that invested in the downfall of those who turned Hogwarts into a prison camp and did that stuff to Neville, etc. And McGonagall still shines anyway, plus Radcliffe wouldn't make Harry's respect for her look convincing...

As with Mad Eye's death in pt 1, Fred's death in pt2 was underwhelming. Hedwig, Tonks and Lupin are almost secondary, skimmed over but Mad Eye, Dobby and Fred are the big three in the book, the deaths with mourning and grief.

And Dan, when in London, there's a photo op at Kings Cross station for Potterheads like yourself.

Nerda Puella said...

Harry still has his scar in the epilogue in the book. It's just a scar though not a connection anymore. I can't remember if you could see that in the movie but at least that is how it is in the book. It didn't give him anymore pain.

I have to say as someone who began reading the books at age 7 and as someone who is the same age group as the cast, this was a pretty emotional movie for me. Before I was a Christian, HP was what I connected to the most. Hermione helped me grow out of my shell.

I was actually very angry when I was watching it yesterday. I haven't been that way since the first movie. Looking back on it though, I agree with your review that it is a good movie.

One of the most important things that they did right was Snape's story. He is one of my favourite characters from the series.

I think the thing I was just upset about was the final battle between Harry and Voldemort. It made me angry that it was flashy instead of the dialogue that took place. I feel like it betrayed the story. Not just with Harry confronting Voldemort with the reality of Snape and attempting to get him to be remorseful. Harry didn't use the killing curse to kill voldemort. He used one of the spells he is most closely idenitfied with -- expelliarmus. Harry's use of the disarming charm is significant because it shows his true character. Voldemort is the one who uses the killing curse and as a result kills himself.

That scene followed by Harry breaking the elder wand made me leave the theatre a bit upset despite the epilogue. The time they had him breaking the elder wand should have been spent on him repairing his wand (which has served him faithfully throughout the entire series). I honestly could careless if he breaks it after. Maybe not a big deal but it was just a little thing that made me upset.

When I see it a second time, I will probably like it more as I did with the 6th. I am just disappointed I did not like it as much as the part 1.

Lauren

Sonja said...

My hubby & I just saw it last night (I was at the Women Discipling Women conference near the non-existent Carmegeddon on Friday & Saturday and couldn't wait to return to watch it on Sunday).

My husband hasn't read the books (yet!), but he and I enjoyed the film as a substantial, thought-provoking summer blockbuster. We thought it was the best film of the series due to its layered and subtle performances, the best visual F/X (esp. in 3D), the gorgeous cinematography and production design, and the emotional scenes throughout. Rickman deserves an Oscar nod as his character was by far one of the most complex in the series. His struggle to keep up a facade with Voldemort while secretly collaborating with Dumbledore provides the film with its greatest tension and heartbreak. As someone stated earlier, Snape’s unsettling expression in the opening establishes the haunting tone for the whole film.

Nonetheless, and as an avid fan of the books, I have many of the same disappointments as previously mentioned by all. The death of Lupin, Tonks & Fred (as well as Dobby in Pt 1) lacks the emotional wallop I experienced when reading the books. I was devastated and tearful when reading those scenes, but didn't feel the same while watching the films. I wish the film would've lingered a bit more on the death of Fred and the reactions of the family members. Mrs. Weasley's grief over Fred’s death seems strangely calm as it did in Pt. 1 when George lost part of his ear. To me, the book better conveys Harry’s subsequent turmoil and agony when surveying the carnage around him. It becomes the symbol for the consequences of evil, power, greed and even sin itself. The film only reveals a cursory glance at a few students who seem dazed and mildly injured after the battle.

As a former film exec, I understand the director and producers’ choices to build great momentum towards an intense climax with movement and action in the final battle between Harry and Voldemort; those definitely heighten the cinematic ante. That said, Voldemort’s demise is still anti-climactic and the scene just peters out, lacking the satisfying conclusion in the novel when Harry asks him to “repent” in front of everyone, then shares the reasons why he’ll be defeated. I miss the scene in which Harry reveals to Voldemort that he underestimates the power of love (Snape for Lily, Lily for Harry, and Harry for his friends) as well as overestimates his own magical prowess by not understanding the pecking order behind the elder wand. I loved how everyone witnesses Voldemort’s humiliating death, unlike the weak filmed version between just the two of them.

