Re: The Harry Potter Movie Marathon Thread
David Yates begins a very impressive run on the Potter series with Order of the Phoenix by taking a massive, difficult of the books, paring it way down, and honing in on its themes of teenage angst, discontent, and disconnect. He’s not completely successful; the movie does suffer trying to compress so much into so little time, the pace is so hurried that it’s rarely given any time at all to breathe, and some points that should resonate more, make more of an impact, don’t hit as well as they could because the movie’s so clearly worried about slowing down, because it’s making good time here! What’s great about Order of the Phoenix far outweighs what’s not so great about it, though. That starts with, again, zeroing in on the most crucial aspect: Harry’s intense frustration of where he stands, with being left in the dark by the people he trusts and who ostensibly trust him, at a time when he’s oppressed by fear and uncertainty anyway. And that’s done very well; Harry’s deeply empathetic here, even when he’s snapping at Ron or choosing not to let Ron and Hermione in on what he’s going through. Even if I don’t have experiences that particularly relate to these, Harry’s arc in OotP the book is one of the things that’s kept that my favorite of the books – it’s just so very real, and the film does a fine job of capturing it. Goblet of Fire was a lavish action-adventure-thriller, Order of the Phoenix is practically a character study; that was the largest in scale so far, this is the smallest. I’d hate to use the word “gritty,” but that is obviously what Yates is aiming at: a rougher, more down-to-earth tone and shooting style. It’s not subtle, but it’s effective enough. He’ll get better at it, too.
Yikes. No wonder Steve Kloves took his vacation here; Order is an extremely demanding book. Michael Goldenberg fills in admirably, though. What’s true of the director is true of the screenwriter, as Goldenberg emphasizes the essential thematic material at work here – Harry’s angst, the Ministry’s growing corruption, especially demonstrated by Umbridge and her progressive domination over Hogwarts, and the need for rebellion (from the kids of Dumbledore’s Army, but also from the adults of The Order of the Phoenix – Dumbledore’s actual army) that results from that – and Order of the Phoenix depicts a world on the edge of war, and that horrible, sober feeling is in the script. Let’s talk weaknesses, though, because although I think Goldenberg did a great job simplifying this book for film, there are a few issues:
-I feel like it doesn’t come across enough how much Harry and Sirius are in the same boat. We hear, by way of Harry’s letter, that Sirius would know exactly how alone he feels, but we don’t really see it.
-The Harry/Cho subplot is handled in a pretty perfunctory fashion. I don’t know anyone who would say it was a highlight of the book, and the point is that, after Harry’s crush turns into what he thinks is love, he and Cho test it out and find that they don’t really connect, and, as Ron says later, they just sort of fall apart. (Plus, you know, that bad business of Harry – rightly – accusing Cho’s friend of betraying the D.A.) Even that’s not conveyed in the film, where, after the kiss, they’re seen together once for a second before the D.A. is caught and Harry assumes it was Cho. (It was, but only because of Veritaserum.) It all feels obligatory, like, “Oh, right, we gotta have Harry’s kiss with Cho, so let’s fit her in a couple of other places, so it looks like she’s not just there for the kiss.”
-Grawp serves two purposes: (1) to give Robbie Coltrane/Hagrid more than one scene, and (2) to play with Umbridge like a toy in her final scene. That’s not enough reason for him to be in the movie, though; he’s a waste of screentime the same way he was a waste of page time.
-I love Sirius’ death scene – well, perhaps that’s the wrong way to put it; I think it’s very powerful. But I’m left wanting more for the scenes after it, or at least for the one between Harry and Dumbledore. I don’t know exactly what I’d suggest, but it’s underwritten. I miss Harry finding the mirror Sirius gave him, then realizing that even magic can’t allow him to communicate with his godfather. Sirius is gone and he’s not coming back (well…). I wish that had made it, not really because it sets up the mirror’s reappearance in Deathly Hallows, but because it’s as tearjerking a moment as it is.
-On the one hand, I’m okay with the way the prophecy was dealt with in this film. We don’t need to know the full story of Dumbledore’s first meeting with Trelawney, we don’t need to know about the Death Eater who overheard part of it (yet). All that matters is that Voldemort knew there was a prophecy that someone would rise up with powers he doesn’t have, and that he went after him. On the other hand, I wish the final scene between Harry and Dumbledore was longer and better, in part to say that it was Trelawney, because I’m not sure it’s recognizable unless you already knew. It’s interesting that one line is removed from it, “Either must die by the hands of the other” (or something like that). For the longest time, I wondered why, but I suppose it’s because if you take out that one line, Harry can infer it and decide that that’s how it has to be.
Now for a couple more positive notes:
-I know the St. Mungo’s scene is one that’s widely missed, but I like the way the film handles it. I like the intimacy of Neville simply confiding in Harry that he has his own horrors, his family has its own cruel losses.
-Again, no house-elves, and again, I don’t mind. It feels a lot less convenient, a lot less like a bit of deus ex machina, for Neville to stumble across the Room of Requirement than for Dobby to tell them about it. The films keep giving Neville more moments to shine; I have to say, I prefer Movie Neville over Book Neville. As with last time, however, cutting Dobby out has repercussions.
Overall, Michael Goldenberg did an admirable job turning the most demanding book to that point into a strong screenplay.
DANIEL RADCLIFFE AS HARRY, RUPERT GRINT AS RON, and EMMA WATSON AS HERMIONE
Once again, exponential improvement, this time equally across the board. Of course, Dan has the weight of this film on his shoulders – yes, that’s true of all of them but it’s a different set of challenges in OotP – and he’s incredible. Just outstanding: commanding, subtle, intense, heartfelt, touching, inspirational, deeply empathetic. He holds his own with some of the best actors around. Ron and Hermione are…not sidelined, but the trio aren’t the strong unit they were before, and will be again, for much of this one. Ron and Hermione are in a bad position themselves at the start, with Dumbledore of all people telling them not to let Harry in on things. It’s not something Harry could possibly understand, but when they want to know what he’s going through, he shuts them out in return. That’s all very relatable and very well-acted stuff. Rupert and Emma give such mature, well-rounded performances, and it’s affecting to see the trio essentially reunite as the movie wears on, with Ron and Hermione not just standing by him in a great way but spurring him on to be the leader they need when Umbridge fails them.
IMELDA STAUNTON AS UMBRIDGE
Imelda Staunton is genius as Umbridge, with that grating girlish giggle and absurdly perky demeanor covering up the cruel, hateful woman underneath. All that matters to Umbridge is upholding the Ministry status quo, and if you should step a toe out of line, God help you. Staunton’s mesmerizing, fantastically embodying everything Umbridge is: every sycophantic need, every vicious instinct, that whole sickly-sweet façade.
GARY OLDMAN AS SIRIUS
Building on his post-Shrieking Shack scenes in Prisoner of Azkaban – and his one scene in Goblet of Fire – Gary Oldman is hugely sympathetic as Sirius. Sirius never recovered from losing his best friend and basically brother – he never got the chance to – and now here it is happening again, the same war with the same enemy, and if Harry feels alone, Sirius can show him what that really means, because he really cannot rejoin society. The outside world decided he’s the bad guy and they seem to be sticking with that story. Harry and Sirius, Daniel Radcliffe and Gary Oldman, may not get all that much time together, but the bond they share is present in a big way. Their interactions are truly touching. Sirius’ death is a crushing blow, and his death scene itself is tough to watch, which it should be. Besides all of this, Sirius is just cool, especially when he’s played by Gary Oldman.
RALPH FIENNES AS VOLDEMORT
Fiennes' Voldemort is not as brutal or terrifying in OotP as GoF, but I think that's because he doesn't have the same opportunity to cut as deep this time. Voldemort's most horrifying moment actually doesn't even feature Ralph Fiennes. He's completely compelling, still, and the showdown between him and Michael Gambon's Dumbledore is something awesome to behold.
MICHAEL GAMBON AS DUMBLEDORE
David Yates has a much, much better understanding of who Dumbledore is than Mike Newell - but the needs of this particular story mean that Dumbledore is still not the Dumbledore we grew to know and love. This time, Dumbledore has to be cold and a bit gruff; he's shutting Harry out because he believes it's for the best, and on top of that, he's trying to decipher what precisely is going on with Harry and what's connecting him to Voldemort, he's gradually losing control of his school. We know that Gambon can do this well, and he does. He also, kind of surprisingly, has a number of charming moments of humor - like the ever-polite bow of the head when Umbridge acknowledges what each Headmaster has brought to Hogwarts, or, the sarcastic-yet-not-rude "Clearly" when Umbridge and Fudge confront him with Dumbledore's Army. It's a problem that I don't believe Dumbledore as much as I should when he tells Harry, "I care about you too much," but Gambon's good this time. He doesn't feel like Dumbledore, but in this case, that's actually the point.
EVANNA LYNCH AS LUNA
is there anything to say other than, "Perfect?" I can't imagine that there could possibly be anyone who could conceivably come close to Evanna Lynch's Luna. She's funny, charming, sweet, sincere, strong, pleasantly odd, and anything else you could say to describe Luna. And she's a true Fan, which isn't essential, but it helps.
