I think that Deathly Hallows - part 2 is a complete paradox â itâs not a good movie, but itâs good because itâs a Harry Potter movie, yet itâs an awful Harry Potter movie. Say what? Okay, Iâll elaborate.
I make no secret of the fact that I absolutely despise the HP movies ever since Chris Columbus left. The first two movies, in my opinion, are almost flawlessly made â sure, the nitpickiest among us will have a few complaints, but they are still incredible adaptations. Ever since then, the movies have all been butchered to varying degrees â whether the fault lies with the screenwriter, director, or actors is up for debate. Movie Three was an unspeakable travesty, tossing the plot completely out the window, and featuring the worst moments of the entire franchise (âhe was their friend!â? the Firebolt freeze-frame?).
Movie Four was awful as well. Aside from Michael Gambonâs abysmal performance, and the fact that the entire Hair-Cutting Department was seemingly on break, they pared a very complex novel down to such minimum basics that the whole charm of it was lost.
Movie Five I view as the best of the post-Columbus movies because it managed to faithfully capture the spirit of the book and because of the wonderful performances by newcomers like Evanna Lynch, Imelda Staunton, and Helena Bonham Carter. I have to give credit here to the screenwriter, Michael Goldenberg, for managing to adapt an 870-page novel into a two-hour movie and still keep a lot of dialogue intact. Perhaps if he had been screenwriter instead of the abysmal Steve Kloves (a delusional Harmonian if I ever saw one), the movie franchise could have been salvaged.
Movie Six is the biggest disgrace of the series â in fact, I donât even own the DVD, because I had less than zero desire to watch that trainwreck again. Visually awful, with horrible acting and utterly nonsensical plotting, it really has no redeeming qualities. It bears only a passing resemblance to the book, and makes no sense as a movie, so wizards and Muggles alike despise it. Which is really a shame, since Half-Blood Prince was my favorite book.
Which brings us to the two Deathly Hallows movies. Upon seeing Part 1, I was very happy, because after HBP I had no expectations for this one. Looking back on it, I began to realize that, while decent, it could have been so much better. Instead of putting in something valuable like Lupinâs family issues or Lunaâs character development, we are treated to a Harmony dance scene that makes me want to gouge my eyes out.
And then comes the last movie.
When I walked out of the theater, tear-tracks glinting on my face, after the two times I saw DH - Part 2, I believed that the movie was brilliant. For starters, the filmmakers had Neville and Luna end up together, which made me forgive them any and all other sins (my friends claim my squees were heard across the theater). But also, the emotional impact had been there. Still on the movie-release-high (I essentially spent a week and a half out with my HP friends getting up to all kinds of shenanigans), I found myself thinking that the filmmakers had finally gotten it right. But then, after the tears dried and we all got some sleep, we began to discuss the film. It went something like this:
âI loved it! Oh, if only theyâd done _____, it would have been perfect!â
An hour later, âI really liked it! Sure, they kinda messed _____ up, but on the whole it was good.â
Another hour later, âI liked it for the most part, but they really butchered _____.â
And finally, âParts of it were good, but there was so much they could have done better.â And this is the statement that I believe can be used to sum up the films as a whole, and especially this film.
The reason we all loved the film is because we projected the book onto it. We took all of our emotions from reading the last book â the heartbreak and sorrow, the triumph and joy, the love and hatred for characters â and projected that onto the film. In reality, the filmâs story and characters have done nothing to earn such an emotional response from us. As just a movie fan, I couldnât care less about the characters, and I canât follow the story in the slightest. This is why I say that it isnât a good movie â standing on its own (or even on the shoulders of the movie franchise), itâs really quite awful. And itâs only because we know the books so deeply that we thought it was good. I believe this sentiment was rather brilliantly addressed in the quibble âOn Whether Harry Potter Actually Happened.â
Here is a good example: take the scene where Molly kills Bellatrix. Iâm assuming that anyone who saw it in a crowded theater heard so much cheering at this part that they could barely hear the line. Why were we cheering? Because after reading the books, we love Mrs. Weasley as the ultimate mother figure, and hate Bellatrix as the most ruthless and cruel of the Death Eaters. In the movies, Mrs. Weasley is just Ronâs mom, who gets a cameo in most movies, and Bellatrix is Death Eater #1 and psycho. And the moment was very poorly put into the movie â whereas in the book, the Battle of Hogwarts involves the Trio moving about in the thick of battle, in the movie the focus is almost exclusively on the Trio, so the random battle scene with minor characters doesnât fit in. And yet the entire theater cheered because we knew what should have happened.
