I’m not entirely sure I like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.
My first reaction after watching was that it was satisfactory, and I came out of the theatre happy having seen it. It’s now been about 5 hours and I find myself questioning whether it really was as well made as I thought. After all, the last movie I watched on the big screen was Transformers: Dark of the Moon and after that, even Uwe Boll looks good.
Ok, maybe not Uwe Boll.
I admit that David Yates has been my favorite Potter director by far. His second try, 2009's The Half-Blood Prince, was the first time I really liked a Harry Potter film; Yates and team set up a world that actually felt fantastical. It was something I felt that the previous directors never captured, despite their other contributions to the franchise. I was worried that it was a one off, since Part 1 of The Deathly Hallows didn’t really feel that awesome, it being about two and a half hours of Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint sitting in a tent being screaming profanities at each other (ok, there weren’t any profanities. I wish there had been. Brits have the coolest swear words). That and the pseudo-nude scene that was straight out of slash fiction.
I think what bothered me about the film was that though the director obviously wanted to focus on Harry and his tasks of hunting down the remaining horcruxes, there were still scenes of other characters thrown in. For instance, the scene where Molly Weasley battles Bellatrix. In the book, it’s fleshed out rather well, but there’s no space for it to get much resonance here. Likewise the beat where Neville gets his spotlight, beheading Voldy’s pet snake. Both pop up rather abruptly and there isn’t much lead in to any of it, nor is there time to ruminate on either.
Neither are the deaths of the supporting characters given their fair share of screen time. You don’t really see Fred, Remus or Tonks get hit, and the camera doesn’t really linger on their bodies, or the survivors’ reactions long. It’s all very cursory. The ending (if you’re reading this review and you haven’t read the books, do it now you silly idiot) where Harry tells his son about his namesakes seems to have been cut down too short as well. I just don’t feel it when Radcliffe says that Severus was one of the bravest men he ever knew (I cried when I read that in the book).
And I guess that’s what bugs me about the film. The best character in the entire series has always been Snape. I love how he’s the most detestable snot for most of it, but behind his snarky, douche bag behavior, there have always been hints that the dude’s a deep cover agent. He’s like the cop who has to do the worst sort of things to get the hard core criminals to trust him and goes a little nuts because of it.
In the books, you got that feeling more clearly, as Rowling lays it out and foreshadows, while painting Harry’s dad as kind of a dick before he started going out with Lily. In the films, however, it’s all left until the third act of the final chapter and then just kind of blurted out (albeit in an excellent montage scene where Alan Rickman gets to really let go). Snape’s redemption is explained, but it doesn’t have the same punch since there’s no real time for the audience to grasp how much the dude went through.
I probably should have re-watched all the other movies before watching the last one. I’ve got a feeling I just missed or forgot some of the pieces in the previous films. It’s been 10 years since the start of this movie series after all.
And don’t’ get me wrong. There’s a lot to like about this one. Yates’ team of people does have a better grasp on pacing and dialogue than Michael Bay’s. While Bay's SFX shots are always ALWAYS the center of attention in his movies (action for the sake of spectacle), David Yates and friends have used their SFX sequences to fill in the atmosphere of the wizarding world and evoke emotions. Instead of squandering them willy-nilly, they've used them to support the story.
There’s a great little piece where McGonagall and the rest of the Professors and the Order members are setting the defenses up. A shield is thrown up around the Hogwarts campus. When the deatheater’s initial volley of spells smashes against that shield, it feels as harrowing as the arrows scene in 300. Another of my favorite scenes is Potter’s escape from Gringotts riding a Ukrainian ironbelly. While the dragon doesn’t look exactly as I pictured it while reading the book (isn’t it supposed to look metallic?), the shot of it climbing out the top of the wizarding bank to the rooftops of Diagon Alley is just awesome.
I’ve heard that some feel that Harry Potter is the Star Wars of this generation and I’m hard pressed to disagree. I can see myself giving the books to my future kids, sitting on the couch with popcorn watching these films as a family. I am curious to see if Rowling can sustain the interest in the franchise moving forward, though. Lucas merchandised like crazy, expanding the Galaxy Far, Far Away year by year. But the wizarding world isn’t as wide, and Rowling set a built-in termination date on her story by setting it in a school. We can’t follow Harry into the future. Kids don’t want stories about boring adults. There won’t be prequels for the same reason and any stories about the other characters won’t really have the same weight on the canon of the franchise because it’s always been centered on Harry.