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Peter T Chattaway

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

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: As for Voldemort himself — that nightmare terror, that bogeyman, that satanic incarnation of evil — when he and Harry finally cross paths, he seems surprisingly mortal, finite, vulnerable.

Quite. I think his scenes even had a few people giggling, at times, at least at the screening I attended. He's not imposing the way he ought to be.

Oh, I disagree, I liked it a lot. Of course I'm not as invested in it as some; Fiennes was entertaining, and that's what I cared about.

: A brief coda gestures toward a return to normality with no hint of the road to recovery from Voldemort’s reign of terror.

It's still more than Star Wars gives us!

Do you mean in Return of the Jedi? Well, but the original trilogy also gave us little idea either [a.] what life before or apart from the Empire was like or [b.] what exactly was the institutional harm done by the Empire's reign (as opposed to the executive harm of having your planet blown up, or being massacred because you scavenged or bought the wrong droids, etc.). Other than a few atrocities on Tatooine, some fascist tactics at Bespin's Cloud City, and of course fighting the Alliance, we don't see a lot of the Empire's dirty work. No beloved institution like Hogwarts is reduced to rubble in the Star Wars trilogy, or left without a functioning head. The Imperial Senate barely existed in Episode IV before being dissolved, whereas the Ministry of Magic was something we watched get corrupted and co-opted. A planet was blown clean out the sky, but there's no reign of terror over cities we know that will have to be rebuilt. Etc.

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I've always thought Voldemort was a lame villain. Lame in the books, generally lame in the films. Fiennes' interpretation worked for me in GOBLET OF FIRE, in that specific moment and context, but I've always felt that the films failed to sufficiently take things from there.

We'll see how I feel about him in this film, whenever I do get around to seeing it.

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I can’t enjoy the last film’s visual punchline of a roomful of Harry Potters because of where that scene is going and my misgivings about it.

Not sure I quite follow, I mean, I get the "where the scene is going...but what are the misgivings?

I know I am quite alone, at least around here in having liked the last two films quite a bit (I thought Half Blood Prince had some great moments of humor).

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I can’t enjoy the last film’s visual punchline of a roomful of Harry Potters because of where that scene is going and my misgivings about it.

Not sure I quite follow, I mean, I get the "where the scene is going...but what are the misgivings?

I know I am quite alone, at least around here in having liked the last two films quite a bit (I thought Half Blood Prince had some great moments of humor).

I wrote about them in my review of Part 1.

Then a character who is ostensibly working for Voldemort, but who (I understand) will ultimately be revealed as a double agent on the side of good, provides Voldemort with secret information leading to an ambush in which a major good supporting character is killed and others are seriously wounded — and it could easily have gone worse. Even Harry could have been killed. Does this make sense for the double-agent character? Why not just play dumb and let the good guys get away clean?

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Ahhh...I get what you are saying I have my ticket for tonight in just a hour and a half...

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Voldemort and the Death Eaters are closer to Khan's posse than they are to the Klingon captain and his crew; they have no official, institutional power; they are a mob bound together only by a shared goal and, perhaps, the charisma of the leader. But Voldemort has no charisma. So that just leaves the shared goal, but it's not exactly clear just what that goal IS here.

The same thing we do every night, Pinky: try to take over the world! Don't the Death Eaters want to destroy all the good wizards and then subjugate all the Muggles?

It's still more than Star Wars gives us!

Have any reviewers picked up on the reference to Shakespeare's The Tempest in the penultimate scene on the causeway?

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Voldemort and the Death Eaters are closer to Khan's posse than they are to the Klingon captain and his crew; they have no official, institutional power; they are a mob bound together only by a shared goal and, perhaps, the charisma of the leader. But Voldemort has no charisma. So that just leaves the shared goal, but it's not exactly clear just what that goal IS here.

The same thing we do every night, Pinky: try to take over the world! Don't the Death Eaters want to destroy all the good wizards and then subjugate all the Muggles?

Earlier in the series, the Death Eaters wanted to eliminate all the mud-bloods (wizards whose parents aren't both wizards). It was a Nazi Aryan nation kind of thing. I think that's still the goal, though it's not mentioned as much in the last movies. And Voldemort's personal goal was to be immortal--first with horcruxes, then with the Deathly Hallows--but I'm not sure if he really cared about the pure blood thing as well, or if he was just using that to string the Death Eaters along.