As for the actual Deathly Hallows, the film makes them seem irrelevant. The film omits the wrap-up on these objects when Harry chooses to relinquish both the resurrection stone and elder wand. This moment reveals how Harry does not succumb to the same fleshly desires and ambitions that gravely affected Dumbledore, and later twisted Voldemort.

Lastly, my poor husband missed the beat in Snape’s memories that Dumbledore had only a year to live, making it easier for Snape to “assassinate” him.

To sum it all up: the strengths of the film made it an enjoyable viewing experience and a real "event." The weaknesses are the important omissions that Christians love about the book: redemption, sacrificial love, and substitutionary atonement. My husband said it best and I agree with him that the novels would’ve been better served in television. Each book could’ve easily been adapted into 13-22 episodes. Perhaps one day, when television production and special effects become less cost-prohibitive, a visionary will re-imagine the books for that medium. I hope I’ll be alive to see it…

P.S. Dan--We can't wait to read your book!

Sonja said...

My hubby & I just saw it last night (I was at the Women Discipling Women conference near the non-existent Carmegeddon on Friday & Saturday and couldn't wait to return to watch it on Sunday).

My husband hasn't read the books (yet!), but he and I enjoyed the film as a substantial, thought-provoking summer blockbuster. We thought it was the best film of the series due to its layered and subtle performances, the best visual F/X (esp. in 3D), the gorgeous cinematography and production design, and the emotional scenes throughout. Rickman deserves an Oscar nod as his character was by far one of the most complex in the series. His struggle to keep up a facade with Voldemort while secretly collaborating with Dumbledore provides the film with its greatest tension and heartbreak. As someone stated earlier, Snape’s unsettling expression in the opening establishes the haunting tone for the whole film.

Nonetheless, and as an avid fan of the books, I have many of the same disappointments as previously mentioned by all. The death of Lupin, Tonks & Fred (as well as Dobby in Pt 1) lacks the emotional wallop I experienced when reading the books. I was devastated and tearful when reading those scenes, but didn't feel the same while watching the films. I wish the film would've lingered a bit more on the death of Fred and the reactions of the family members. Mrs. Weasley's grief over Fred’s death seems strangely calm as it did in Pt. 1 when George lost part of his ear. To me, the book better conveys Harry’s subsequent turmoil and agony when surveying the carnage around him. It becomes the symbol for the consequences of evil, power, greed and even sin itself. The film only reveals a cursory glance at a few students who seem dazed and mildly injured after the battle.

As a former film exec, I understand the director and producers’ choices to build great momentum towards an intense climax with movement and action in the final battle between Harry and Voldemort; those definitely heighten the cinematic ante. That said, Voldemort’s demise is still anti-climactic and the scene just peters out, lacking the satisfying conclusion in the novel when Harry asks him to “repent” in front of everyone, then shares the reasons why he’ll be defeated. I miss the scene in which Harry reveals to Voldemort that he underestimates the power of love (Snape for Lily, Lily for Harry, and Harry for his friends) as well as overestimates his own magical prowess by not understanding the pecking order behind the elder wand. I loved how everyone witnesses Voldemort’s humiliating death, unlike the weak filmed version between just the two of them.

As for the actual Deathly Hallows, the film makes them seem irrelevant. The film omits the wrap-up on these objects when Harry chooses to relinquish both the resurrection stone and elder wand. This moment reveals how Harry does not succumb to the same fleshly desires and ambitions that gravely affected Dumbledore, and later twisted Voldemort.

Lastly, my poor husband missed the beat in Snape’s memories that Dumbledore had only a year to live, making it easier for Snape to “assassinate” him.

To sum it all up: the strengths of the film made it an enjoyable viewing experience and a real "event." The weaknesses are the important omissions that Christians love about the book: redemption, sacrificial love, and substitutionary atonement. My husband said it best and I agree with him that the novels would’ve been better served in television. Each book could’ve easily been adapted into 13-22 episodes. Perhaps one day, when television production and special effects become less cost-prohibitive, a visionary will re-imagine the books for that medium. I hope I’ll be alive to see it…

P.S. Dan--We can't wait to read your book!