The same goes for most of the character deaths. In the movies, Fred is a mediocre comic relief guy, not like a brother to Harry â yet that didnât stop my friend Margaret (who cosplays Molly) from crying âNOOO!â across the entire theater when his body was shown. In the movies, Lupin is little more than another Order guy, and Tonks is Order Member #5 who randomly ends up at Lupinâs side. And yet everyone sniffled when they reached for each otherâs hands.
Even the "Forest Again" sequence had us all crying â and for what? James Potter (in the movies) is an utter nonentity, and urges Harry to go die. Harry apologizes to Lupin about his sonâ¦ who doesnât exist in the movies!!! We should have all been sitting there rolling our eyes at this scene, yet sobs echoed through the theater after every line, because we â the HP fans â know how tragic and real and wonderful these characters are.
This is also why the few people I spoke to who hadnât read the books thought the movie thoroughly mediocre â it made very little sense to them, and they were sitting bemused in a theater full of people crying. Itâs like WB finally admitted that, âif you havenât read the books by this time, itâs your own damn fault!â and made a movie purely for the fans of the books. But if that's then the case, why did they botch it so badly?
For once the rose-tinted 3D glasses are taken off, itâs plain to see that the movie was indeed quite thoroughly butchered. Not completely â I will admit that the section from the "Princeâs Tale" through the "Forest Again", and even most of "Kingâs Cross" was done excellently (though I may have just had my sight too blurred by tears to notice any mistakes). But for the most partâ¦ oy vey.
Aberforthâs story was completely taken out. The titular Deathly Hallows were barely mentioned, let alone explained. The Gray Ladyâs story was completely omitted. Most of the Battle that doesnât involve the Trio or Neville is gone. Instead of Lunaâs touching line, âWeâre still here. Weâre still fighting,â we get her snapping at Harry in a most un-Luna-ish way.
These are all omissions, but even worse, there are mistakes! Continuity errors â where Harry gets the Gryffindor robe, and why it suddenly vanishes. Sending the Slytherins to the dungeon instead of showing them mercy. Losing the poetry of Snape dying in the Shrieking Shack for some pulled-out-of-the-rear boathouse.
This is all before the good half-hour of "Princeâs Tale" through "Kingâs Cross." But afterwards it goes from an indignant âhey!â to absolutely cringe-worthy. Voldemort gives hugs. Instead of inspiring speeches, Neville prattles on like a buffoon. Nagini, Bellatrix, and Voldy all burst into confetti. Voldemort and Harry hug each other and fly around Hogwarts for no good reason, then have Priori Incantatem despite not sharing cores. Harry breaks the Elder Wand and leaves himself wandless. UGH.
I think the bottom line here is that WB no longer really cares about making a quality product. DH - Part 2 was not a good movie, and it was an even worse adaptation. It was only considered good because we filled in the blanks with our vivid imaginations, because we projected Joâs incredible writing onto the screen as we wished the filmmakers would.
And letâs face it, from a business standpoint, why would WB care about making quality HP movies? After seven movies, precious few people unfamiliar with the series will decide to go see the last one thanks to good word-of-mouth. Conversely, anyone who has stuck with the series for seven movies will likely see it through to the end. And naturally, the faithful devotees of the books will go out in droves to see the movies because we can make their bad visions into good ones in our heads. This is why movies 4 through 7 are all within a couple million dollars of each other at the box office, and why DH Part - 2 (once accounting for higher 3D prices) did not experience a much bigger surge in profit.
In conclusion, the filmmakers failed at making quality movies â and we enjoyed the movies despite them, not thanks to them. And that is why I watch the movies every couple of years, yet reread the books every summer.