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Well, since Voldemort was Muggle-born, it would seem his interest in "pure blood" was more a matter of convenience than of personal conviction.

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I've always thought Voldemort was a lame villain. Lame in the books, generally lame in the films. Fiennes' interpretation worked for me in GOBLET OF FIRE, in that specific moment and context, but I've always felt that the films failed to sufficiently take things from there.

We'll see how I feel about him in this film, whenever I do get around to seeing it.

I've not read the books, but I recall thinking while watching Part 1 that Voldemort is a particularly tame, almost camp, villain. He's better in Part 2, but not by much (and I wonder how much of that is due to the fact that, finally, things are moving forward).

It took fifteen minutes or so, but once the movie hit its stride I was pretty much won over. I'm not a Potter fan, and in spite of having seen all the movies I've not really got any emotional attachment to the world or characters, but the pacing here was brisk and efficient and the movie as a whole achieved a grandeur that left me wishing that some of the other films (the first couple, in particular) were better; I know it's because the movies were made while the series was ongoing, but I can't help thinking that this movie would have benefited if the filmmakers had known way back at Sorcerer's Stone exactly where things were heading. Because they didn't, and because the first two movies in particular were so lacking, some of the revelations that come out here lack "punch" (though the fact that I honestly don't feel much of anything for Harry as a character might contribute to that lack).

That's my biggest complaint with the film, actually; it's a good conclusion to what might be the most ambitious fantasy film series ever (not LOTR in size, but eclipsing it in duration) but because the series leading to it has been so uneven it sometimes seems to be reaching for effects it hasn't quite earned. Perhaps a marathon of all the movies would help, but I'm not sure I care enough about the series to go to that effort by myself.

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SDG wrote:

: Oh, I disagree, I liked it a lot. Of course I'm not as invested in it as some; Fiennes was entertaining, and that's what I cared about.

I dunno. I can't remember what your take on Fiennes was back when he was first introduced as Voldemort (nearly six years ago!), but I keep thinking back to how disappointing that introduction was. E.g., from my review:

However—and those who have not read the book may want to skip this paragraph—the film completely fumbles the ball at the most crucial moment, when Harry is caught by servants of the Dark Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and witnesses the macabre ritual that brings He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named back to full embodied life for the first time in over a dozen years. This is supposed to be the moment when Voldemort, who has snake-like nostril slits where his nose ought to be, steps out of the shadows and confronts us with his evil. But instead, he comes across as nothing but a whiner, a bald man in a cape with a bad nose job. When the Emperor made his first appearance in
Return of the Jedi
, I could believe that Darth Vader would voluntarily submit to him; but I find it difficult to imagine that someone as proud as, say, Malfoy's father (Jason Isaacs) would submit to
this
guy. Will children find this sequence scary? I'd like to think so, but I doubt anyone else will. . . .

Alas, in its climactic moments,
Goblet of Fire
fails to lay the groundwork that the next films so badly need.

And as I recall, my thoughts were echoed at the time by Jeff:

And when the dark lord finally arrives, he’s a complete letdown. It’s not Ralph Fiennes’ fault—you could say he’s “on the nose” with his performance, if Voldemort had a nose. He brings the necessary melodrama to the character, and the effects team gives him a particularly nasty visage. Line him up with the Emperor from
Revenge of the Sith
and Satan from
The Passion of the Christ
and you’ve got a striking family resemblance. But the scene is ridiculous. Voldemort prances around and whines at his cronies, then engages in an astonishingly unremarkable duel with the boy wizard. . . .

If it weren’t for the confoundingly ludicrous story and its misconceived climax, it might have been the best of the bunch. While the beginning proves that Harry’s nightmares can be terrifying indeed, the conclusion proves they can be like self-absorbed playground bullies in fancy dresses. They concoct far more elaborate plans than necessary to draw Harry away from his companions and confront him. And given extraordinary opportunities to finish him off, they botch it so badly that it will be hard to fear them when they return, inevitably, in the sequels.

Incidentally, I find the Emperor from Revenge of the Sith a HECK of a lot campier than the Emperor from Return of the Jedi. I can't even THINK of that character any more without recalling how my sister and I cracked up at him addressing Yoda as "my little... green... friend..."