DJP said...

Excellent observations, Sonja. Thanks.

Brandon said...

Great review, Dan.

I finally made it to the theater last night with my wife. It was a bittersweet experience going into it knowing that there are no more books and now no more movies. Like you, I would be at the midnight release of the books surrounded by children, but with none of them being my own! I re-read the entire series as each book came out and each book as it's respective movie came out. So...I have a lot of time invested in the series, to say the least.

A few days after storming out of the theater at the end of LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring in 2001 I started my journey towards resolving my anger towards movies that butcher/neuter/random verb books I love. At the end of the day, I am a fan of the fantasy/sci-fi genre. If there were no LOTR or Harry Potter books, I would still enjoy the films for what they are. I had to actively separate in my mind books from movies, and since then I have found I enjoy adaptations much more. (except for Half-Blood Prince; favorite book, least favorite movie).

I think it would have been nearly impossible to have adapted Deathly Hallows more accurately without sacrificing pacing. There are some things I wish had been better covered:

1. Deeper focus and exploration of the Hallows, particularly Albus and Grindlewald's quest for them. (although, thinking about it now, they probably would have brought up 'gay' aspect of this. ok, leave that out)

2. Agree with others about the deaths being passed over too quickly. Also agree that Neville should have killed Nagini in the same manor as in the book

3. Extended dialogue. I wish there were more meaningful conversations/discussions rather than hurried expositions to move the film along. I totally understand why, but still...

4. In addition to McGonagall and others being weaker, I always thought the movie version of Draco was a wuss and barely a rival for Harry.

5. Already mentioned, but again, the Gospel elements were watered down, mainly by removal or changing of better writing in the books. Still, I think it is impossible to have a passing knowledge of Christianity and not see it in the film. I'm honestly looking forward to years of using this movie as a jumping off point in discussions with unsaved folks and turning it to a witnessing encounter.

6. The only thing that I REALLY wish was different was that the duel between Harry and Voldemort had been in front of other people. As best I can tell in the movie, they are by themselves in the courtyard. What was that conversation back inside like? "Hey guys, just killed Voldemort." "Are you sure, we've heard that before..." "Yeah,totally. Turned to ash. It was pretty sweet." "Ok..."

Overall, loved the film, loved the series, love the books. Even though a lot of the concepts and ideas are ripped off from other fantasy writers, JK really created something special in Harry Potter.

Sidenote: Dan, have you heard of Wizard Rock? There are tons of bands that only record Harry Potter related music. My fav is Ministry of Magic: http://youtu.be/JybrDuxRN78

DJP said...

Thanks for all that, Brandon. No, I haven't. I'll have to check that out later, thanks.

Rebekah said...

I enjoyed the movie. I took my 10-year-old to see it last night, and I'll take my 12-year-old next week when he gets home from his week with his grandparents.

I gave up on expecting the movies to truly capture the books early on after being disappointed in that expectation. I decided that I really like how the music and effects and costuming and great casting (except for Dumbledore, IMO) do really evoke the 'feel' and mood of the books, and I enjoyed the movies much better when I quit expecting them to get the story exactly right.

Having said that, what disappointed me most in this last was that Dumbledore seems to come across as pretty cold and calculating regarding Harry, and that is just not at all how it is in the books. That goes directly back to what you said about the actor not taking the time to get to know the character and by how much of Dumbledore's and Harry's interaction is left out in earlier movies, IMO.

I was also disappointed with how they changed Neville's big moment. He and Luna were two of my favorite of the secondary characters and I LOVED that moment in the book when Neville killed Nagini. It lost some of its power by changing how it happens in the movie, I thought.

I also agree that it is disappointing that the glimmers of the Gospel are pretty much left out, but again, I don't really expect them to 'get' how important those themes really are. Look how the movie-makers totally miss the point repeatedly in the Narnia movies, for instance. I'm glad that they are in the books, because I had some wonderful discussions w/my sons along the way.