HELENA BONHAM CARTER AS BELLATRIX
Delightful. Helena Bonham Carter seizes this character, holds on for dear life, and takes full advantage of the potential Bellatrix gives her to be unabashedly, hilariously, deliciously evil. She's an out-and-out sadist, and gets a twisted, childish glee out of the pain she inflicts on others, and it's both fun and troubling to watch. I love the vibe of decayed sexiness that Helena's Bellatrix has, too; she was beautiful once, but Azkaban has taken its toll. That and all the killing. Bellatrix skipping through the hall, teasingly repeating "I killed Sirius Black!" like a schoolyard chant, is her shining moment in the film.
ALAN RICKMAN AS SNAPE
Hmmmm...There are some fascinating moments with Snape in OotP, and not just in that every Snape moment is fascinating. The question of where Snape's loyalties lie have not been raised (remember, I mean in the film series), but every now and again, Rickman's Snape will phrase something a certain way, or an inflection will seem to hint at something else, and we'll think, "Oh, yes, he actually was a Death Eater...and Voldemort is back...and Snape is in the Order...huh..." For example, in his first occlumency lesson with Harry, the way he talks about Voldemort's use of legilimency ("...every last exquisite ounce..."). And those occlumency scenes are captivating - great two-handers for Rickman & Radcliffe.
This isn't to do with Rickman, but that brings me to the matter of "Snape's Worst Memory." Placing it there instead of having Harry happen upon Snape's pensieve and dive in was a great idea, the right fit, and if it wasn't that way, the scene would have been cut entirely. That had to mean, though, that you couldn't linger there; why would Snape let Harry see a second more of that memory than he does? Of course, Lily's not there, and I have to go against the Harry Potter fan majority again here in saying that I don't see the problem with that. I don't know if we'll see a version of "Snape's Worst Memory" in Deathly Hallows: Part 2, but assuming we do, that's the point in which we need to know Lily's part in it, and not before. Regardless, when Harry realizes what he's just seen, it's a powerful moment, for Rickman and Radcliffe as actors and Snape as a character.
ROBERT HARDY AS CORNELIUS FUDGE
Robert Hardy must have been really pleased when this one came around. Cornelius Fudge is not at a crucial character, but Hardy does actually get to play something here. Fudge is such a frustratingly short-sighted fool, increasingly corrupted by his own stubbornness and need to hold onto things as they are rather than of face the truth. Something about Hardy/Fudge when he says, "I'm sorry to interrupt what I'm sure would have been a very well-rehearsed story," I really hate him in that moment.
Nicholas Hooper's score is okay, it really is, and sometimes great actually, but it isn't as memorable or emotionally affecting as we've come to expect. "The Room of Requirement" and "Professor Umbridge" are definitely the highlights, the former an exciting, inspiring theme that for the D.A. that builds wonderfully, and the latter a bombastic, annoyingly repetitive piece that suits its subject to a tee. "Fireworks" is fun as well, and became the de facto Fred & George theme in Half-Blood Prince. "Possession" is emotional enough in the moment, even if it's, again, not too memorable.
I feel like the "blue filter" thing has become an infamous criticism of this movie on this site, and sure, occasionally, it looks like it's merely that - "Okay, slap on the blue filter to make it look 'dark'." I think it's unfair to make too much of that, because D.P. Slawomir Idziak makes this film look impressively bleak - I said it about the script, I'll say it about the visuals: This movie's presenting a world on the edge of war, and this isn't a kid's movie trying to seem edgy-dark where it's not, it's a movie with genuinely troubling subject matter and doesn't pull its punches, thematically or visually.
BITS AND BOBS
-I feel bad for Natalia Tena that she gets so little to do. She's actually more like Tonks as herself than she is when she's playing Tonks inthe films, because that character's even more marginal in the films. I would have rather Tonks been cut than given such short shrift.
-I was so bothered by the Order's little flight through London landmarks, because surely they were seen by a smattering of muggles there, but after the chase in Deathly Hallows: Part 1, they're being super-stealthy by comparison.
-The shots of the massive crowd in the Ministry atrium is pretty awe-inspiring.
-The look of realization on Harry's face, at the end of the detention scene, as he realizes who Umbridge is and what he's dealing with, is one of the greatest things in this film.
-I love how the thestrals look: just the right combo of scary and fascinating.
-Although I kind of miss Rita Skeeter, making it the breakout of a bunch of Death Eaters that turns Seamus and some others around to believing Harry was the better way to go.
-Considering that Ron, Hermione, Neville, and Ginny can't see the thestrals they're riding on, it would have been cool to see glimpses of looks of terror on the faces of some of them.
-The possession scene is actually pretty gut-wrenching, so well done. Harry expelling Voldemort from him by saying, "You'll never know love, or friendship, and I feel sorry for you" is something that works really nicely. You run the risk of making your villain less threatening when you make him or her more sympathetic or have another character show some compassion toward them, but it's a risk that's worth taking. Harry's probably not too bothered with pitying Voldemort, but he does feel sorry for him, and we do a little bit too, because if this story is ultimately about anything it's - not to make a Huey Lewis reference here - the power of love.
ON THE WHOLE
The pace, and the movie's desire to overcompensate and rush certain areas in order to not let things slow too much, hurts Order of the Phoenix, but in mood and characterization, and also a few terrific action sequences, OotP works brilliantly.
Last edited by IenjoyAcidPops; August 17th, 2011 at 3:59 am.
Re: The Harry Potter Movie Marathon Thread
Hehe, I had a HP movie marathon before I went to see DH Part 2, from about 8pm - 1pm next afternoon. Fell asleep every few hours for about half an hour so I had to rewind a couple of times. XD It was completely worth it though - it was amazing just watching the Golden Trio grow in front of your eyes in a matter of hours, and the plot just expanding and expanding till the final showdown.
Re: The Harry Potter Movie Marathon Thread
For the first time since Chamber of Secrets, we have directorial continuity from one film to the next. There are probably other directors who could have taken on Half-Blood Prince - or Deathly Hallows, for that matter - and done a great job, but having David Yates back is a big benefit to the final two/three films. Tonally, Half-Blood Prince is wildly different from Order of the Phoenix, but it's clearly Yates at work behind the camera. He's not trying so hard to seem "gritty" - HBP requires a lighter touch, and receives it. I say "a lighter touch," but that tone...it's really demanding, the same way Goblet of Fire's tone was so demanding. You just don't sense Yates working when you watch HBP; it feels, if not effortless, something close to it. I don't want to just repeat what I said about how well Newell handled GoF, but HBP has the same tricky combination of romantic woes, light comedy, consistent tension, and grave danger. What makes it even trickier is that there are so many sudden turns - for example, Ron's reaction to the love potion is hilarious, but when he drops to the floor, poisoned, that's pretty terrifying. There are a bunch of quick mood shifts like that. Fortunately, Yates shows off an excellent handle on the tone of things. So much of this film is whimsical and light on its feet, but not in a way that diminishes the stakes. The humor and romance of so much of it makes those scary or sad - or both - times all the more so, and vice versa.
So much of Half-Blood Prince is laying the foundation for what's to come in Deathly Hallows - and so much of that is exposition by way of the memories Dumbledore's collected - and so little of it is action or adventure. There's some crucial character development for our three leads, but there's a danger of leaving audiences saying nothing really happened. I think we all missed those memory scenes initially, some more than others (it was the one with Hepzibah Smith and Hufflepuff's cup that I missed most), but the movie has all it needs. In paring all of that way back, what we're left with is simply (A) what a horcrux is in basic terms, (B) there are probably six of them, if Voldemort did in fact split his soul seven ways, (C) Tom Riddle's diary and the ring that mangled Dumbledore's hand were the first two found, and (D) the others could be anything. Laying it all on the line like that, it sounds like a lot, and you do have to keep up in the scene where we get all that, but it's not confusing, and it actually leaves Harry with barely anything. It seemed like Dumbledore left him with very little in the book, and it's even more that way in the films. He has no idea what to look for or where to look for it, and at the end of this film, he doesn't even have the real locket, and they have the mysterious R.A.B. to find. On the page, the ending of Half-Blood Prince felt so completely hopeless in the most compelling way - it's one of the great cliffhangers (or several of them) ever, in any form of fiction. The movie leaves Harry with a lot less to cling to, not even any leads, and one could argue that that makes it even more effective. He does have something in his favor, though: that connection with Voldemort that seems to be growing more intense with each film. Order of the Phoenix introduced this strange, creepy neck-twitch gesture that comes over Harry from time to time, a clever choice on the part of David Yates or Steve Kloves or whoever, and this film follows up on it kind of brilliantly when Dumbledore observes it and proclaims, "Magic - especially dark magic - leaves traces." We don't really need the information that comes from those memory scenes, because Harry's link to the Dark Lord means that he can sense other horcruxes, in a way that he's not yet aware of but will surely tap into later on.
