Saturday, July 16, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two

Going to the midnight showing of Harry Potter meant going to bed at three-thirty a.m. on Friday morning, which did not, in turn, mean that I actually slept in, which meant a 4+ hour nap Friday night, which means me writing a review of the movie at three o'clock in the morning.  Awesome.

You can read my review of Part One here.  If you don't know how the story ends or you don't want to read much detail, you probably don't want to read on.  For the rest of you - tally-ho!

The movie did not start off well.  The whole bank robbery was far too rushed and made me a little nervous for what was to come.  Hermione as Bellatrix (or, in movie world, Bellatrix as Hermione) was good though.  Helena Bonham Carter did a good job of capturing Hermione's slight but noticeable hunch.  Speaking of Bellatrix, though, they for some reason decided to suddenly pronounce her name differently in this movie.  All along (if I remember correctly) they've been giving a French pronunciation to the 'a' in Lestrange (like 'ah'), but all of a sudden they're giving it a harder, American pronunciation.  For none readers/those who don't know 'le' is French for the/people who just didn't notice, Bellatrix's last name is, aptly, "The Strange."  With the new pronunciation, that is no longer remotely subtle, which was both jarring and disappointing.

The movie devotes more time to the battle at Hogwarts, which they did a much better job of.  There are some changes designed mostly to make you say "RAH!" that I could have done without (like an impassioned speech Harry delivers to Snape) but also some useful additions (like the image of Hogwarts students marching in formation).  Matthew Lewis's acting was really great - Neville Longbottom's progression from the tiny, helpless first year we saw in the first movie, to the awkward hunched boy of the middle movies, to the strong, independent man of this final installment was really quite wonderful.  Neville no longer lays down and takes it, and the way Lewis bore himself demonstrated this just as much as the lines he delivered.
There was a change to the very end of the film which I really liked but my friends disagreed on (and I suspect others would as well).  Instead of the grand (and very long) conversation that Harry and Voldemort have in their final showdown, while surrounded by the entire British wizarding community, which brings everybody a fair bit of closure at the cost of realism, in the film they move together and apart and chase and escape and interlock and break apart, moving in and out of the people.  The final fights is theirs, not everybody's (though Hermione, Ron, and Neville play their part in interspersed scenes of them having a long and awkward snake chase).  Harry may fight for them all but they cannot all fight, and keeping those final moments between him and Voldemort is a better choice in my opinion.  The party at dawn that Rowling penned is all transformed, becoming a scene of exhaustion and bodies and relief which, again, is maybe less satisfying but certainly more believable.

Like Bellatrix's name, many other subtleties were abandoned in this adaptation.  One example was the scene I so loved from the book, when the dying Snape begs Harry to look at him, is made too obvious by an additional line: "You have your mother's eyes."  Sure, this reveals a layer of meaning that was probably lost on many, but that's what I loved about it: the subtlety, the need to understand that moment in light of what comes next, and the years of Harry being told that very thing that came before.  It's still a good moment for other reasons even if that meaning is not revealed.  Losing the subtlety also sacrificed the magic.

Can David Yates do a montage, or what?  One of the reasons that I actually dislike Order of the Phoenix was his overuse of the montage (they're extremely well done, in my opinion, there are just far too many) but Snape's memories were just wonderful.  They weren't ordered and separated as neatly as in the book - rather, they were layered and out of order and bits were repeated and meaning was found in the overlapping, more in the nature of true memory.  Harry and the audience gets the essence without the perfectly detailed video-quality of the book.  It was a great way for the film to capitalize on its medium - this structure would have been far too difficult, maybe even impossible to convey on the page, but really finds its power on the screen.

One of the things that strikes me most about the book is the total destruction and how dark magic can be, and the films manages to fully capture this.  There is one glorious scene, when Harry et al. break out of the castle onto the grounds in search of Voldemort and Snape.  We see them running and there keeps popping up some evil aspect of the wizarding world that we have so grown to love.  Gone is the good cheer and fun spells and general joy of magic.  Instead we get blasted with images of what there have only been snippets of before, one evil violent thing upon another: giant spiders and werewolves and giants and grown men and women attacking a school filled with children.  The darkness comes from every angle, and blasts everything apart.  The castle, hundreds or even thousands of years old, crumbles.  Relics of the headmasters are violated by darkness and then ripped apart.  The past is destroyed in hopes of a better future.  The utter destruction, both in film and book, is a testament to how dark magic can be.

I'm still not one-hundred percent sure how I feel about it, but overall I guess it's positive.  I'd have to see it again to be sure though - when does the DVD come out? :] I'd love to hear what you all think - tell me!

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