Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 2)

This week I saw one of the most anticipated movies of all time: part two of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. And since I wrote a review of the first one – and almost always need an excuse for a blog post – I thought I'd do the same for part two.

The story – oh, and you'd better believe there are spoilers

So, the first film ended with Harry and friends escaping from the clutches of Bellatrix Lestrange and her unpleasant cohorts at Malfoy Manor – but losing1 Dobby the house elf in the process. Meanwhile, Voldemort raids Dumbeldore's tomb and takes what he finally realised was the Elder Wand – the most powerful wand in the world.

The hunt is still on for the Horcruxes – the vessels in which Voldemort has stored the pieces of his fractured soul – so they can destroy them and kill him. He doesn't actually know this, but still wants to kill Harry anyway, so he has his people hunting for him and his friends.

Eventually they all end up back at Hogwarts – the school of witchcraft and wizardry where all the previous stories were set – and the final battle takes place.

1By which I mean he died, not that he was misplaced.

Hey, that dimension wasn't there before

As I'd noted in my review, they'd planned to release part one in 3D but couldn't get it done in time to be ready for the release date. This time, however, they'd gotten it together.

I don't think it was a particularly good use of the technology; there were a few scenes where, for want of a better expression, 'shit flew out from the screen'. There was the added visual depth that it brings, but I don't think that was, overall, particularly improved by it.

The good parts

It's a very enjoyable, action-packed film – which makes sense; presumably, one of the reasons they split the final book in two was because the first half was more of a slow-paced road trip as they searched for the Horcruxes, while the second half was faster-paced, culminating in the big battle.

Visually, it's spectacular, with the standout scenes including the journey through Gringott's bank, and the subsequent flight on the dragon they liberated in their escape. The final battle scenes are, understandably, superb – as is the 'afterlife' scene in King's Cross Station.

There's a great scene where Hermione uses Polyjuice Potion to disguise herself as Bellatrix Lestrange, and Helena Bonham Carter does an amazing job of imitating Hermione/Emma Watson's speech patterns and physical mannerisms.

What I really enjoyed was that, after seven films, they finally made use of Alan Rickman. Still not as much as I would have liked, but it was a heck of a lot more than the previous films. The flashback scenes are particularly good – and in the 'present' there's one golden Snape moment where he's speaking to the Hogwarts students and takes the longest possible pauses between words.

I like that they showed Neville Longbottom2 finally getting to be a badass – not quite as much as my friend SpideySense liked it (or his sweater); you can read her take on it (and the rest of the film) here.

2Was it ever established that this was a shout-out to Tolkien? I've always felt it was.

The not-so-good parts

As usual, I felt they left too much out. Yes, I'm aware there are time constraints, but a) there are things they included that they could have done without, and b) they were important things, dammit.

They went to the effort of getting so many of the actors from throughout the series but didn't actually use them for much more than background when they could have included them in some of the battle scenes.

One of – to me – the best moments in the book is during the scene in Hogwarts where the students and teachers decided to fight against Voldemort, and the teachers ask the Slytherin students whether they want to fight against Voldemort or be locked in the Slytherin common room; a small number choose to fight. I really liked that scene, and was very annoyed when it didn't show up in the film.

Another great scene in the book was the confrontation between Bellatrix Lestrange and Molly Weasley; in the film this was treated almost like a side-note rather than an opportunity for a great moment. Ditto the deaths of pretty much every minor character that met their end during the final battle.

It included the epilogue, set nineteen years after the death of Voldemort, where Harry and Ginny are married with children but, like the book, avoided having them show much in the way of affection toward each other.

The end of an era

I've read all the books – not from the beginning; I think it was only after Azkaban came out that I started reading them – and have seen all the films at the cinema (and own the first three on dvd3); it's not unreasonable to say I'm a fairly big fan.

So I did experience some sadness as I watched, knowing that it's almost certainly the end of the Harry Potter journey; ten years of watching the world I loved (a lot) in print brought to life on the big screen. But it's been fun – while I had my problems with the films (mostly to do with what they left out), there've been plenty of positives as well.

I've already mentioned SpideySense, but if you're after another great write-up check out Cleolinda's; it's as as clever and insightful as all her stuff is.

3I had intended to get them all, but I kind of stopped buying dvds when I realised I almost never actually watched movies at home; should that change I'll probably get them all on Blu-Ray4.
4Have I ever mentioned I hate the word Blu-Ray? It was the main reason I wanted HD-DVD to win out, and was more than a little annoyed that it didn't.


  1. You and I are in agreement with almost every aspect of the film. Good one Jamie!

  2. I didn't mind most of what was cut out; the bit abou Harry's invisibility cloak being one of the hallows was more complicated than the movie needed to be, as was the double-cross of Griphook. I didn't like the simplification of the big fight between Harry and Voldemort at the end, though. The way they did it, Voldemort never knew why the wand didn't work for him, and nobody saw Harry defeat him! And to make it worse, they had a huge setup that they didn't use as a payoff - when everyone was circled around, and Neville came limping up, my spouse and I both thought he was going to pull out the sword and kill the snake right then, and then Harry would do the final battle right there. But no, there was a lot more fighting, and then that nonsensical flying around bit, and then they were alone for the last fight. And the last scene of Harry strolling through the crowd made no sense at all, because it had people looking at him and smiling, then going back to their conversations after Harry had JUST KILLED THE BIGGEST THREAT TO ALL WIZARDKIND. In the book no one noticed him walking through because he was wearing the cloak, but they didn't bother with that here, and so everyone's non-reactions made no sense.