Beyond that matter, Kloves makes great choices in what to visualize (like the bridge collapse), what to add on (like the mysterious excerpt from Dumbledore and Snape's conversation near the end - which we only hear about), and what to cut (like the battle in Hogwarts, which would have taken away from the impact of the massive battles in Deathly Hallows: Part 2 - it's enough that Bellatrix and co. get into the castle). I especially enjoy the moments with Draco in the Room of Requirement, and the way they keep they give us a glimpse of what he's planning, let us inside his head, and yet don't destroy the lingering mystery. I think my only problem with the final screenplay is the final scene, which shouldn't have bothered touching on the matter of Harry and Ginny's relationship - it's awfully awkward when Hermione mentions Ron being okay with it - and needed a line or two about The Half-Blood Prince actually being Snape (perhaps, "And to think it was him I was trusting all year as The Half-Blood Prince," following, "It was always Snape"). I'm actually fine with the way the Harry/Ginny romance has been altered - it's a different dynamic, subtler and sweeter, and, despite a couple of bits that are awkward in the wrong way (like Ginny stopping to tie his shoelaces), it works in the writing. Kloves' return is very, very welcome.
DANIEL RADCLIFFE AS HARRY, RUPERT GRINT AS RON, and EMMA WATSON AS HERMIONE
We're kind of back in Chamber of Secrets territory. Dan Radcliffe improves the least out of the three, at least in a way that's really noticeable. That's because Harry has a more passive role than he does in the three films before this - he's doing an awful lot of reacting to things, a lot of following other character's leads. He's not a complete follower, but he's not as dynamic as we've seen in the last few, which gives Radcliffe less chance to stretch. He's still excellent, though, particularly when he gets to show off his comedic chops (i.e., when he's under the influence of the Felix Felicis). Rupert and Emma do get to stretch a lot more, Rupert not only showing off his own comedic skills, which are exceptional (again most on display in a scene where the character's under the influence, in this case of a love potion - oh, right, "sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll"), but also exploring Ron's vulnerabilities more. Ron's not famous the world over, he hasn't excelled in seemingly everything the way Hermione has, but when quidditch comes along and he finds some confidence in his ability (by way of a confundus charm and a faked dose of lucky potion, but still), and when Lavender shows him some very clear attention that Hermione doesn't, he seizes those opportunities, and who can blame him? I would have liked another beat with Ron that made it clearer that a big part of the reason he was with "Lav" was that Hermione didn't seem to have any faith in him, but instead, it seems a bit more superficial than it should - it's less about Ron having to deal with whether Hermione does have any faith in him or feelings for him, and deciding that Hermione really is the one that he wants, and more "Ron has a girlfriend now, and Hermione's upset about it." That's not on Grint or Watson, though, they're very good. Emma's terrific, turning in a performance that's charming, funny, and deeply touching. By the end of HBP, you have to ask yourself how these two aren't properly together yet - even if there are more important questions to answer.
MICHAEL GAMBON AS DUMBLEDORE
The way Dumbledore was handled - and the way the Harry/Dumbledore relationship was handled - is this film's greatest success. I was, and am, so happy and relieved by Michael Gambon's performance, which is once again, thankfully, strong, charming (I overuse that word, but it applies to a lot), witty, warm, and, all things considered, enigmatic. After what we saw in the last two films, I can't believe, still, that I can use the word 'warm,' but we do have that moment where Dumbledore reminisces about Harry being that little boy in the cupboard. And we do have that opening, carried by Nicholas Hooper's theme, a memory of the two of them surrounded by press and their flurry of cameras, an assault of sound as Dumbledore simply putting an arm around a wounded Harry. After Goblet of Fire, with a Dumbledore that was far too aggressive and wild, and Order of the Phoenix, with a Dumbledore that was supposed to be cold and dismissive, I was seriously worried about how emotionally resonant Harry & Dumbledore's relationship would be in Half-Blood Prince - because if that doesn't succeed, the movie doesn't succeed - and with that opening, I was convinced it would succeed. Dan Radcliffe and Michael Gambon don't have the kind or level of chemistry that Dan Radcliffe and Richard Harris had, but they're great together in this film. When Dumbledore dies, you feel it, and not just because you would have anyway, but because this movie worked for it. When McGonagall tells Harry, "You should know, Professor Dumbledore...You meant a lot to him," you believe it. And I wasn't sure how much that would be the case. Gambon delivered here.
JIM BROADBENT AS SLUGHORN
Before Jim Broadbent was cast, my personal top choice for Slughorn was Brian Blessed. I was thinking of someone who would best fit the more jovial, gregarious, selfish parts of Slughorn, and I wasn’t thinking as much of the deeply sad, regretful Slughorn. Tapping into that aspect of the character, Broadbent is amazing, and he’s also very funny and light when the occasion calls for it. I recognized Horace Slughorn when I was watching Jim Broadbent’s performance for the first time, but he still brought something to it that I wasn’t expecting; it was a surprising performance – surprising, I suppose, in how tender and just how well-rounded it was. The scene where he ultimately hands the memory over to Harry is an extraordinary piece of acting.
TOM FELTON AS DRACO MALFOY
You can tell that Felton was hungry for the chance to expand his role and expand the range of the Draco Malfoy character. This is an outstanding performance; we grow beyond the preening arrogance and hatefulness from previous movies to find a Draco who’s terrified of his odds, terrified of the threat being put on his family, and affected by this war in his own way, but truly determined to seize the chance to the “Chosen One” for his side, to make good on all of the childish teasing and bullying and actually be a true challenge to Harry Potter. Watching Draco through his attempts to pull off his plan with the Vanishing Cabinet in The Room of Requirement is fascinating, and seeing him break down and cry in the bathroom is a moment that packs a punch. It’s great to see Draco becoming a character of substance.
HERO FIENNES TIFFIN AS TOM RIDDLE (age 11)
What a creepy little kid. I hope we see more from the ironically-named Hero, because he has real presence. He’s pushy, he’s arrogant, he’s preternaturally powerful, and, above all, commanding. He owns that scene.
FRANK DILLANE AS TOM RIDDLE (age 16)
“Arrogant,” “preternaturally powerful,” and “commanding” all apply here too, and there’s a charm and youthful persuasion as well. Dillane’s superb; watching the teenage Tom seduce Slughorn into telling him about horcruxes is chilling. Plus, he actually looks like a teenager.
JESSIE CAVE AS LAVENDER
“Lav” is so viscerally irritating in that squeakily-girlish way. She’s positively fingernails-on-a-chalkboard annoying, and that is, after all, the point, which means that she’s spot-on. She’s just the girl you don’t want to see Ron with, especially when there’s Hermione right there.
Hooper’s score is an improvement over OotP, and, in short, I like it, I don’t love it. “Journey to the Cave” is the real gem; that’s an excellent piece of music, it builds in an incredible way to a point of being exhilarating yet somehow sad at the same time. “Ginny” and “Harry and Hermione” are really good as well, and “Fireworks” is a fun theme for Fred & George. I prefer “Wizard Wheezes” in that spot, though, which was actually written for that scene in the first place. I still find “Dumbledore’s Army” not at all fitting for the quidditch tryout scene – I would even if it weren’t called “Dumbledore’s Army.” Point is, it was written for that part of OotP. “Dumbledore’s Farewell” is the real heartbreaker; the phoenix song is described as basically the musical embodiment of grief itself, so no pressure there. It is a masterpiece, though, and, hyperbole though it is, I would say it's at that level.
Half-Blood Prince is the only Harry Potter film so far to be nominated for the Best Cinematography Oscar, and it is indeed visually stunning. It’s not “just” anything or “too” anything, it’s a striking concoction of bleak, colorful, and that odd place in between. The camerawork is fluid and evocative. Bruno Delbonnel does some superb things.
BITS AND BOBS
-It’s okay that “Spinner’s End” isn’t the opening scene. (The scene turned out perfectly, by the way.) What’s less okay is the way it moves onto the “Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes” scene, which is the only time in the film in which the abrupt mood shift feels way too abrupt. The solution, in my opinion? As simple as a fade out and pause of seven seconds in between, in order for viewers to have a little time to process what they’ve just seen from Snape.
-The trio cracking up after Hermione’s “emotional range of a teaspoon” line in OotP was funny. They seem to have tried to do that kind of moment again in HBP after Ron’s “150 – give or take a few years” crack, but this time, it just feels like they couldn’t think of a way to finish the scene, so let’s just have them laugh, and then we’ll just move on.
-I hope, I hope, I hope that there are some viewers out there who haven’t read the books, but who have seen and really followed the films, who were asking themselves just what Snape is: Hero? Villain? Both at once? Because that “Spinner’s End” scene should pull the rug out from under you, make you wonder, “Wait, so Snape’s a villain? Or is he playing with Bellatrix or Narcissa? What’s going on here?” The question of “Severus Snape: Good or Evil?” has not been a part of the films’ marketing, which is understandable, because most of the world who’d care already knows. But I do hope that there are viewers who don’t who are engaged by the matter.
-I miss Rufus Scrimgeour, but I think that’s just because his attempt to make Harry the Ministry’s, in effect, mascot is one of my favorites in the book. I do see why he was cut, though, and I do see why they chose to add the attack on The Burrow. The problem is, nothing actually happens. Sure, the war is brought up close and personal, and to The Burrow, but in execution, all you have is a lot of running, everybody shouting everybody else’s name, a hairy guy standing around looking mean, Bellatrix running and repeating “I killed Sirius Black!” (which is a fun callback), and then The Burrow burning down. Nice try, I guess, but in the end, it’s useless.