: : It's still more than Star Wars gives us!

:

: Do you mean in Return of the Jedi? Well, but the original trilogy also gave us little idea either [a.] what life before or apart from the Empire was like or [b.] what exactly was the institutional harm done by the Empire's reign . . .

True. The original trilogy also came out at a time when Lucas was still talking about making NINE movies, so there was reason to believe the series wouldn't end with Episode VI anyway. It was only when he made the prequels that Lucas cut the number of episodes down to six... and of course, once the prequels came out, they cast everything in a whole new light, so that we now spend three movies watching the Empire destroy a corrupt Republic, and then we spend three movies watching the Rebellion destroy a corrupt Empire, which leaves these characters with... what?

: No beloved institution like Hogwarts is reduced to rubble in the Star Wars trilogy, or left without a functioning head.

That's partly because there are no beloved institutions, period, in the Star Wars trilogy... though I did mourn a wee bit when Vader's super star destroyer, introduced in Episode V, was destroyed in Episode VI.

NBooth wrote:

: . . . I know it's because the movies were made while the series was ongoing, but I can't help thinking that this movie would have benefited if the filmmakers had known way back at Sorcerer's Stone exactly where things were heading. Because they didn't, and because the first two movies in particular were so lacking, some of the revelations that come out here lack "punch" . . .

It's especially interesting when Deathly Hallows Part 2 includes an extended flashback sequence that spans a certain character's entire life (well, almost; we first see him when he's just a boy), and the sequence recycles footage from Philosopher's Stone in a way that is supposed to suggest certain characters were Thinking Things that we had no idea about at the time... but of course, when the film version of Philosopher's Stone was made in the first place, none of the actors had any idea about that back-story either, because the book version of Deathly Hallows was still six or seven years away.

Oh well. If we can accept that Obi-Wan Kenobi was lying to Luke Skywalker in Episode IV -- even though, as far as everyone (including George Lucas) knew at the time, he was actually telling the truth -- then I guess we can accept these other things, too.

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Just came out of the last film.

Meh.

So much noise, so many explosions, so many seemingly arbitrary magical items to find, so many seemingly arbitrary ways to destroy them, so many insufferably long wand showdowns (the most uninteresting kind, IMHO), so many seemingly arbitrary spells that can do seemingly arbitrary things (but never enough to make anybody really safe) ...

I never feel suspense watching these movies... just stress. It's the cast that has kept it interesting and amusing. I kept staring at Dumbledore's brother going, "Is that Ciarán Hinds? Wow! That's him! What great makeup!" That's what I consider a thrilling moment watching these films.

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: No beloved institution like Hogwarts is reduced to rubble in the Star Wars trilogy, or left without a functioning head.

That's partly because there are no beloved institutions, period, in the Star Wars trilogy...

That's my point. That's why I mind the last HP movie ending with Hogwarts in ruins (notwithstanding a brief epilogue that assures us that somehow everything worked out), and I don't have any similar objection to Return of the Jedi.

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It's especially interesting when Deathly Hallows Part 2 includes an extended flashback sequence that spans a certain character's entire life (well, almost; we first see him when he's just a boy), and the sequence recycles footage from Philosopher's Stone in a way that is supposed to suggest certain characters were Thinking Things that we had no idea about at the time... but of course, when the film version of Philosopher's Stone was made in the first place, none of the actors had any idea about that back-story either, because the book version of Deathly Hallows was still six or seven years away.

Oh well. If we can accept that Obi-Wan Kenobi was lying to Luke Skywalker in Episode IV -- even though, as far as everyone (including George Lucas) knew at the time, he was actually telling the truth -- then I guess we can accept these other things, too.

Actually, wasn't Alan Rickman entrusted with that information from the beginning? I thought I remember seeing that recently.

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Actually, wasn't Alan Rickman entrusted with that information from the beginning? I thought I remember seeing that recently.

Rowling did give him what he called "one small clue" about Snape to persuade him to take the part, but we don't know exactly what she said. Rickman alluded to it in a public thank-you note he wrote to Rowling after they wrapped the last movie.

[Edit.]

