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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2


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#61 Lauren Wilford

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 12:25 PM

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.

#62 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 24 July 2011 - 12:36 PM

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.

#63 metalfoot

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Posted 25 July 2011 - 09:03 AM

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.

#64 N.K. Carter

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Posted 25 July 2011 - 11:31 AM

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.

#65 SDG

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Posted 25 July 2011 - 04:55 PM

Nathaniel, I find your analysis completely convincing.

#66 N.K. Carter

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Posted 25 July 2011 - 05:18 PM

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.

#67 Scholar's Parrot

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Posted 25 July 2011 - 07:01 PM

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.

#68 Lauren Wilford

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Posted 25 July 2011 - 07:50 PM

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.

#69 N.K. Carter

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Posted 25 July 2011 - 08:20 PM


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."

#70 M. Leary

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 09:52 AM


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.

#71 Tyler

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 10:21 AM

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

#72 Lauren Wilford

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 10:23 AM

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


They better wait till the Potterheads have kids.

#73 M. Leary

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 10:27 AM

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


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

#74 Tyler

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 12:56 PM

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


My write-up.

Edited by Tyler, 26 July 2011 - 12:57 PM.


#75 Darren H

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 02:54 PM

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.

#76 NBooth

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 10:46 PM


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


My write-up.


“We wanted M. Night Shyamalan at first, but he was busy,” Rowling said. “So instead, I am proud to announce the new visionary shepherding the Harry Potter franchise will be Lars Von Trier.”

Von Trier is a Danish auteur famous for establishing the Dogme movement and for creating ultra-explicit parables depicting the hopelessness of modern life and the futility of human achievement. He said in a statement, “I have accepted Ms. Rowling’s offer to bring to the screen her delightful stories of a Nietzchean iconoclast warlock who rails against the hegemonic kakistocracy typified by white men in flowing robes in order to inaugurate a new age of bourgeois nihilistic ennui. And, it will be nice to finally make a movie my kids can go see.”


I'm there. And I'll bring the popcorn.

#77 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 27 July 2011 - 11:57 AM

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

And when they do, they had better do it right this time: As a TV series, with each book spread out over a year-long season/series, rather than as a movie series which compresses the stories so that they don't have room to breathe like the books do.

Darren H wrote:
: 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.

Definitely agreed about Azkaban being the best film. Don't know if Lupin is my favorite character, per se, but he's definitely one of the big reasons why Azkaban works as well as it does.

: 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've wondered about that too. Though the English civil war, as it were, is so brief (it's really only out in the open in the 6th and 7th books) that it might have been over before any international agencies could have intervened. Especially given how the Ministry of Magic -- the closest thing to an official government structure here -- is essentially on Voldemort's side.

#78 Ryan H.

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Posted 27 July 2011 - 04:58 PM

I went to see it again today. This time, the projector didn't malfunction. That said, I ended up leaving the theater pretty disappointed. Thought it was kinda lousy, with the emphasis on all the wrong bits.

#79 Andrew

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Posted 31 July 2011 - 05:14 PM

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 respectfully disagree. I think there's wonderful, powerful stuff in the books (and to a lesser degree, the films) about faithfulness to one's ideals and friends, self-sacrifice, protecting those who are weaker, the power of a mother's love, etc.

#80 M. Leary

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Posted 01 August 2011 - 08:11 AM

The end really is quite powerful in the way it fully develops all those themes you mention. But when I list all many of the younger YA fiction characters I can recall, these specific three are not at the top of the list. They just squeak into the top third really.

Neville, on the other hand, is much higher up. And the twins.

Edited by M. Leary, 01 August 2011 - 08:11 AM.