*This contains spoilers, and is also, really, really long*
I wanted to write this review at 3 am this morning when I burst into my house after attending a sold out, nerd-filled showing at my local favorite theater. But I needed time to marinate. I feel as though I need to see it a second time to fully appreciate and understand, but I like to keep things timely, if I can.
The Harry Potter series (in case you haven’t figured out if you’ve glanced through this blog) is one of my favorite things, pretty much ever. I got into the game late (2009), even though my lil’ sis (Prof. X) was a devout believer from the start. And now that it’s over, I feel empty. As if there will never be anything else like this, something that captures your mind, heart, and soul so entirely, you truly cannot fathom how you existed before you knew about this world and these people. So um, yeah … it means a lot to me.
Coming in, I had high expectations. Part 1 was very faithful and websites like Rotten Tomatoes had nothing but awesome buzz and tons of snippets of early, excellent reviews. At the age of 30, one would think I’d eventually learn not to get too amped up, but I guess I’m still a 3-year-old at heart.
The film picks up right where the first left off, and then jumps right on in. The pace is brisk, and it’s all very action/emotion-packed, but that petulant 3-year old in me is bothered by the changes that were made and things that were glossed over. Many, many things are omitted:
- Any explanation of why the Hufflepuff cup or Ravenclaw diadem were chosen as horcruxes, and how they came to be such objects, let alone how the kids figured out how they were going to find them, is just eliminiated. Harry literally says something to the effect of “I have a feeling the cup is in the Lestrange’s vault, let’s go.” No, it would not have been prudent to try to explain 100% how those things came to be, but it just felt so rushed, that the horcruxes ended up seeming quite easy to destroy, which is certainly not the case on the page.
- There’s no Dumbledore back story here, which breaks my heart because I thought it was so sordid and tragic, and as always it makes you understand why the character is who he is, the choices he makes. Why mention that Dumbledore has a shady past in Part 1 if you never bring it up again?
- Certain deaths that take place, while not explained in great detail in the book either, are literally relegated to Harry glancing over at their dead body; if I was a casual movie-goer, I’d have no goddamn clue who any of the dead were, or why I was supposed to be sad.
- Harry never uses the Elder Wand to repair his own, he simply snaps it in half and dumps it over a cliff. (!)
- When he finally kills Voldy, once and for all, it’s only the two of them, no one else witnesses, and it’s like, never mentioned again.
- The Epilogue is clunky (although to be fair, ’tis the same in the book, so I shouldn’t be bothered).
- Harry never asks Neville to kill Nagini, he keeps bugging Hermione and Ron to do it, and they keep failing.
- Harry never explained Snape’s true allegiance to Voldy, they just fight and blast themselves all over the castle, and the awesome scene in the trailer, where he says “because I have something to live for” is nowhere to be seen.
- They don’t let Ron call Draco a “bastard.” Can’t you say “bastard” in a PG-13?
- When certain characters died, they exploded into confetti….when, in the entire saga, has this ever happened?
- I also had problems with Voldemort himself … he honestly at this point has become a bit silly. Many in my screening laughed when he was on-screen. He even awkwardly “hugged” Draco. Yes, you read that right.
Despite the tone of this post, I don’t want to vilify the film too greatly; in defense of screenwriter Steve Kloves, there probably wasn’t much way to get exposition like the story of Helga Hufflepuff’s cup in without making three movies. The film did get some things right, one in particular, spectacularly, and I’m ready to go full bipolar and change to the happiness gear:
- Some of the characters are finally allowed to get the screen time they’ve always deserved. McGonagall (the marvelous Maggie Smith), who is kind of badass throughout the series, finally gets her awesome scenes on-screen, and we get to watch her duel with Snape, and cast the spell for Hogwarts to start protecting itself. These were some of my favorite parts of the book, and while they’re a bit truncated here, they were still included, and for that I’m thankful.
- Neville (Clive Owen-minus-fifteen-years lookalike Matthew Lewis) gets to shine as the badass that he is, fulfilling his pivotal role of chopping the shit out of Nagini.
- And finally, Snape. I was TERRIFIED that they’d ruin his death scene and memories, two of the most heart-wrenching, touching, and pivotal moments in the entire saga. Shockingly, most of the Prince’s Tale is included here, and it’s done marvelously. All the credit goes to the ridiculously talented and plain EXCELLENT Alan Rickman, who hits it out of the park, conveying the pain, tragedy, unrequited love, regret, bravery, and sacrifice that his character embodies. The death scene was sudden, shocking and violent, even though I knew it was coming. It’s fair to say a pin drop could be heard during this stretch of the movie; almost 24 hours later, I’m still slightly stunned that the filmmakers managed to get this part so RIGHT.
The Snape-amazement kind of nulls and voids my disenchantment with the rest of the film, and I’m hoping that with another viewing, I might pick up a few more snippets that I missed the first time around, or I’ll just be in a less psyched up frame of mind, ready to see things a little differently. Overall, I was simultaneously disappointed, and greatly entertained. I was hoping that with two films and almost 5 hours, nothing would have been missed. However, The Deathly Hallows is an enormous, insanely complex tale, that wove together thousands of pages of plot details and character bits from ten years of story-telling; we as viewers should not expect it all to fit. Given that it seemed to be a lackluster adaptation, but overall enjoyable film to just sit back and watch, I can’t put it at #1 in my personal ranking. After some soul-searching, I decided it fits below Part 1. As time goes on, this may change, but currently, this is the final ranking, and it’s with a heavy heart and choke in the back of my throat that I use the word “final.” I know we’re all luckier for something of this magnitude to be in our lives.
- Prisoner of Azkaban – the best
- Deathly Hallows, pt. 1
- Deathly Hallows, pt. 2
- Goblet of Fire
- Chamber of Secrets
- Half-Blood Prince
- Sorcerer’s Stone
- Order of the Phoenix – the worst