It’s an understatement to say last night (or yesterday morning, I guess) has been a long time coming. It’s been over twelve years since I first started reading the series (borrowing the first two or three books from my brother while our flight home was delayed during a family trip). While I was fourteen and slightly older than Harry by the time I got into the series, I too have grown up with the Boy who Lived, both in book and movie forms. Both versions of the story hold a place in my heart, which might be why I have a whole section of my website called PotterWatch. With all that being said, I was nervous for this 8th and final film. I didn’t want it to disappoint me, and for the most part, it really didn’t. There are problems, and I’m sure those problems will bother me more after the film completely sinks in for me, but there’s a whole lot of good stuff in there as well.
I’m not sure I even have to put in a synopsis, but I’ll do a short one anyway: at the end of Part 1, we see Voldemort has taken the powerful Elder wand. Harry still needs to find and destroy the three (or so) remaining horcruxes and eventually Voldemort himself. Soon enough, it becomes a race to Hogwarts and the final battle begins.
Many of the problems are ones I basically knew going in. The pacing is off, but that’s almost entirely because it’s the second part of Deathly Hallows. Part 1 had the exact same problem, and I hope when we can watch them back to back, together it will feel like a longer, but consistently paced film. I knew the Battle of Hogwarts was going to take up most of the film, but I was surprised just how quickly it came up. They barely spend any time at Shell Cottage (for all we know, they only stayed a day), which makes for some weird continuity involving Luna later in the movie. Namely, when Harry makes it to Hogwarts, Luna is there. Luna, who was kidnapped and tortured by the people running Hogwarts and who was only rescued perhaps the day before. Let’s just give the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt and say the kids rested at Shell Cottage as much as they did in the book… why would Luna go back to Hogwarts? I know some of the kids were in hiding in the Room of Requirement, but Luna would not go back to the school her torturers ran just willy-nilly. She does come back to fight in the battle, but gets there only after Neville gets the word out that Harry is really back. Her just standing there as Harry walked in… it’s just far too many levels of off. And while I’m bitching about it, I don’t think we see Luna for a good while after the battle begins. Every other character we see here or there, but she’s pretty much gone until the end.
Like in Part 1, they don’t explain the mirror and other little important bits. We’re just supposed to know. Sure, many of the viewers have read the books and know where the mirror came from (and that Lupin just recently had a son and other tidbits), but these films should also stand on their own. By putting these parts in and not explaining them, you’re not helping the storytelling of the films alone. This is one of the many times a simple explanation in Part 1 could have helped, even if it might have been clunky. Would it have been so hard for Harry to tell Ron the night Harry tries to sneak out that Sirius gave it to him before he left, but it broke? Clunky, but it would have made a difference.
I mentioned Lupin’s newborn son, who we find out about before Harry’s attack on the Ministry in the book (when Tonks is still pregnant). In the book, the baby’s very existence is a plot point in itself, with Lupin offering to help the kids in order to run away from his fears of fatherhood as a werewolf, only to have Harry call him a coward and ultimately convince his old professor that his son deserved to know him and he his son. And (ok, spoiler alert for the few JPS readers who haven’t read the book), this makes Lupin’s death all the more heartbreaking, since little Teddy will never know his brave father. Now, in the two movies, Tonk’s pregnancy seems to be intentionally not mentioned… she begins to tell Harry the news, but Moody cuts her off saying there’ll be time for that later. Apparently there wasn’t, because Lupin never goes to see Harry, they never have their fight and we don’t see enough of Shell Cottage for us to have the scene where Lupin bursts in to tell them the good news and make Harry the new Sirius Black. The only time Teddy is mentioned is during Harry’s very last conversation with Lupin, and I’m sure all the non-book fans in the audience are going to be thinking, “Wait, what son? Did I miss something?” No, the filmmakers did. While I do like that last talk in the book, there’s just no payoff in the movie because it wasn’t built up. Teddy wasn’t even used or mentioned in the Epilogue, so it wasn’t even for the sake of being able to put him in then! It probably seems like a strange thing to get hung up on, but this was an extremely odd choice by the filmmakers.
Like in Part 1, Harry never gets around to being obsessed with the Hallows. It’s not like the film crumbles without it, but it loses so much of the complexity in the book. Harry letting go of desperately needing to find the Hallows comes from losing Dobby, especially when he realizes his slip up lead to the house elf’s death (off topic, they do show the inscription on Dobby’s grave and yes, I did get choked up). When Harry chooses to talk to Griphook (Horcruxes) first instead of Ollivander (Hallows) in the book, it’s a definitive moment in the story paralleling his later decision to defeat Voldemort rather than save himself. But this symbolism is completely lost in the movie… he might as well have just flipped a coin. Later in the book, the Hallows are important because Harry did what Dumbledore couldn’t… obtaining the Hallows without abusing them, making him the true master of them. Of course, that doesn’t matter because we don’t even know Dumbledore himself was obsessed about them.
Yes, Dumbledore’s story has very little payout. Like Harry’s Hallows obsession, the mystery of Dumbledore’s past is a big part of Harry’s emotional journey through this year. Harry learns of his headmaster’s fallibility and even past bigotry, questioning the task the Dumbledore set to him. I concede that the internal debating would have been hard to show on screen, but they could have at least let Aberforth tell his story. It wouldn’t have been the careful paced storyline it is in the book, but an extra 30 seconds of storytelling could have brought so much more to the movie. The one good thing about the scene as it is is that Ciaran Hinds‘ performance, which in itself is strong, if sadly too little too late.