All in all, though, I enjoyed the movie anyway. Thanks for your review - and the rest of the discussion on the series that I've read here over the years. Your enthusiasm (and that of some other Christian bloggers I know and respect) for the books helped me to decide to try them for myself when my boys got old enough to be asking to read them. I had been leaning toward 'no' because of all the negative press they got at first from certain Christian groups. Once I read them I became a fan and they have sparked some great discussions with my boys. So thanks!

Debbie said...

Hello, Dan!

My first reading of your blog, that I found in search of HP7B reviews on imdb.com - brilliant, as our Ron would say.

Your review was spot on, in detailing the characters [yay Maggie Smith] and the action [that snake was way too life-like, blek!].

Most especially, I appreciated your comments about the glossing over of the Gospel message so well-detailed in the book. I had been looking forward to the director's telling of this and it was rather telling, disappointingly so. *sigh*

Perhaps that's why, despite such amazing effects and inspirational acting, I am somewhat let down by this one.

Look forward to reading more of your blog.

DJP said...

Debbie: welcome, thanks, and very well-put. "Telling," indeed. And no revisiting or highlight of the Scripture in the graveyard at Godric's Hollow.

)c:

DJP said...

Rebekah, well-said; I appreciate your comments. Someone once said that the happiest way to approach the movies was as based on the HP books — not movies of the books. But I do agree: the sets, and the "feel," are a marvel. Also the effects, generally, are not sheer flash and awe, but often understated little marvels.

Joel V said...

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 was awesome. My favorite scene was the final battle; it was epic! I was so happy to see the last movie, but it brings a bit of sadness as well, since no more will be made. My kids said they loved this movie, and I thought this was the best movie that I have seen this year. They did an excellent job on the last movie of Harry Potter. For now, until it comes out on DVD, I will just catch up on all of the other movies. As a customer and employee of DISH, I know that right now, there is a promotion where you can get 3 free months of Blockbuster when you sign up for DISH Network! Here is all the information. I can’t wait to see this movie again!

Sir Brass said...

You know, I thought that it really was Watson dressed as Carter (with appropriate CG mods) at the bank, not Carter playing Watson playing Hermione playing Bellatrix. That just goes to show the level of skill.

Also, while I missed the explicit gospel reference, I DID see in Harry's constant melancholy and toss back to Frodo's similar mood in LoTR towards the end. The weight of the burden they both carried (Harry as the final Horcrux and Frodo's calling as THE ring bearer), both deeply affecting them.

I have not yet read the books (I will now, as soon as they get released for Kindle), but I have heard that a deeper exposition of Ginny is there, which would make Harry x Ginny make more sense. Looking forward to that.

As one who has only seen the movies and at first was antagonistic towards the books (thank my mother for cajoling me into seeing the movies with her at first... once again, the phrase "you'll thank me later" comes to mind clearly), the movies have certainly made me want to read the books.

One can only hope that George Lucas is watching and taking copious notes that fall into the category of valid self-criticism.

DJP said...

Yes to all you said, Sir Brass. I don't want to "over-sell" Rowling's theological depth or clarity, but the Gospel parallel is much clearer in the book. And Ginny is one of many, many characters who got short shrift in the movies. She's barely there, and then it's like "Oh, crackers, she needs to be his girlfriend in this one. Um, let's see... we'll give her some lines and a close-up or two..."

Like the mirror. It has a whole back-story in the books. In the movies, again, it's like "Oh sticklebats, we really need that mirror shard in this one... well, let's just have it pop up, and maybe no one will notice..."

OTOH, the books do have some repetition and exposition and filler that isn't missed in the movies. But a lot of character-development and backstory also goes by the wayside. To say nothing of the entire character of Albus Dumbledore.

Sir Brass said...

Well, oftentimes in book series, repeat exposition or long explanations are simply NEEDED. That is part of the sheer difficulty of doing a proper film adaptation of a literary work

I'm currently reading alot of John Ringo, and while he can pack the action in there are times when pages upon pages are devoted in between dialogue that cover some back material that the reader really needs to have explained that context just can't handle. if they did a movie based upon some of his works, alot of that would be gone. But for the books, it is needed.

shaun m. said...

Thank you for a thorough and insightful review. You got me interested in going back and reading the books, time allowing.

P.S., Glad you said that about the mirror shard. That was something that left me scratching my head.