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Peter T Chattaway

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

93 posts in this topic

Diane Vincent @ The Scriptorium makes some excellent, excellent points about the changes that this film makes to the book's climactic battle, e.g.:

When you look back to the early Harry Potter movies, it’s hard to remember in this last that you’re in the same world, a world in which there was a multitude of imaginative ways to do just about anything from cooking dinner to incapacitating your enemies. Here in Hallows 2, most dueling seems to be limited to the standard Hollywood toolbox of lasers, wire work, and explosions. In general the magic is boring, and the wonder is gone.

There are some exceptions–the brief duel between McGonagall and Snape in the Great Hall, Voldemort’s cloak enwrapping Harry, the animation of the Hogwarts statues (which mostly then just stand around)–but didn’t you miss the galloping school desks? The house rubies spilling to the floor of the Great Hall? Dear horticutural Neville throwing deadly plants at Death Eaters? In the book, invention, whimsy, and wondrous things are still at work, even in such grave times.

I get that the movie wants to show you that now that Voldemort’s in control, there’s no room for the dewy-eyed wonder of 11-year-old Harry, but this world of mere flashes and bangs turns magic into mere Hollywood blockbuster might. Sparks shooting out of wands is not terribly different from bullets flying out of guns. To be mundane when you should be magical is a tacit agreement with Voldemort’s line: “Magic is Might”. Whatever magic is in Rowling’s work, it is never reduced to mere might, and it never ceases to draw out the wonder hidden in the everyday. . . .

And this is why the movie also fails to be mundane, to be everyday and ordinary and even a bit boring, at the crucial point when it ought to: Voldemort’s death. . . .

bowen wrote:

: 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.

FWIW, the Dark Empire comics produced by Dark Horse in the early '90s claimed that the Emperor knew he would come back to life because there were copies of his body in the cloning chambers left over from the Clone Wars; when Vader threw the Emperor down the shaft and that blue energy wave flew out of the Emperor's body, it was the Emperor's spirit returning to the cloning chambers on Coruscant.

Apocryphal, perhaps. But there WAS a time -- before the prequels started gumming things up -- when Lucasfilm claimed that the novels and comics were all part of a single, officially-approved continuity. And the comic's theory did explain a few things.

Ryan H. wrote:

: I was watching this last night, and our projector pretty much died. Caput. Dead.

Oh weird. I just came across a story of another projector failure that took place during one of the midnight screenings.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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RE: Finding arbitrary objects...

In the books, every object is explained by its particular connection/appeal to Tom Riddle. We get so much more information about him as a character, his rise, his followers, etc. The way that Horcruxes can be destroyed is another element that seems arbitrary in the movie that could have been explained-- Horcruxes are a deep dark kind of magic that can only be undone by similarly robust means. Additionally, the books carry much more of a racial plot than the movies do, and this has a big connection to Voldemort's personal ethics and those of the Death Eaters. We get just hints of this in the fifth film, when they go through the Big-Brother Ministry of Magic and see the statue with the Wizards propped up by all the other magical creatures. Hermione has a large role in the books as an activist on the part of House Elves and other abused magical creatures. So in the book, the final battle serves also as a culmination of a lot of the racial tension between these creatures. One of the plot elements that I wished they had included was Harry's inherited House Elf, Kreacher (who belonged originally to Sirius). While Harry is just as abusive to the ungrateful Kreacher in the beginning as anyone, as soon as he begins to show the creature kindness, he displays a complete turnaround, even leading the House Elves into battle at the end to protect his master.

Jeff, as far as not caring about the characters, I think I can understand that. It's hard to separate myself from the books in this regard, and I can't tell if I would have any attachment to the films alone. Part of the reason the books are so long is that they are chock full of all these tiny, funny character moments that let you really live with them. But in the end, I'd have to say the single greatest downfall of the films is the lack of development in the relationship between Dumbledore and Harry. In the fifth book, Harry spends his time in bitterness and rage over an absent Dumbledore who doesn't explain things to him, climaxing in a confrontation in which Harry nearly destroys his office in frustration. But he is soon humbled by the depth of love that Dumbledore displays for him. Harry and Dumbledore's conversations in the sixth book, about Tom Riddle's choices and Harry coming to grips with his task, are mature and profound-- and honestly made me think about my faith in a way I hadn't necessarily before, what with its discussion on what it means to be "chosen," what it means to make choices in light of first being chosen. But then the seventh book is the seeming undoing of Harry's faith in Dumbledore, when he must confront all kinds of truths unearthed about him, about his past failings and weaknesses, failings not even far off from those of Tom Riddle (completely brushed past in the films). When Harry, in the seventh book, claims he is "Dumbledore's man, through and through," it is a moment to bring tears to the eyes-- for here is a young man whose beliefs have been through the fire, whose hero has been sorely tested, and he can finally say that he knows what he is about.