Just found this interview with Rowling, where she described what she said:

"JKR: He [Rickman] knew very early on that he'd been in love with Lily. 'Cause I told him so. We needed to have a conversation early on. He needed to understand, I think, and does completely understand and did completely understand where this bitterness towards this boy, who's living proof of her preference for another man, came from. Yeah, I told him that. He was the only person who knew that for a long, long time."

http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2007/1224-pottercast-anelli.html

Edited by bowen

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Oh, wow, that's awesome.

So Rowling had a hand in casting Rickman, a hand that not even Chris Columbus or the producers had? (I mean, she kept even THEM in the dark, even as Columbus and the subsequent directors were directing Rickman?) Interesting.

Suddenly I'm looking forward to re-watching these films with that in mind.

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Overstreet wrote:

: . . . so many seemingly arbitrary magical items to find, so many seemingly arbitrary ways to destroy them . . .

Arbitrary magical items to find, sure, why not? I mean, the whole point is that Voldemort wanted to put pieces of his soul into a wide range of objects, as a sort of insurance policy against death. The more arbitrary they are -- the harder it is to discern any pattern between them -- then the harder it should be for anyone to find them.

As for arbitrary ways to destroy them ... I don't think so. Most of them are destroyed with the Sword of Gryffindor or with the Basilisk fang, no? And both of these items were introduced to the franchise at least as far back as the second movie, when the first horcrux was destroyed (although we didn't know it was a horcrux at the time).

But even if there IS something arbitrary about all this, I dunno, it doesn't seem all that more arbitrary to me than a lot of things that happen in fairy tales.

FWIW, I've always liked Alan Jacobs' observation that each of the horcruxes is destroyed by a different person: Harry destroyed the first one in the second story, and Dumbledore destroyed the second one prior to the sixth story, but here, in the seventh story, the five remaining horcruxes are all destroyed by others (with two of them being destroyed unwittingly by the villains).

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Oh well. If we can accept that Obi-Wan Kenobi was lying to Luke Skywalker in Episode IV -- even though, as far as everyone (including George Lucas) knew at the time, he was actually telling the truth -- then I guess we can accept these other things, too.

Saw it last night, and was impressed at the achievement of this series in bringing a beloved fantasy series to a satisfying conclusion. I can't speak for others who remain unimpressed with the Harry Potter phenomenon, because I think it's at least as well done as any other series I can think of.

Peter's comment made me think about how I've really got to write something about how Dumbledore and Obi-Wan are such similar characters, hiding information from our heroes because they think they know better. It's interesting that in the end I am less enthralled with Dumbledore, and I am reminded at how compelling and heartbreaking Snape is as a character.

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I wish I could say differently, but the story never made me care. Maybe the books would have, but the movies didn't. I kept thinking of the Star Trek movies, which rarely ever made me feel a thing for anybody: too many powers, too many talismans, too many easy outs (time travel included). I just don't feel any suspense because I have no doubt there'll be a tricky way out of every situation. Other aspects of the story might interest me, but not the central conflict.

When the Hogwarts faculty raise their wands and cast a nice dome over Hogwarts, I found myself losing my concentration because I was thinking about The Simpsons Movie.

In fairy tales, there are some seemingly arbitrary magical things, sure. But fairy tales are usually rather limited in scope. Snow White - the apple, the curse, the mirror, the disguise. That's pushing it, but I can live with it. This one has so many magical tricks, I just sit there thinking... Well, why not try this? Or this? Or this? Lord of the Rings convinces me. I believe in that world, and I know that the heroes can fail, so I feel a great deal is at stake. Game of Thrones - good heavens, there's hardly any magic being thrown around, and central characters are suffering, dying, and just when you think things will get better, they get ten times worse. Harry Potterland is like Peter Pan, only they can fly, create force fields, time travel, become in invisible, shape shift, record their memories in tears, etc., etc., etc., ad infinitum.

Oh, that bit about not caring.. I take that back. The dragon. I did care about the dragon. Peter Jackson's got his work cut out for him, having to come up with a more exciting dragon than the one at the beginning of this movie.

And the final showdown... really?

It really comes down to the hero and the villain having a wand-down, and one of their wands fails, and the few things that keep him alive are destroyed, and the other guy fries him?

Really? Return of the Jedi sure wins in the final showdown department, as far as I'm concerned. So does Return of the King. Heck, I prefer how The Matrix Revolutions ends to this.