-Speaking of that hairy guy…Well, that’s all he is. If you’re going to cut the character, cut the character, don’t include him merely to the extent of casting a wrestler or cage fighter or whatever who’s really not an actor, giving him generic man-wolf makeup, and just having stand around in a few scenes looking unpleasant. Fenrir Greyback is a good villain, a child-killer – he could be a figure of full-blown menace, but he’s not here. The credits say that he’s in, interviews I’ve seen with Dave Legeno say that he’s in, but he’s not. I’d rather see him totally cut than this.
-The scene just before Harry and Dumbledore apparate to the cave, where Dumbledore instructs Harry to obey his every order, captures the right feeling so remarkably – it’s sad, it’s ominous, and it really evokes the feeling that you’re on the edge of something momentous and probably terrible happening. From that point on, the film is utterly perfect, frame to frame, in the emotional response it gives the viewer. From the nearly-black and white color palette inside the cave to the awesome sight of Dumbledore conjuring the ring of fire to Snape placing his finger to his lips to assure Harry that it will be alright to the lack of music in the Astronomy Tower sequence to Gambon’s just-hard-enough-to-read delivery of, “Severus…please,” with that achingly long pause…Perfection.
-After my rewatch the other day, I don’t understand why any viewer would want a lavish funeral scene when what we do have, this wandlight vigil, is as fulfilling as it is. Having McGonagall raise her wand, shine its light, and the rest of the crowd follow her lead, both canceling out the Dark Mark and honoring Dumbledore’s memory, makes for an incredible movie moment. It’s a wonderful visual metaphor for the uniting of good people fighting back the evil of legions – it’s not the wandlight of any one of them wiping out that Dark Mark, it’s all of them, and it can’t be any other way. And it’s a MOVIE moment – you cannot have that scene in a book, not that way. It’s an extraordinary moment, and a far better way to acknowledge Dumbledore and everything he did and worked/lived for than any formal funeral scene could be.
-I wish Fawkes’ appearance hadn’t been changed. Would anyone who doesn’t already know that that’s Fawkes even recognize him? I don’t understand why they chose to make him so much larger.
ON THE WHOLE
I’m reserving full judgment on Deathly Hallows until I see and process Part 2, so for now, Half-Blood Prince remains my favorite Harry Potter film. Simply put, it feels the most like the book. And that’s what’s most important, that the film gives you the same emotional response that the book did, and the same spirit. I don’t know that I can pay it a higher compliment.
Last edited by IenjoyAcidPops; March 31st, 2012 at 2:02 am.
Re: The Harry Potter Movie Marathon Thread
I’m casting my mind now back to the time before it was announced that David Yates would be directing Deathly Hallows. There were so many people being bandied about as candidates to direct the film – the most popular suggestions around here were probably Alfonso Cuarón and Guillermo Del Toro. For some reason, I didn’t think any of the directors we’d had – Chris Columbus, Alfonso, Mike Newell, or David Yates – were quite right for the final installment. For a while, I was really in favor of Guillermo Del Toro – and then I thought about Steve Kloves, who has directed films (The Fabulous Baker Boys and Flesh and Bone), and good ones, and has demonstrated his passion for the series; it’s not merely a job to him. I don’t know why I did, but I severely underestimated David Yates and his ability to take on this last book and turn it into really outstanding cinema, because he did it.
I’m writing about both parts together not only for the sake of simplicity, not only because Deathly Hallows is far better as one than as two, but because Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows is one film. I’m always annoyed when anyone complains about Part 1 not coming to a proper conclusion or Part 2 not having a proper introduction. Yes, Part 1 is a film without an end, and Part 2 is a film without a beginning. That’s because they are not two standalone films; that was actually never the point. It’s one film, we just didn’t see it all at once. I was opposed to that choice when I first heard about it, but I was opposed because I assumed that it meant we’d see a film that was far too literal-minded. I wanted to see the filmmakers make some bold choices in their adaptation, because Deathly Hallows is a damn hard book to turn into a film, and does not allow you to translate it; you have to adapt it. It turns out that I was wrong (that’ll be a recurring sentiment in this post). Deathly Hallows the film is not an unimaginative reenactment. While I’m not a cheerleader for the decision to present it in two parts, it wasn’t only a money-grab. What it really served to do was allow them – or allow them to allow themselves – to take all of the moments they needed to let the film to breathe, and to give us a ton of fantastic character moments that there’s no way we would have seen if this weren’t a two-parter. Yates made a bit too much about how tonally and cosmetically different the two parts are and therefore how necessary the two-part presentation was, but it does work. Not only was it elevate the grandeur of this conclusion – I’m going to try to keep my use of the word “epic” to a minimum – but anyone who complains that the pace is uneven in either Part 1 or Part 2 surely has to say that the pace would have been even more unbalanced if they’d seen the whole thing as one. That’s the nature of the beast, but it’s also an advantage to the two-part release. I went to see Part 2 minutes after rewatching Part 1 on July 15th, so that I could have the closest approximation to seeing one right after the other, but I look forward to actually seeing them combined into one film.
In so many ways, Deathly Hallows was incredibly demanding on its director. I don’t envy David Yates for the huge pressure that was on him, not just (“just” ) to close the series out in a satisfying way, but with DH being the most difficult book he’s had to adapt. Of course, they’re all hard, but the fact that Deathly Hallows involves this midsection lacking forward momentum, where nothing’s really happening and that’s the point, means that it’s even more challenging than Order of the Phoenix or Half-Blood Prince. That stretch of time – the Camping Trip from Hell, if you will – had to have been the most difficult to nail. You have to be so with the trio as they’re forced to stay out on their own – they can’t stay with anyone they can trust, or they’ll put them in danger, so all they have is to make do with what (very little) knowledge they have in their pursuit for the remaining horcruxes. You have to be so with them in how disconnected they are from the rest of the world – either muggle or wizarding – and how little connection they have to what’s going on around them. They’re out of the loop, in the worst way. They’re not aimless, but they’re rudderless, and the one lead they do have is only serving to eat away at them. I know I’m in the minority here, in that I thought all that worked really well in the book and I think it works really well in the film; I feel all of that, I am with them on this journey, and it’s tense, it’s lonely, it’s miserable, it’s everything it must be. That time was brought to the screen so beautifully; you long for them to be rid of that damn locket, you long for them to make some big progression in their horcrux hunting, you long to see Hogwarts again. And I don’t feel that that portion of the film is slowly or poorly paced, at least not in a negative way – it’s not meant to be quick and dynamic, the film has to take time to breathe there, and it does. It should not rush that. I think it’s paced perfectly, and I wouldn’t lose a frame.
Once we leave Shell Cottage, though, Deathly Hallows is all about forward momentum, about a propulsive drive that pretty much carries us straight through to the climax. I was terrified that from this point the film would just blaze by and sacrifice plot coherence or emotional coherence for the sake of action or spectacle. Even after seeing how well Part 1 took its time, I was terrified, because that’s different material. Again, I was wrong. Rather than rushing by and scattering a bunch of half-explained plot points or barely-explored moments, that propulsive energy is absolutely key and it doesn’t get in the way of anything in the area of story/character. The tension is maintained fantastically, too; DH is quite a terrifying film in several places. I’m thinking of the first Malfoy Manor scene (“The Dark Lord Ascending”), Ron’s splinching, obviously Nagini’s attack in Godric’s Hollow, and many more.
The two most pivotal themes in the Harry Potter series end up being more crucial to Deathly Hallows than any of the other books/films: the power of love, and the importance of accepting death. I’ve actually gone back and forth over whether I think the film emphasizes either of these as well as it should. Okay, we don’t have Lily’s love protection over Harry passing onto everyone else at Hogwarts and making it so that Voldemort can’t touch them – or do we? Harry doesn’t refer to it, but Neville does talk about how everyone that they’ve lost does still live on, in their hearts, and that carries the same meaning. We do learn, very powerfully, that Snape was in love, until the day he died, with Lily, and, in a moment not in the book, we see him cradling her dead body and crying. That also carries the same meaning and message. Even a passing moment like Neville rushing to tell Luna that he’s “mad for her,” in probably the last chance he’ll have to do so, followed by Harry and Ginny seizing what may be their last chance to embrace, gets at this theme. I’m less certain of how well the theme of accepting death is conveyed here. That’s, of course, the reason The Deathly Hallows are introduced; it’s more than just a way to seal in the defeat of Voldemort, more than just convenient aid for Harry in the end. The Deathly Hallows are symbols of how different Harry and Voldemort are in their attitudes toward death; “master of death” does not mean obtaining immortality, it means that you come to an understanding of…well, of what Dumbledore said in the first book (not movie): “To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.” Voldemort could never understand that, but when Harry learns that he must sacrifice himself, he doesn’t run from it. It’s the most difficult thing in the world to accept, but he does find a way to accept it, and that’s what makes Harry worthy of those Deathly Hallows. I would have liked this to be discussed a bit in the King’s Cross scene. It is still there, though – you just have to read between the lines a little. And this is not the most terrible thing in the world, to not be beaten over the head with the central messages of a film.