Really thinking about it, the films do present a much more flat "adventure" plot than the books do. There are adventures aplenty in the books, too, but somehow they all seem to come back to the souls of the characters-- there's a lot of talking about things, a lot of connecting things, and maybe others find that boring, but I find it essential. I like watching the films because they do bring things to life, but they really are an outline for a series that has a lot more on its mind than the films can reveal.

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Diane Vincent @ The Scriptorium makes some excellent, excellent points about the changes that this film makes to the book's climactic battle, e.g.:

When you look back to the early Harry Potter movies, it’s hard to remember in this last that you’re in the same world, a world in which there was a multitude of imaginative ways to do just about anything from cooking dinner to incapacitating your enemies. Here in Hallows 2, most dueling seems to be limited to the standard Hollywood toolbox of lasers, wire work, and explosions. In general the magic is boring, and the wonder is gone.

There are some exceptions–the brief duel between McGonagall and Snape in the Great Hall, Voldemort’s cloak enwrapping Harry, the animation of the Hogwarts statues (which mostly then just stand around)–but didn’t you miss the galloping school desks? The house rubies spilling to the floor of the Great Hall? Dear horticutural Neville throwing deadly plants at Death Eaters? In the book, invention, whimsy, and wondrous things are still at work, even in such grave times.

I get that the movie wants to show you that now that Voldemort’s in control, there’s no room for the dewy-eyed wonder of 11-year-old Harry, but this world of mere flashes and bangs turns magic into mere Hollywood blockbuster might. Sparks shooting out of wands is not terribly different from bullets flying out of guns. To be mundane when you should be magical is a tacit agreement with Voldemort’s line: “Magic is Might”. Whatever magic is in Rowling’s work, it is never reduced to mere might, and it never ceases to draw out the wonder hidden in the everyday. . . .

And this is why the movie also fails to be mundane, to be everyday and ordinary and even a bit boring, at the crucial point when it ought to: Voldemort’s death. . . .

I never got this far into the film, but this has always been my issue with Yates' "darkening up" of the series. The whimsy gets lost, just because Yates wants to emphasize how severe everything is, so we get gloomier color palettes and stormy skies and less time spent on the charm of Hogwarts. But just because the stakes are high doesn't mean all the imagination and color has to go by the wayside.

Oh weird. I just came across a story of another projector failure that took place during one of the midnight screenings.

Well, we didn't have to have police come to keep the peace, but our theater was nevertheless pretty grumpy. And with good reason.

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Wow, Mike D'Angelo's sum-up makes mine unnecessary. I'm with him every word of the way.

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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 have read all the books, most of them more than once, and I can understand why you feel this way. Rowling is a good writer, and the Potter universe she has created is memorable. The last book in particular wrapped up the entire story in a pretty gratifying way. But I have never cared much for Harry/Ron/Hermione. Harry remains pretty whiny throughout the entire series, and Ron and Hermione remain generally flat alternatives to Harry's personality.

In comparison to other recent children's series (Chaos Walking, the first Hunger Wars book, Auralia Thread, Giver, Summerland, Gifts, etc...), I don't think these characters have anything to offer my children in terms of identity and ethical formation. I would definitely buy other books for them when they are ready to start reading at this level.

That said, I am looking forward to seeing this tonight.

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In comparison to other recent children's series (Chaos Walking

I'd forgotten about the Chaos Walking books. I think their concept is much better than the execution, but I still want to finish the series.

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I haven't read the last one yet. That is one area where Rowling succeed where others (Hunger Games, ahem) fail dramatically. The Potter series is consistently good for its length.

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In comparison to other recent children's series (Chaos Walking

I'd forgotten about the Chaos Walking books. I think their concept is much better than the execution, but I still want to finish the series.