I’m still not sure how I feel about the first part of the Battle, just because so much was going on. I’d really like to go back and rewatch those moments in particular. When I heard Chris Rankin would be back as Percy, I was expecting to see the Weasley’s reunite with Percy asking for forgiveness, but he just ends up being there. Fangirls were also promised Oliver Wood, but I think we only see him fighting on a broomstick for a brief moment. As far as I know, there is a particular death that isn’t shown on screen when it really should have. Even if it was on screen, it wasn’t nearly as focused on, considering the emotional ramifications for the main characters. I will say that I was impressed by the addition of Voldemort’s voice torturing the students of Hogwarts. Hearing that girl scream in terror was horrifying.
I am incredibly torn by Neville’s part. Some of it was great, so don’t get me wrong. He makes this grand speech to his fellow fighters after Voldemort “triumphant” march onto the grounds that is high above his quick shout in the book. But some of the changes they put in lessen the epicness of his ultimate triumph. Mostly, his greatest moment is done in the presence of only two other people instead of the throngs of both Death Eaters and the rest of the school. Matt Lewis still knocks it out of the park, but it’s a disappointment. One of the smarter additions is McGonagall giving the minor kid characters (Neville, Seamus, Ginny, Cho, etc.) a pretty damn important task, which ties in film version Seamus’ knack for blowing crap up. Cho has her Scottish accent back, by the way (I’m still convinced she just dropped it in Order of the Phoenix).
Sadly, the absolute weakest part of the film was the climax. Harry and Voldemort’s fight is just… odd (you get to see Voldy’s squishy face encompass the screen for a good 15 seconds). The way Bellatrix, Nagini and Voldemort went out was disappointing. I don’t know why they turned into dust, and why two of them turned into dust with practically no one watching. To be frank, I find that very stupid. That being said, I am glad Molly Weasley and Bellatrix had their fight, even if it was short and not as passionate as I expected.
I’ve brought up a lot of discrepancies with the movie. It might seem that I didn’t like the movie, but that’s far from the case. Many of the problems I mentioned above are very small issues, but they add up for me. They weren’t deal breakers for me, and if you’re a fan they probably won’t be deal breakers for you, either. It’s just that there were so many blaring problems that I couldn’t give it as high a score as I gave Deathly Hallows Pt. 1. However, the scenes that were good? They were really good. As in, the best of the whole series.
McGonagall has always been one of my favorite characters, if only for the inner strength. Practically nothing is better than her defiantly calling Voldemort by his name instead of skirting around it. Her fight with Snape, her defense of Harry and her dismissal of Pansy Parkinson added up to me bouncing in my seat with delight. Bravo, Maggie Smith.
Bellatrix was cruel and devoted to her evil-would-be-boyfriend, but I was more impressed with Helena Bonham Carter playing Hermoine pretending to be Bellatrix. Carter looked like she was having a lot of fun with it. What I like about Ralph Fiennes in the movie is that his Voldemort – when he believes he’s already won – is just set on making everyone else feel as uncomfortable as possible, even his own followers. You see it in the first scene from the last film, and you see it here. He is truly menacing and a great villain.
The big Ron/Hermoine scene was changed from the book. I was fine with it because we got to see them find the horcrux, which they do “off screen” in the book. And the kiss was great – I’d say spoiler alert, but if you don’t know they kiss by now, where have you been? Another positive is how the two treat each other for the rest of the film. They are still focused on aiding Harry (Ron is in fact more enthusiastic), but there is definitely something new between them. There’s also a nice moment after the Battle is over when Harry silently acknowledges their relationship.
The walk in the Forbidden Forest was just as good as I could have hoped. Gary Oldman is great, but he’s practically always great. I loved the design of the King’s Cross Station scene (the doomed creature was truly wretched), and Michael Gambon‘s performance was on point… and I don’t count this as a criticism really, but Dumbledore seemed to be channeling another resurrected wizard. I’m just saying, every time I watch this movie from now on, I’ll be calling him Dumbledore the White in my head. The other great thing about this scene is how long the fade to white is before Harry wakes up. I know he’s going to wake up, and I’m sure even people who haven’t read the books know he’s going to wake up, but every second the movie screen stayed at blinding white, my heart beat a little faster.
Snape’s end and his story are two of the most perfect scenes in any Harry Potter film, both in capturing what Rowling wrote and bringing buckets of tears to the eyes of the audience. Telling Harry that he has his mother’s eyes… I wasn’t expecting that. Alan Rickman was simply amazing as he showed so much complexity in so few scenes, but the Prince’s Tale was also incredibly shot. There is a whole lot of exposition and character development in the Tale from the book, and the film version is just… perfect. I have a whole new respect for Rickman as an actor. I just can’t say enough about the performance. If you’re hesitating at all about seeing this movie, see it for that.
The epilogue helped quell my frustrations with the climax. While shorter than in the book, the ending hit all the right notes. The way it was shot made us wait for the reveal of Harry and Ginny as adults, and even though we fans of the books knew it was coming, I held my breath. While almost all of the kids didn’t have lines, Arthur Bowen is a great Albus Potter. It’s truly Daniel Radcliffe at his best, perfecting embodying the kind of father we knew Harry would grow up to be. And for all the frustrations I had watching this last film, as the camera panned to Harry, Ron and Hermoine for the last time, Harry in particular looking sad to say goodbye and yet so at peace, I felt content. It was the right way to say goodbye.
Overall: Mischief Managed.
3 3/4 stars