David Yates started out (like many great directors, it should be said) in TV, and so he’s often been charged with making movies that feel “like TV.” Not everyone who says this is always complaining, but I have to take issue with this, (A) because I don’t really know what it means, (B) because we are long past the point, if there ever was a point, where TV should be dismissed like that, and (C) because Yates’ films actually feel highly cinematic to me. He’s grown exponentially with each film, and in the case of DH, I have to use “The Prince’s Tale” as an example. That sequence is an utter masterpiece, and it’s not a masterpiece just because it includes everything from the book that it really had to in order to make it work, it’s a masterpiece because it takes all of it and turns it into extraordinary cinema. This sequence really does feel like a stream of memories strung together, as they might actually occur to Snape in his final moments, and all of the clips, visual and aural, from previous movies that are used to round it all out are perfectly incorporated. By the end of the sequence, you’re left in a daze from everything you’ve just learned or had confirmed about Snape, shocked-and-yet-not-that-shocked at the reveal of Harry’s true nature and what that means, and deeply affected by how what you’ve just watched has encompassed so much of the whole series. That’s one example, but again, Yates’ Harry Potter movies are highly cinematic, more and more as they went. His camerawork grows more dynamic, more fluid, more compelling with each film. The man has a great eye, and I’m curious where he’ll go from here. I’m in for whatever that is.
Oh, how very, very worried I was about how the final duel between Harry and Voldemort would play out in the film – because in the book, it’s not a duel, and that’s what’s great about it. It’s not a battle of wands, it’s a battle of words. Harry has just realized that he has the upper hand in a big way, and their ultimate showdown on the page is all about him saying to Voldemort, “You’re wrong. You were arrogant, you made huge mistakes, so I’m actually in control right now, and here’s how.” I didn’t expect it to be done verbatim here, I knew they’d have to make it more visual, more dynamic, but I expected a pointless, overblown, dumbed-down fight scene, lacking any of the explanation/resolution that we really needed. Here we go again: I was wrong. That’s not what we have here. They did make it more dynamic, more visually interesting, they opened it up (it probably still would have worked if they kept it in the Great Hall, but still), but you still have Harry taunting Voldemort a bit, telling him – or starting to tell him – that the wand isn’t his and won’t be. And afterward – and this I REALLY didn’t expect – he explains things to Ron and Hermione! We get plot resolution in the denouement! This is no “Priori Incantatem…You saw your parents that night, didn’t you?” This is no confused Marauder’s Map subplot. And it isn’t clunky explanation just for the sake of it, it serves a purpose and it’s satisfying. So well done.
David Yates understands tone very well, he’s shown that impeccably on his previous films. Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince are certainly not perfect. Deathly Hallows is pretty bloody close. I can’t say this as much for Order, but for Half-Blood and Hallows, and Hallows most of all, they feel like the book. Deathly Hallows is the best film in the series for that reason.
Look, the Harry Potter series isn’t as difficult to adapt to film as, say, War and Peace or The Lord of the Rings or any other monumentally demanding literary work you could name. Once you get to Goblet of Fire, though (a turning point for the saga in subject matter and sheer volume), the amount of detail – backstory, exposition, foreshadowing, and literal detail – becomes pretty overwhelming. That’s why you have quite a few things in the films that are included, shoved in, but not paid off, or not explored quite enough, or not explained at all (“fan service” is a popular label for this, even if it’s not always a good label). Deathly Hallows does have some of those things, unfortunately, but it’s generally a great screenplay (or two). It’s a strange book, because there are times in which – and I remember thinking this even the first time I read the book – I thought, “Oh, this actually reads like a great movie!” And then there are times in which I thought, “Oooh, this is going to be a really tough one to crack!” I guess it’s that way for most of these books, but DH seemed more of a mixed bag than usual that way. Let’s take a look at the negative end of that, first, get that out of the way:
-We’re introduced to the mirror, a prop that will prove fairly important later, by seeing Harry holding a shard of it in his room, reflecting on Dumbledore’s death and seeing what he fleetingly thinks could be his eye. That’s all well and good, except we’ve never seen this thing before. Okay, so it’s in the book, and it was, in fact, in book five, Order of the Phoenix, but it wasn’t in the film version, and so it’s strange that this should be the first time we see it. I miss the scene in the OotP film where Harry comes across it and then breaks it in his anger that he can’t talk to Sirius at all, and it turns out that they should have included that scene there after all.
-Quite the info-dump at the start of the “Seven Potters” scene. We meet Bill Weasley and Mundungus Fletcher, reunite with Ron, Hermione, Mad-Eye, Lupin & Tonks, Kingsley, Hagrid, Arthur, Fred & George, and Fleur, find out that Lupin & Tonks are married, and almost find out that Lupin & Tonks…well, it doesn’t come up yet (surely we’ll find out what their news is later, right?). You hear “Weasley,” see Bill’s red hair, so okay, that’s fine, we get who he is, that’s enough. I would have liked some line referring to/reintroducing Fleur, though – one line, really, because Fleur is such a minor character, and she was a minor character even when she last appeared, in GoF. Lupin & Tonks, as a couple and as separate characters, don’t register, but that problem goes beyond this scene. It’s a little odd to meet a character like Mundungus so swiftly and at this point, but I like that we haven’t necessarily seen everyone involved in this fight, even now. This is a big world, and just because it’s the last movie doesn’t mean you’ve seen all of it. Not even close.
-Harry asks back to Muriel, “Dumbledore lived in Godric’s Hollow?” (or something like that). This is the first time in the films we hear the name Godric’s Hollow, so that means nothing. Later, it means something in retrospect, but come on.
-Deathly Hallows the book has that subplot of Harry becoming increasing mistrustful of Dumbledore, and questioning not only how much Dumbledore trusted him, but also what darkness really lurks in Dumbledore’s past (Rita Skeeter was actually never more accurate), and that plotline surprised me. It was really compelling, though, and for those readers like me, for whom Dumbledore was their favorite character, it challenged you in that opinion. It made Dumbledore an even more complex, enigmatic, fascinating figure. I never expected this plot to be brought to film in the same way, though, if at all. What’s unfortunate, however, is that, rather than cutting it entirely, that subplot is introduced, by way of Harry having that contentious conversation with Elphias Doge and Aunt Muriel, but then it doesn’t build and it isn’t paid off. We see a copy of The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore in Bathilda’s house, Hermione takes it, and when she and Harry are in the forest of Dean, she’s apparently reading it, hands it to Harry, and says the boy (the same boy Harry saw when Voldemort went into Gregorovitch’s mind) is Gellert Grindelwald. Then it’s never brought up again. Well, so what? Who’s Grindelwald and why should I care? The movie doesn’t care, so it shouldn’t have been brought up. Aberforth refers to Dumbledore’s “quest for power,” but that’s a strange thing to hear in and of itself with nothing to back it up. Something like that should either be fully fleshed out or dropped. I like the scene with Aberforth for what it is, but it doesn’t compensate for the way this storyline is handled. We’re not talking about a major shortcoming here – Dumbledore is still left a mystery, and that’s good, that is the point, so they still get that point – but it leaves you wanting.
-Spinning off from my last point: I would have really liked to have seen the film touch on Dumbledore’s own youthful obsession with The Deathly Hallows. Now, Harry’s brief fascination with the Hallows and question of “Hallows vs. horcruxes” was not included in the film, and I’m good with that, you don’t need it. If you’re reading this and thinking that Dumbledore’s onetime obsession with the Hallows wouldn’t have worked without having Harry’s, well, theoretical person, I still think it would have, because it would contrast Dumbledore’s need for the control with Harry’s understanding of what the Hallows mean, and serve that theme all the better.
-We do have an exterior shot of Grimmauld Place, but I wonder if it registers for someone who has only followed the films that it’s Sirius’ house/Order headquarters from Order of the Phoenix.
-We’re missing an emotional beat after Ron destroys the locket. Every time I watch it, I feel cheated in that moment because, instead of having Ron near tears after what he’s just suffered, and Harry consoling him by assuring him that he loves Hermione like a sister, and then the two hugging it out, we merely get Ron quipping (and he should not be quipping at that point), “Just think – only three more to go.”
-Here’s what we see of Lupin & Tonks as a couple, in the last two films: They share a scene (scene and a half?) in HBP, and at one point Tonks refers to Lupin as “sweetheart,” and mentions the first night of the cycle being the worst. At the beginning of DH, she refers to, “My husband, the joker,” says, “Harry, you won’t believe the news” or something, but Mad-Eye interrupts her. The last time we see either of them alive, they’re reaching for each other’s hands. Harry notices them lying dead in the Great Hall, arranged to be holding hands. Then Harry mentions Lupin’s son when talking to his…well, not ghost exactly, but you know. What son? Sure, I know what son, but I only know that because I know that in the book, they have one. The movie has made no mention of this, and that moment is just sloppy. I wonder if there was a scene cut, maybe one at the Burrow, where Harry first hears that Lupin & Tonks are going to have a baby. Either Lupin & Tonks’ role(s) should have been expanded, or cut entirely, or Lupin should have been cut from the forest scene. Yes, I would definitely have had trouble dealing with either of those last two scenarios, but still, they stuffed Lupin & Tonks in without doing anything with them, and realized, “Oh, we have to mention the kid.”