FWIW I loved the last one, but I read them in a giant blur, so I can't really be sure how much stuck with me. I don't think either of the sequels were as good as the first book, but I still adored the series as a whole.

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There are some exceptions–the brief duel between McGonagall and Snape in the Great Hall, Voldemort’s cloak enwrapping Harry, the animation of the Hogwarts statues (which mostly then just stand around)–but didn’t you miss the galloping school desks? The house rubies spilling to the floor of the Great Hall? Dear horticutural Neville throwing deadly plants at Death Eaters? In the book, invention, whimsy, and wondrous things are still at work, even in such grave times.

This was our exact response. The lengthy end of the book was epic. Every character got their due in a scene that tied either tied together the loose ends of their storylines and presented the strength of their magic as the result of a coming-of-age or allowed us to finally see them in action. So the Neville scenes were very rousing. Hogwarts itself rose to the occasion. We finally get to see Flitwick and McGonagall take care of business. Mrs. Weasley vs. Bellatrix essentially became a microcosm of the whole series. But we get none of this in the film, which is a noticeable loss.

However... Willow needs a best actor nomination for Griphook. All the goblins were fantastic.

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In general, having now watched through the entire series of films, I would say that DH1&2 --as a unit-- are a satisfying movie, but neither, on its own, stands well. What I liked best of DH2 was Snape's memoirs, which made me cry. I too wish that there were a little more clarity/closure at the end of the film, and it seems to me that the films work better if you have read the books to fill in what can feel otherwise like plot gaps.

I'll go back to silent lurking now. I feel hugely underqualified talking about movies, anyway.

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Someone posted this on Jeff's facebook, and I found it absolutely rousing and maddening. Basically, it's an explanation of how Hollywood manage to subtly wrest the Christian imagery from the ending of Deathly Hallows. The De-Theologizing of Harry Potter:

To fully grasp what's going on at this point in the book, we have to think of the significance of the Deathly Hallows, which are after all what the book is all about. The theme of the book is established many chapters earlier, at Godric's Hollow, with the twin New Testament passages, "The last enemy to be destroyed is death" and "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Harry wants to destroy the power of death, to become the master of death, but the way in which he does so is crucial. It matters where his treasure is, what it is that he truly values. If he wants to overcome death for himself, to set himself up as its master, then he will be little better than Voldemort. This is the symbolism of the choice between Hallows and Horcruxes, which is built up throughout the earlier chapters of the book and comes to a razor-sharp point at Shell Cottage. Harry recognizes that he must choose between pursuing the Hallows, overcoming the power of death by taking to himself more power than death, or by embracing the route of powerlessness, the long hard path of destroying the Horcruxes, which means eventually giving himself up to death on behalf of others. (This fascinating dialectic is almost completely left out in the film The Deathly Hallows Part One, and so its resonances are absent at the crucial moment in Part Two, and the extensive conversation on this point between Harry and Dumbledore at King's Cross is omitted.)

Harry is to become the master of death, but master not by setting himself over it but by putting himself under it. Death exhausts its force by being poured out on him, the one who willingly seeks it for himself to save others. Love is stronger than death. "But I should have died--I didn't defend myself! I meant to let him kill me!" Harry exclaims. "And that," Dumbledore replies, "will, I think, have made all the difference." This enigmatic comment is left unexplained, but for the reader looking for an explanation within the existing logic of the books, Harry's cheating of death is explained in terms of the power of Harry's blood, itself clearly rich with theological overtones. The power of love in his mother's sacrifice is in his blood, and although Voldemort took Harry's blood to weaken Harry and strengthen himself, in this blood is the power of life that makes it impossible for Voldemort to finally kill Harry.

In short, in Harry's death, we witness the death of death in his own death. Like Christ, "death has no more dominion over him." What this means is more than just the destruction of another Horcrux; Harry has not just struck one more blow, but in fact the decisive blow. But to bring this decisive blow to completion, Harry must be resurrected. Death must be publicly exhibited as overthrown, its powerlessness before the power of love must be displayed and enacted, Harry must tread the powers of evil underfoot, must reverse the sentence of death that Voldemort has enacted on him by returning it upon Voldemort. And this resurrection must be no mere "rescuscitation," it must be the return to life of someone over whom death no longer has hold (more on this in the next section).

All of this, I think, is clear enough in the book, although generally hinted at rather than openly set forth.