Oh... the bit about Harry's

heaven-like dalliance taking place at a place called "king's cross"

was a nice bit of ammunition for people who doubt claims of Christological symbolism in the film.

BTW, why did they ask Kelly Macdonald to minimize her Scottish accent and sound more American, I wonder?

Edited by Overstreet

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Oh... the bit about Harry's

heaven-like dalliance taking place at a place called "king's cross"

was a nice bit of ammunition for people who doubt claims of Christological symbolism in the film.

Just BTW, that location is

where the kids board the Hogwarts train (in the epilogue, as well as throughout the series),

so it's not like they only trot it out for that one scene.

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*** SPOILERS ***

Overstreet wrote:

: And the final showdown... really?

FWIW, I think the film might have changed the book, here. But I think that might be partly because the film's big "reveal" regarding the Elder Wand has been moved to a considerably later point in the film.

The crucial point here -- at least where the book is concerned, I think -- is not that a wand "fails", but that the villain essentially defeats HIMSELF by failing to understand the true nature of the wand he is using.

: Return of the Jedi sure wins in the final showdown department, as far as I'm concerned.

Oh, there are big logic problems with Return of the Jedi, even before we take the prequels and their new rules about the Sith into account. For starters, why is Darth Vader trying to STOP Luke from killing the Emperor, when, in The Empire Strikes Back, he had been trying to persuade Luke to help him KILL the Emperor? And why is Darth Vader trying to stop Luke from killing the Emperor (which, according to the Emperor, would move Luke over to the Dark Side), if he's just going to turn around and tell Luke to join the Dark Side too? Etc., etc., etc.

Whatever else we might say about the climax to the Harry Potter movies, they at least follow a more consistent character logic.

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Oh, I know. I just think it's great that *that* place gets named during *that* scene. I was being sincere - I think that's a cool detail.

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*** SPOILERS ***

Overstreet wrote:

: And the final showdown... really?

FWIW, I think the film might have changed the book, here. But I think that might be partly because the film's big "reveal" regarding the Elder Wand has been moved to a considerably later point in the film.

The crucial point here -- at least where the book is concerned, I think -- is not that a wand "fails", but that the villain essentially defeats HIMSELF by failing to understand the true nature of the wand he is using.

Yeah, with the way the last 3rd or so of the series was written, the showdown had to be somewhat anticlimactic. They couldn't face Voldemort until he was already weakened (the horcruxes), and the bit with the Elder Wand and the end of Half-Blood Prince that I finally think I understand now.

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Oh, there are big logic problems with Return of the Jedi, even before we take the prequels and their new rules about the Sith into account. For starters, why is Darth Vader trying to STOP Luke from killing the Emperor, when, in The Empire Strikes Back, he had been trying to persuade Luke to help him KILL the Emperor? And why is Darth Vader trying to stop Luke from killing the Emperor (which, according to the Emperor, would move Luke over to the Dark Side), if he's just going to turn around and tell Luke to join the Dark Side too? Etc., etc., etc.

Well, Vader wants to kill the emperor so he and Luke can rule the universe together. Luke has rejected that and it was only in partnership with Luke that Vader envisioned killing the Emperor. Luke killing the Emperor while Luke was still Vader's enemy isn't what he was aiming for. Also, it isn't entirely clear whether the Emperor was as helpless as he looked and as dependent on Vader's protection; it could easily have been a test by the Emperor of both of them.

As to the whole relationship between The Force and emotions, I'm not sure that there is any consistent way through the various pronouncements the various characters make on the subject. Any time you get close to that subject, I have no particular defense of the movies to offer.

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SDG wrote:

: As for Voldemort himself — that nightmare terror, that bogeyman, that satanic incarnation of evil — when he and Harry finally cross paths, he seems surprisingly mortal, finite, vulnerable.

Quite. I think his scenes even had a few people giggling, at times, at least at the screening I attended. He's not imposing the way he ought to be.

There was no giggling in the showing I went to. Heck, the audiance clapped excitedly at the end. Me? I was plenty satisfied. I felt like the kids all turned in strong performances, and as SDG pointed out, the return of the humor after the much lower key of part one was nice.

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I was watching this last night, and our projector pretty much died. Caput. Dead. And so after getting through all the Gringotts stuff, we were shuffled out and told that we would not be seeing HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2. I'm wondering whether I'll take a second stab at seeing it in theaters.

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