Now, the positive end of things:
-Hermione telling Harry/us that she had to alter her parents’ memories would still have made for an effective scene, Emma could still have made that a great moment, but actually seeing it is, of course, great for the movie. What an effective way to open this final film. I’ve heard some criticism that the films don’t adequately illustrate Voldemort’s threat to the muggle world, but with the opening of the Half-Blood Prince film and this, well, that’s all you need. Watching Hermione be forced to remove herself from her parents’ memories and then leave home is heartbreaking, and it says all that needs to be said about how the devastation is affecting even the non-magical population.
-I talked about this in my write-up on HBP, but I’ll talk about it again here, because here’s where it proves really advantageous: I love how much Kloves pared back all of the expository set-up regarding the horcruxes in that sixth film. Movie Harry has a lot less information, knows a lot less about Voldemort setting out on his quest than Book Harry did. Yes, that’s the point. This is not a case of things being cut and leaving things scattered and incoherent. We know what we really have to know: a horcrux is an item containing part of one’s soul; one splits their soul through the vile act of murder; one having a horcrux means that they live on even after their body has been destroyed; Voldemort made six, and two have been destroyed, so four to go. Seeing our trio set off on their own on this dangerous and confounding mission is much more powerful when Harry doesn’t have all of this background on Voldemort’s past, his family, and what he would have used for horcruxes and why. Hermione doesn’t even have her handy copy of Tales of the Darkest Art to tell them off the bat that only the most dangerous of substances can kill a horcrux. Dumbledore left him with the bare minimum of information to go on, and, after the three of them try every spell they can think of to wreck the locket, Ron even comments, “Seems strange, mate. Dumbledore sends you off to find all these horcruxes, but doesn’t tell you how to destroy them. Doesn’t that bother you?” Harry doesn’t answer in words, but his expression is his answer. Yes, it does bother him, and a moment like that works better because the set-up was pared back so drastically in the previous film. And although you can make fun of the whole “spidey sense” thing of movie Harry being able to “hear” the horcruxes calling to him, and find them that way, I love that change, I think it makes perfect sense and works really well. Plus, Spider-Man’s awesome.
-I love the way we find out that the sword of Gryffindor can destroy horcruxes in the film. There’s no way they could have kept that whole thing with them overhearing Dean, the goblins, Ted Tonks, and Dirk Cresswell talking about the fake sword, and then Hermione pulling out Phineas’ portrait, and then putting the pieces together; that would been so cumbersome and ridiculously protracted. So we have Hermione having a major lightbulb moment and follow her logic from there. Harry’s “…O-kay,” not getting it yet, is funny, and he’s the audience at that point. “This is going somewhere, but what the hell is she talking about?” It’s a lot of info to receive in such a short time, but it actually does end up making sense. And her line, “Actually, I’m highly logical, which allows me to look past extraneous detail, and perceive clearly that which others overlook,” is not only hilarious, but sells this sudden info-dump very nicely.
-Another big change from the book that makes perfect sense and works really well for the film is Voldemort feeling it and being affected as each horcrux is destroyed. Yes, the book’s version of things, where he can’t feel it because he’s torn his soul into too many pieces, makes perfect sense as well. I buy them both, but for the purposes of the film, and for giving Ralph Fiennes more to play, this works better. It does not make Voldemort less threatening (Harry even says he feels, if anything, more dangerous). It makes him more vulnerable, more erratic, more…oh, let’s say unbalanced. That’s great; it’s fascinating to see him gradually lose it without completely losing it.
-To think that, in the book, Harry doesn’t full-on confront Snape the way he does in the film is kind of shocking, because it’s one of the most satisfying moments in the movie. It’s especially satisfying because, in the movies, the contempt is directed from Snape toward Harry, and Harry actually seems indifferent toward Snape until the end of HBP. Here, though, we get the confrontation we want to see, the challenge from Harry that we need to see, and it’s great.
-I love that we bypass the trip to the Ravenclaw common room, because, well, of course Luna would stop Harry and say, ‘You’re not going to find what you’re looking for there.’ Great moment given to Evanna there.
-They could have gotten around the Grey Lady scene and had Luna coyly suggest Harry search the Room of Requirement, but it’s a great scene anyway, pretty chilling and captivating. The angle of the Grey Lady having a sort of connection to Luna is one I’m really glad Kloves added, and it shows such an understanding on his part of who Luna is.
-In the book, Harry can’t bear to explain to Ron and Hermione that he has to sacrifice himself and then say goodbye to them. That works really well in the book, but in the film, I’m pretty sure I would have felt cheated if we didn’t see them part ways there. It’s another great addition.
That’s by no means a list of every positive about this script/these scripts. The few problems I do have with the film are ones of writing mainly, and I don’t think Deathly Hallows is Kloves’ best Harry Potter screenplay – that just might be Half-Blood Prince – but he’s done something great here. We all have those moments, scenes, characters, or plotlines that were upset were cut, but come on, we were damn lucky that these films were so faithful. Kloves proved, from beginning to end, that he really understands, characteristically and thematically, what makes this story so brilliant. None of them are quite perfect in the writing, there are of course flaws, but Kloves always had a very difficult task before him and he handled each film (excepting Order, because he didn’t do that one) beautifully.
DANIEL RADCLIFFE AS HARRY, RUPERT GRINT AS RON, and EMMA WATSON AS HERMIONE
Yeah, these three are gonna be just fine. This series has done so much right in the areas of directing, writing, and art direction, and most of what I’ve said in those sections of my reviews has been highly positive, but without a doubt, the greatest pleasure in the films was watching Dan, Rupert, and Emma develop these characters and grow as actors over about ten years. They were all good from the beginning in Sorcerer’s Stone – I think so, anyway – but by now, they’re giving such nuanced, subtle, expressive, and full performances. That’s what you want, and that’s what they needed, but you never know with child actors whether they’ll be able to get there when they need to get there. Individually, these three are fantastic – they’re all much, much better than they were in Half-Blood Prince, and they were pretty great in Half-Blood Prince – and I could list ramble on for ages listing the standout moments, small and large, for each, but what that would become is me recapping the entire film. Most of those especially affecting moments, for me, are in the “camping scenes.” It’s all on them at that time, and they carry the day, giving moving, empathetic performances. There’s the proof that these movies aren’t just “oh, take these inexperienced but decent kid actors and surround them with every veteran British thespian and things will turn out okay.” No. Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson are real actors, and very good ones. Now, Part 1 is partially about the trio almost being torn apart by the challenges of their mission, but in Deathly Hallows, they function better as a unit than in any of the previous movies – even if it’s always been more about “the trio” than about Harry/Ron or Harry/Hermione or any of them on their own. Radcliffe does some really interesting things, and his performance is never the easy one or the one you might expect. He’s not doing the tortured, disaffected, angsty youth thing anymore, nor is he the full-on superhero. Part 1 is about Harry not knowing what to do with what little Dumbledore left him, and having the doubts of even Ron and Hermione gnawing at him. We don’t need to hear him expound on that, though, all it takes is a look or two on Mr. Radcliffe’s face. In a couple of scenes, he brings this surprising kind of nervy energy, like he’s been cooped up too long and doesn’t know what to do with himself. Then there’s the is-it-too-soon-to-call-it-infamous? dance scene, and Harry and Hermione look like kids there. It’s important not to lose these characters in the plot and turn them into chess pieces, and we’re never allowed to forget these characters’ humanity and multi-dimensionality. Radcliffe’s Harry is far more focused and commanding in Part 2, and when those bigger, more “you cry now!” moments come, they actually weren’t as tearjerking as I expected them to be. I’m not complaining; for instance, after Harry experiences the last of Snape’s memories, and learns that he has to sacrifice himself, it’s a reaction of shock, but the shock soon passes and becomes a kind of mournful understanding. It’s difficult even to describe, so you know it’s a difficult one to play, but Mr. Radcliffe did a great job. Ron, meanwhile, is usually easy to like and sympathize or empathize with, but Deathly Hallows tests you a bit in that. The locket affects him more than it does Harry or Hermione, but it’s not doing all the work when Ron leaves. And his abandonment really hurts, just as it did on the page, it feels like a stinging betrayal for the viewer. That’s Grint’s most memorable scene – it’s the Oscar clip in that alternate universe where he could be nominated for an Oscar for this film – and boy, is he great, but he’s great in the entire thing. Ron goes through such major changes in DH; he gets over his insecurities about his place in his family and about how Hermione feels about him, he recognizes that he does have a place and an identity beyond Harry’s sidekick, he owns up, takes charge, and calls the others when they’re second-guessing themselves (Hermione hesitating to destroy the cup horcrux) or behaving like a martyr (Harry: “I don’t want anyone else to die for me” Ron: “You? This is a whole lot bigger than that, mate. It’s always been bigger than that”). Ron’s much stronger and smarter than…well, than even he realizes, but he grows a lot here. Rupert’s outstanding. He never calls attention to himself, he’s completely natural and relatable. And Emma? Frankly, Emma outdoes them both by so much. Part 2 is balanced perfectly between the three stars, but Emma owns Part 1. What an incredibly touching, real performance, particularly in the opening scene when we see her altering her parents’ memories…and particularly all the rest of the time. I wasn’t surprised that she could pull this off, she’s always been the best of the three to me, but it’s an impressive turn. Seeing the chemistry develop over the years between Rupert and Emma has been a pleasure; they may be like brother and sister, but they project that romantic chemistry that so many pairs in movies that are supposedly romantic comedies don’t. Their relationship isn’t at the forefront, but Ron and Hermione gradually fall in love very believably in these movies. I can’t wait to see where Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson go from here. I will follow their careers as much as I can, and I hope they thrive in film, theatre, whatever they want – but I hope they concentrate in film, because I don’t get out to either Broadway or the West End too often (or ever).