In the film? Nope. In the film, the conversation between Dumbledore and Harry is abbreviated so as to omit any sustained reflection on the significance of what has happened, and Harry simply asks, more or less, "So, can I go back?" To which Dumbledore replies, more or less, "Well, if you want to." Why should he be able to go back? On what basis? Can the story just conveniently break the rules of its own world whenever it wants to? No, as in Narnia, what we have here is not the normal rules of magic, but a deeper magic at work. Thus far, the departure in the film is primarily one of omission, not commission, but the ramifications are still significant. The following features will show, I think, that I am not reading too much into this omission.

It's a long article, that's maybe a quarter of it. But it reminded me of why the ending of the book made me weep and feel full for days and why the movie made me feel, uh, yeah, that was pretty sweet.

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Wow. After setting a record last week for the biggest opening weekend of all time ($169.2 million), Deathly Hallows Part 2 dropped a whopping 71.6% to gross "only" $48.1 million in its second weekend -- a figure that doesn't even crack the top 20 list of second weekends. In North America, that is. Don't know about overseas.

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PTC: Think pent-up demand; and then they all saw it right away. I don't imagine there will be a long trailing edge, either; it's part 8 of a series, so you're likely watching it to conclude the series. As my mother-in-law noted, if you didn't see part 1--- let alone the rest of the series--- the movie doesn't make much sense.

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To be honest, I'm always surprised when I come back from these films to find that the critical notices are generally positive. I enjoy them, of course, but then I come pre-invested. I love these stories and these characters, and where the films rush past key plot points and major character developments, I can fill them in and feel relatively satisfied. As a visual highlights reel, they're pretty good. But I've always imagined non-readers reactions ought to be more like Jeffrey's or D'Angelo's. What's satisfying about a bunch of two-note characters running around with wand lasers killing acclaimed actors offscreen and answering questions with obscure references to minor plot points from half a decade ago? It's certainly not the whimsy any more, and it can't be the chemistry-less romance (Friends and I left the film naming on-screen pairings who had more chemistry than Harry and Ginny. Harry and Griphook, for example.). Is it the wonderful British cast? The occasional flashes of humor? The light show? The sheer spectacle of it all? Apparently the films are really successful with plenty of people who've never cracked open a book, so there must be something.

Personally, I think Steve Kloves has been this franchise's achilles heel. He's a terrible editor, and while I think he catches some of the humor and general atmosphere of Rowling's books, I'm not convinced he understands the actual themes. Since Prisoner of Azkaban, he's kept the mechanisms of the plot but failed to explain why they matter. If this film left you wondering, Steven, why Harry throws away the elder wand, then it failed. It might still succeed on some basic, archetypal level, but it fails to capture even the most basic thrust of what Rowling was actually saying. Why keep the interminable itinerancy in part 1 but cut the actual revelations about Dumbledore that sap Harry's spirits and lend meaning to his dark camping trip of the soul? Why keep Harry's death and resurrection but ignore the deeper sort of magic that enables it? Why, for goodness sake, not give the protagonist and antagonist the proper final lines of their conflict – expelliarmus and avada kevadra, respectively – which surely cut as close to the heart of their differences as anything? The only film that's really felt coherent to me was Order of the Phoenix, which was of course written by someone else. (I love Prisoner of Azkaban, but not because it's especially coherent.)

All that said, I got a little choked up nonetheless. I think the most powerful moment was the realization as the trio charged off into one of the battles that we have literally watched these three children grow up on screen. I know that's fairly common in television, but I can't think of a single film franchise that's been able to pull it off without recasting/skipping large periods of time/dwindling out. I may only love this film because I'm pre-invested, but let's face it, I am really pre-invested.

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Nathaniel, I find your analysis completely convincing.

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Nathaniel, I find your analysis completely convincing.

I'm glad! Since your review of Prisoner of Azkaban is pretty much the framework for how I view the rest of Kloves' failures. Incidentally, I know you said you got bogged down in Goblet of Fire and stopped reading the books, but given your comments on the movies I think there's a lot of moral material in the seventh book especially that you would find really, really interesting and heartening. A lot of things you would find objectionable, too, but still as a cultural bellwether really interesting.

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dark camping trip of the soul

Hah! Brilliant. I absolutely love that.

