August 3, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 [review time]

"Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean it is not real?"
What I expected when heading to the theatre to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 was to be wildly excited to see the final installment unfold before me, accompanied by underwhelment at the actual quality of the film. Other than a few inaccuracies to the book, I would argue that the film may have been one of the best in the series. Then again, the goosebumps I felt during the epilogue scene were probably from the expectation of greatness due to my love of the book much more than anything the film actually achieved. Yep, kind of have to say this was pure fanservice.

I'm actually a little surprised at the things they left out of the film, considering that the length was shy of three hours. When we head to the theatre to see a big epic film like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, we expect it to be longer than 130 minutes. I'm sure there's lots of good stuff sitting on the cutting room floor that would have made the movie seem less rushed, and give the book fans what they wanted while explaining things a bit better to the non-readers (shame on them).

The pacing was a little off, but I'm not sure what they could have done about that in a movie that starts halfway into a book. They didn't do a great job of re-igniting tensions and getting you on the edge of your seat. We could have used a reminder that Harry, Ron and Hermione were on the run, that Hogwarts students are going into hiding and fighting back against Headmaster Snape (which we didn't get to see much of at all). I found myself sort of bored with the opening scenes, which were perfectly well done, but should have been preceded with some reminder of the stakes here.

After that, my only real complaints are that we didn't get Arianna's backstory, which was very important to the novel and Harry's changing view of Dumbledore. I also felt that the Snape flashback, while beautifully orchestrated, must have been awfully confusing to anyone who hasn't read the books, and just didn't hit me as hard as it should have. This is a powerful moment. We discover that Snape was a double agent, that he killed Dumbledore on Dumbledore's own orders, that he never forgot Lily. The cinematography here was incredible, but something was missing, and it wasn't Alan Rickman's acting. I think it was, again, that they rushed it a bit. And why? The film wasn't long anyways. Also, I feel like some of Snape's pain comes from something the film omitted, which was that Lilly stopped being friends with Snape, stopped being able to relate to him, not just because he was a Slytherin but because she discovered his hidden cruel side. An important part of his pain is that he blames himself.

Another omission was Harry repairing his own wand with the elder wand. I felt this was exactly what the end of the film was missing, so why didn't they do it? We needed something powerful to symbolize the end of Voldemort's reign and the beginning of the healing process. We know that the dead can't bring back, but the wizarding world can begin to put itself back together. Don't get me wrong, seeing Harry, Hermione and Ron stand triumphant hand in hand gave me some real goosebumps, but not because of anything the film accomplished. I was thinking about what I know from the book of how the trio must feel now that it's all over. I will re-read the Harry Potter books from start to finish over, and over, and over again. Don't really see myself re-watching these movies again, ever. But maybe that's just me.

Disclaimer: A lot of these ideas came from post-film discussion with friends, who deserve much credit! Love having Harry Potter fan friends!


  1. You make such a very good point -- that in being fans of the books, we see the films through our book-eyes, and fill in any cracks that are missing. That's why it's always so interesting to me to see what friends who haven't read the books think of the films. They see things so totally differently.

    Great review! :-)

  2. Thanks very much!

    Yes I always find that the movies just inspire me to go back and read the books again. Far superior! I highly recommend that anyone who has only seen the films read the books. If you can sit through that mediocre cinema for the love of Hogwarts adventures, there's no way you won't love the novels!