RALPH FIENNES AS VOLDEMORT
Voldemort’s role has been more and more distant since GoF. As a character, not just an idea, he’s been in the background lately. Voldy’s in the second scene of DH, though, and it’s not a high-stakes showdown scene, but a meeting of the Death Eaters. That scene has a great ominous, conspiratorial feel, and it presents us with a Voldemort we haven’t seen before this point. He’s cold, cruel, and in control, but he also shows a sense of humor (“Spoken like a true politician”), and makes a point of shaming and embarrassing Lucius – not only by holding these conference calls in Malfoy Manor, but in taking his wand and then snapping off the tip. Voldemort’s exhibiting more…humanity in this film. Not that he’s all warm and fuzzy or relatable or empathetic, but he’s not the Boogeyman, he’s not mere evil incarnate caricature; just because we’ve seen this guy (?) before doesn’t mean Fiennes, Yates, or Kloves will let him lapse into cartoonishness. Kloves’ choice to have Voldemort feel it as each successive horcrux is destroyed gives Fiennes something to do that he wouldn’t have had otherwise. He becomes progressively more unbalanced as what’s left of him deteriorates. It’s there when he randomly kills a Death Eater – Pius, I think – right after Hermione stabs the cup. It’s there in those oddly comic touches like his giddy laugh after he repeats, “Harry Potter is dead!” for the Death Eaters’ delight, or hugging Draco when he walks over to their side, or that taken-aback hand gesture when Neville announces that he has something to say. I’m such a huge fan of everything Ralph Fiennes brings to this movie.
ALAN RICKMAN AS SNAPE
Newsflash: Alan Rickman is awesome. Yeah, it wasn’t a surprise that Mr. Rickman’s performance in this film is as complicated and devastating as it is, but it does still need to be said, loudly and repeatedly. The “Could Alan Rickman get an Oscar nod?” speculation began quite a while before the movie was even released, and beyond fan craziness, that’s a testament to how respected he is as an actor, and how most of us just assumed, took for granted, that he would be able to not only pull off the heartbreaking and revelatory material Snape has in the end, but do extraordinary things with it. Rickman – and this really refers to “The Prince’s Tale,” because otherwise, it’s the same Snape we’ve seen in the six films before this – is heartbreaking, and puts everything into perspective. Once again, the rug has been pulled out from under the viewer. Snape’s loyalty isn’t a twist, it’s a twist on a twist – you thought the truth came in HBP, that Snape was a double agent whose true allegiance was to “the Dark Lord” – but now, we find out that no, it really is as we thought originally, and not only that, but he was in love with Harry’s mother this whole time, to the very end. When he looked at Harry, Snape saw mostly James, the man he hated in school and who Lily loved instead of him, but with this one little bit of Lily, those eyes, and that tortured Snape, thus explaining/rationalizing his behavior. It’s a lot to take in so quickly, but it makes total sense, and Rickman does it all so beautifully. It’s such a well-rounded portrayal that it makes you eager to rewatch the entire series with the new understanding you have of him. Mr. Rickman, I salute you. You’ve done right by this fascinating figure every step of the way. (I say “you” because, naturally, he’s reading this and he cares.)
HELENA BONHAM CARTER AS BELLATRIX…and sometimes HERMIONE AS BELLATRIX
This is probably the first thing anyone needs to know at me: I pretty much worship at the altar of Tim Burton. Calling yourself a Tim Burton fan means you have an affinity for the macabre, it means you have a playfully twisted sense of humor, it means you have a tendency to have a lot more not only fun but also sympathy with the wild, anarchic villain. Playing the odds, then, Bellatrix Lestrange is probably a favorite character for most Tim Burton fans. She certainly is one of mine; that was true on the page, and it’s trueer onscreen, because onscreen, she’s played by Helena Bonham Carter (who is, incidentally, Burton’s main squeeze). She brings such childish glee, such mad, sadistic enthusiasm, to the part, without turning it into a joke. There are two big scenes for Bellatrix this time: her outraged tantrum turned torture session in Malfoy Manor, and the Gringotts break-in with Hermione disguised as Bellatrix. The former is impressively terrifying – not funny – and the latter gives Bonham Carter a chance to do some wonderful light comedy. She did a really great job picking up the way Emma carries herself, and she is convincing as Hermione trying to do Bellatrix. You could fool yourself into thinking it’s Emma in Bella’s makeup and wardrobe, that’s how believable it is to me when I’m watching that scene. Great stuff. Great stuff all the way through, up ‘til Miss Lestrange’s shattering end.
MATTHEW LEWIS AS NEVILLE
Neville Longbottom: Badass. I don’t want an eighth Harry Potter book or movie, but I could see a Harry Potter spin-off. Maybe he just roams around the English countryside kicking *** before he settles down and becomes Herbology teacher. Maybe Luna could tag along and we could see more of those two. I don’t think anyone expected Neville to take charge and show off all that courage the way he did, but it seems perfectly natural in retrospect – especially in the films. I prefer movie Neville to book Neville. I think he’s been better drawn, and the filmmakers have actually given him more moments to shine. Neville’s love and skill for Herbology comes in handy and he suggests Harry use gillyweed in the second task. Neville finds the Room of Requirement. Neville begins his leadership of the D.A. right there on the train when Death Eaters are looking for Harry (“Hey losers, he’s not here”). He gets to blow up a bridge! Everyone involved just seems so fond of this character, and Matthew Lewis – who’s always been good anyway – is totally winning. You have to root for him. He’s kind of the heart of this last movie, or at least Part 2.
JASON ISAACS AS LUCIUS MALFOY, HELEN McCRORY AS NARCISSA MALFOY, and TOM FELTON AS DRACO MALFOY
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. When we met them, the Malfoys were embodiments of snobbish wealth and privilege along with vile bigotry, and while those qualities aren’t gone, in DH the Malfoys are the servants being punished. They’re on the verge of having to actually make a choice. Lucius botched the Ministry mission at the end of OotP, and since then, he spent a year in Azkaban, his son was ordered to kill Dumbledore, Voldemort’s taken over his home, taken and broken his wand, and he’s been generally emasculated and rendered a miserable shell of his former self. Is this Lucius, and Narcissa and Draco, getting payback? No. No, they’re not getting what they deserve, their – or, well, Lucius’ – crimes have been too serious for that. I really enjoy seeing all this happen to them, though, and it’s fun seeing Jason Isaacs give us such a different Lucius: haggard, desperate, totally spineless. It’s interesting that, in the films, we don’t even meet Narcissa until HBP. We don’t meet her until we have to, until the mother is forced to take charge. We don’t know that Narcissa was ever actually a Death Eater, but she was surely an ally and a believer, but when Draco’s life is put in danger, all of that is challenged. When she walks over to Harry’s body in the end of DH, asks about Draco, and then falsely proclaims Harry dead, that is a great movie moment: it’s chilling and it’s exciting and you wonder what could come next. Felton’s meatiest material may be behind him, but Draco’s in a different, curious place here. He’s caught in the middle between the Dark Lord and his family, who’re trying to collectively detach from Voldemort. He doesn’t tell Bellatrix that Harry is Harry. That’s the great chance that he’s always wanted to be rid of Saint Potter, but he doesn’t take it. Why? We never find out. He corners Harry in the Room of Requirement, ready to capture him or worse…but his heart clearly isn’t in it. He pauses and considers when Narcissa pleads him to take his place among the Death Eaters. In the end, this character that was once your classic cartoon bully, just on a grander scale, is another Jo Rowling example that few people are ever as they seem. And ultimately, the Malfoys do make a choice: They choose to run.
WARWICK DAVIS AS GRIPHOOK
I admit it, I’ve never seen any of the Leprechaun movies, so this is the creepiest I’ve seen Warwick Davis. But the Leprechaun movies are different, those are horror movies where he’s playing what’s meant to be an icon of fear on the Freddy Krueger level. Griphook isn’t scary, but he’s an unsettling presence. We don’t hear Bill or anyone else warn us about goblins, and we don’t need to, because the way Griphook interacts with Harry, Ron, and Hermione is what counts. I don’t need anyone to expound on the history of wizard-goblin relations, I need Griphook telling Harry he’s an unusual wizard for burying “the elf,” or hesitating to hand the sword off to Hermione before they apparate. Davis doesn’t have a lot of screentime, but he gives a performance that’s detailed and pretty fun.
AND THE REST
Okay, one sentence for everyone else that ‘s noteworthy: Bill Nighy isn’t terrible, but I was let down by his performance, I feel like he’s too soft or ineffectual and lacks personality. Peter Mullan, even with only a few minutes onscreen, has an authority and a menace that makes Yaxley more memorable than he has any right to be. Rhys Ifans is alright, I buy he and Evanna Lynch as father and daughter without a problem, but in his one big scene at the house, I see him acting, working himself up to a nervous panic. David O’Hara as Runcorn, Steffan Rhodri as Cattermole, and Sophie Thompson (Emma’s sister) all provide comic relief while being believable as Harry, Ron, and Hermione, respectively, in disguise, way over their heads. John Hurt has another fantastic cameo as Ollivander – a really haunted, tortured Ollivander this time. Ciáran Hinds makes a real impression in his little screentime, and definitely sells that he’s the brother of Gambon’s Dumbledore. Her scene didn’t 100% essential, but Kelly Macdonald’s wonderful as Helena Ravenclaw: haunting, fearsome, and wounded.