Why, for goodness sake, not give the protagonist and antagonist the proper final lines of their conflict – expelliarmus and avada kevadra, respectively – which surely cut as close to the heart of their differences as anything?

This. This is one of my biggest qualms with it. That moment, when evil seeks to kill and goodness seeks to disarm is SO important. Love is comparatively weak in it's manifestations, it doesn't not seek to overpower, just to disarm. That is so important! Instead we get wordless crossing of ghostbuster beams. Buh.

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I enjoy them, of course, but then I come pre-invested. I love these stories and these characters, and where the films rush past key plot points and major character developments, I can fill them in and feel relatively satisfied. As a visual highlights reel, they're pretty good. But I've always imagined non-readers reactions ought to be more like Jeffrey's or D'Angelo's.

That's where I am-- the books are so a part of my brain that I can watch the movies and feel as if I've had a really satisfying literary experience when in fact I've just been reminded of one.

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I enjoy them, of course, but then I come pre-invested. I love these stories and these characters, and where the films rush past key plot points and major character developments, I can fill them in and feel relatively satisfied. As a visual highlights reel, they're pretty good. But I've always imagined non-readers reactions ought to be more like Jeffrey's or D'Angelo's.

That's where I am-- the books are so a part of my brain that I can watch the movies and feel as if I've had a really satisfying literary experience when in fact I've just been reminded of one.

That's a great line for a film review, if Roger Ebert hasn't already used it – "This isn't a good movie, but at least it reminds me of one."

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I enjoy them, of course, but then I come pre-invested. I love these stories and these characters, and where the films rush past key plot points and major character developments, I can fill them in and feel relatively satisfied. As a visual highlights reel, they're pretty good. But I've always imagined non-readers reactions ought to be more like Jeffrey's or D'Angelo's.

That's where I am-- the books are so a part of my brain that I can watch the movies and feel as if I've had a really satisfying literary experience when in fact I've just been reminded of one.

This is entirely accurate. This finale reminded me that there are only a few points in the film series that had the same effect on me as the books. These two points were the salvific patronus in the woods and the rise of the Nick Cave track during the "dark camping trip of the soul."

Other than that, the films are flimsy echoes of the reading process. Even given the frisson of having watched these kids grow up over the last ten years, and having gone to these films with loads of friends on several continents, not getting to see Neville be awesome is a let-down. That editing critique is spot-on.

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It sounds like it's about time to reboot the series.

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It sounds like it's about time to reboot the series.

They better wait till the Potterheads have kids.

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It sounds like it's about time to reboot the series.

Of all your one-liners, this one really got me.

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It sounds like it's about time to reboot the series.

My write-up.

Edited by Tyler

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I've read a few of the books over the years but am not at all invested in them as a reading experience. Perhaps that will all change when I begin reading them to my daughter, but for now, at least, Harry Potter is to me a film series, and one I've enjoyed quite a lot over the years and am sorry to see end.

I can't really speak to Kloves's failings as an editor since I haven't read a few of the books he adapted, but from what I did read, I should think that Rowling gets a bit of the blame, too. I was surprised in Deathly Hallows when she only devoted a few sentences to the deaths of a couple main characters. She wrote it exactly as it's depicted in the film -- Harry returns to Hogwarts and walks past the bodies. I suppose she needed to balance the sentiment and the many narrative peaks and valleys in the closing hundreds of pages, but I still wish they'd gotten more words/screen time.

Maybe I'm especially sensitive to this because Lupin is my favorite character in the series. Azkhaban remains by far my favorite of the films, and I think it's mostly because the tragedy is driven by character. Lupin is what he is and can't escape the horror of his situation. Compare that with all of Goblet of Fire, where you have this fairly arbitrary narrative contrivance -- a wizarding tournament -- that is really just an excuse to expand the scope of the wizarding world* and put Harry and other students in unnecessary danger. Cuaron captured more emotion and tragedy in a few scenes with Thewlis than the other directors managed in the other seven, which is a real shame.

I still teared up a bit during the Snape scenes, though, and really enjoyed Dumbledore's dialog with Harry in the white train station. All in all, a satisfactory though not completely satisfying finale.

*I will never understand why hundreds of thousands of wizards from around the world would travel to England for a Quidditch tournament in Goblet and yet none of them offer to help defend Hogwarts. Isn't there, like, a Wizarding UN or NATO? I like to pretend the fourth book/film doesn't exist.

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