In every one of these music sections, I’ve mentioned the pieces that stick out most to me, from “A Window to the Past” to “Hogwarts Hymn” to “Journey to the Cave.” Deathly Hallows doesn’t have any pieces, at least none that occur to me as I write this, that I feel represent a point in the film but are strong outside of it. Alexandre Desplat’s score does perfectly support and augment every image onscreen, though. I love it. It’s thrilling, it’s moving, and it never goes too far and over scores anything. “Obliviate” (or “The Obliviation” – I’ve seen it under both titles), “Destroying the Locket,” “Farewell to Dobby,” “Statues,” “Severus and Lily,” “Procession,” and “Showdown” are among the most powerful musical moments, because those are among the most powerful moments in the film. Desplat also finds the perfect ways and places to reuse old themes. Beyond the ever-present, ever-rearranged “Hedwig’s Theme,” we hear “Harry’s Wondrous World” when Harry returns to the Room of Requirement (such a stirring, triumphant moment), “Dumbledore’s Farewell” at the end of “The Prince’s Tale” sequence (heart-wrenching), and “Leaving Hogwarts” over the epilogue. Now, every time I’ve read the epilogue I have heard “Leaving Hogwarts” in my head along with it, but, much as I hoped it might be, I didn’t actually expect to return here. So I was truly delighted when I heard it. There was no better note to end on musically. (If that’s a pun, I apologize.) Much as I wanted John Williams back, I am happy with what Desplat contributed.
Whenever a new Harry Potter movie would come, I would be a little bit surprised by just how dark the visuals were; “dark” as in bleak, usually. Granted, we’re not talking about Requiem for a Dream or The Road here, but none of these movies felt compromised to me, like they pulled their punches or toned things down to look more family-friendly. Eduardo Serra’s imagery/camerawork is really striking, it stays with you (or, me): rough and lonely during the “camping scenes,” exciting and horrible at the same time during the Hogwarts battle scenes, visceral and captivating everywhere else.
The Hogwarts – this whole world, but especially Hogwarts – that Stuart Craig and the rest have created is awe-inspiring, magnificent in its scale and detail. Now let’s blow it up!. The production design has always been one of – if not the – most impressive aspect of the film series, I don’t know what else there is to say. What is new is how genuinely affecting it is to see so much of Hogwarts devastated/destroyed. This castle, which feels as much like home to us viewers and/or readers as it has to the characters, is torn apart in the final act, and amid some terrific spectacle, there’s some emotional impact to that. I figure I’ll have to wash my hands of the Oscars if Stuart Craig doesn’t win. That is, until I cave the next year and watch anyway.
BITS AND BOBS
-The opening’s great, it is, and a choice was necessary between keeping the Dursleys in with a full scene of their own or doing that montage of each of the trio saying goodbye (or, in Ron’s case, preparing to) their families. They probably made the right choice, but I do still miss the Dursleys’ scene – even if the scene with Dudley that was shot and included on the DVD/Blu-ray is not that good.
-The chase portion of “The Seven Potters” just drops dead for me once it becomes a car chase. That would have been so much interesting – and unique – if it had stayed an aerial chase. Forget the whole secrecy thing – I’ll accept that they just don’t care about a relatively trivial matter like that anymore – I just don’t find it compelling. I’ve seen a million car chases, but I haven’t seen a million magical aerial battles.
-Great body language on Kreacher when Harry corners him about the locket.
-Dobby is actually hilarious in this movie: the “And then…” runner, “Of course. I’m an elf,” “Sir? I like her,” “Who gets his wand?” “Dobby never meant to kill. Dobby only intended to maim, or seriously injure.” Who knew?
-That “Magic is Might” statue is…yeah, it’s disturbing.
-Love that disorienting first shot of the forest after the trio narrowly escape the Ministry.
-I want to like the dancing scene more than I do. I understand why it’s there, it makes sense for Harry’s character for him to reach out like that and try to comfort Hermione a little…but it’s an awkward watch. And I hate that little almost-kiss at the end.
-Bathilda’s house is one hell of a set piece. Creepiness abounds.
-Ron killing the locket = possibly the best scene in Part 1. It is awesome to behold, it’s hard to watch, but man, it packs a wallop.
-“I’m always mad at him.” I always have fun with those self-referential lines that pop up in the last couple movies, like, “Why is it that, whenever something happens, it is always you three?”
-The Malfoy Manor scene is one of my big disappointments with the film. For me, the tension just drops out once Harry and Ron are taken to the cellar. Helena and Emma are bringing their A game – Emma’s screams are blood-curdling – but meanwhile, downstairs, Harry and Ron appear no more worried than they were when Snape set the essay the same day as a big quidditch match in third year. I also miss Ron’s pained and painful screams of Hermione’s name, not helping at all but not being able to stop himself either.
-I’m assuming that Wormtail’s death was cut not just for time, but because David Yates didn’t know how to visualize it without it looking ridiculous and losing the tension (which, again, I think he did anyway). I get that, because his death is such an odd one, it could look completely silly. It could also look surreal and scary and nightmarish. Missed opportunity there.
-I was concerned for years whether Dobby’s death would have any impact in the DH film. He’s been cut from four films in a row, so he hasn’t appeared in a Harry Potter movie since Chamber of Secrets. Surely no one is going to care that he dies, even the people who have been following the movies? I underestimated the power of a small, adorable creature being killed off in a movie, though, because Dobby’s death does make an impact, even with people who don’t know the books.
-Voldemort robbing Dumbledore’s grave and taking the Elder Wand was undoubtedly the right place to end the first part.
-“He did save our lives twice. And he’s been keeping an eye on us through that mirror all this time. That doesn’t sound like someone who’s given up.” Not sure if that’s it exactly, but what a good line.
-There are so many “cheer moments” in this film, where when I watch it in a theater, I have to repress just bursting into applause (I save the applause to the end). The McGonagall/Snape duel, however brief, is one of them. So is, “I’ve always wanted to use that spell!” And the bridge blowing up. And Ron & Hermione’s long-awaited kiss. And, most of all, “Not my daughter, you *****!” Give it up for Molly Weasley! I did applaud for that one, actually. There are many others. (Bellatrix’s actual death is neat, too; Molly’s not described as firing a killing curse in the book, so they had free reign, and it’s a cool effect.)
-Ron being able to get into The Chamber of Secrets by mimicking the sounds Harry made doesn’t work for me, because they took that right out of the book, and it didn’t work for me in the book. In CoS, Parseltongue was not a mere language, it was something you were either born with the ability to speak or not. Jo changed it because she needed Ron to get in to the Chamber. Okay, I get it, it just doesn’t work for me. The scene inside the Chamber is a good one, though.
-That was another good change, bringing us inside to show us Hermione destroying the cup with Ron and putting their kiss there.
-The sound during Snape's death is particularly unsettling, with that thumping sound each time Nagini strikes and Snape repeatedly hits the wall.
-On the one hand, I would have rather we’d seen Fred die. On the other, I’m fine with it as it is, because in the film, where do you put it? It wouldn’t work coming right after the Room of Requirement scene, which is where it was in the book.
-I keep forgetting what the exact line is, but I love the new “words are the most inexhaustible form of magic” line. I wonder if it was actually meant as a sort of tribute to Jo Rowling and these books, but that’s partly how it sounds.
-Bonnie Wright’s best moment in the series, no doubt, is when Ginny asks Neville who Hagrid is carrying, and then screams “NO!” when it’s confirmed to be Harry. That one hurts.
-A lot of fans have had a problem with Harry not using the Elder Wand to fix his own wand, but I love it. I love that he doesn't consider that, and it packs a bigger punch if he simply snaps the Elder wand - the Elder Wand - and tosses it. That says a lot about how little Harry cares about the kind of power the Elder Wand could bring him.
-The last pre-epilogue moment, with our trio looking off to their future, standing together holding hands, is just right.
-I’ve always enjoyed the epilogue in the book, but it is better in the movie. The first two times I saw it in a theater, there was a smattering of laughter during it, but it works for me. Sentimental, yes, but I want that kind of “happily ever after” sendoff.
ON THE WHOLE
Wow. To say that this marks the end of my childhood isn’t quite accurate; I got into Harry Potter when I was 12, and stopped feeling like a child a couple years before that anyway. The end of my adolescence, though…yeah, that’s about right. I’ve waxed nostalgic enough in the last couple of months, though. Here is where I say that Deathly Hallows is, easily, (1) the best film in the Harry Potter series, (2) my favorite film of the year so far, and (3) one of my favorite movies, period. It’s in my top 20. (Hyperbole? Damn right it is. It’s also true.) I feel simultaneously empty and full each time I see it. What a thrilling, emotional, satisfying movie and experience this is.
Last edited by IenjoyAcidPops; May 14th, 2012 at 2:19 am.
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