On Harry Potter (A review, with some other thoughts thrown in)

I finally saw Harry Potter 7.2 last weekend. Prior to seeing it on Saturday, my head was full of all the things I wanted to write about it. I count myself a pretty big fan … not from the beginning, but pretty close. I saw the first movie in a midnight showing, and blah blah blah. I was going to recount for you my personal experience with the Harry Potter franchise.

And then I saw the movie. After that, I found I had very little to say. Because it was over. Really and truly, properly over. And I’m totally fine with that. I believe this is what is called “closure.” Of course, though, there’s plenty to say about the individual movie, and about its position within the larger franchise, so we’ll do that. Onward! If you have not read or seen any Harry Potter by now, I am going to assume that you have no interest, and are therefore skipping this post. If you are, on the other hand, into it, I don’t feel that I need to give you the usual synopsis. You know the story by now.

I think that, taken collectively, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is probably my favorite of the movies. I know that a lot of people thought part one was excessively boring, what with Harry, Hermione, and Ron just sort of wandering around and experiencing a lot of teenaged angst. That movie did exactly what it was supposed to do, though, in setting up all of the events of part 2. Additionally, I really enjoyed the opportunity to take a break from all the action, as it were, and take stock of the characters themselves. They’d been forced to grow up at an exponentially faster pace throughout the series, and in the Deathly Hallows, we get a chance to see how that growing up as worked out for them. They’re making tough choices, realizing things about themselves and each other, and they’re facing up to a pretty grim reality. The actors, too, have grown up, and we’ve witnessed that as well. They’ve all become very capable, and that was an enjoyable thing to watch.

With regard to 7.2, I think that it picked up very smoothly from where 7.1 left off, both in terms of the plot and the abilities of the actors/development of the characters. In the end, I think that Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint have all done a fine job, never mind the glittering cast of supporting actors, most of Britain’s finest. There’s really nothing bad to be said about the acting. Three cheers for Ciaran Hinds, completely unrecognizable as Aberforth Dumbledore. Three cheers for Matthew Lewis, who has grown (along with his character, Neville) into the unsung hero of the franchise. Hurrah for Maggie Smith and Julie Walters getting to have some fun scenes. And finally, a round of applause for Helena Bonham-Carter for bringing a great amount of good, scary fun to her role as Bellatrix Lestrange. The supporting characters of these movies really show you how quality the entirety of the franchise has been.

I can’t leave the acting side of things, of course, without saying a few things about Alan Rickman, and his character, Severus Snape. Let me be clear: I really loathe Snape. We’re supposed to. Heroism aside, he’s still a pretty deplorable human being. Having said that, however, I think that the major failing of the Harry Potter film franchise is that it did itself (and viewers) a disservice by not giving Rickman enough screen time throughout. That includes the final movie. Rickman was, of course, fantastic, but I still feel as though he didn’t quite get his due. That may fall into the final analysis, though, which I’ll get to in a minute.

What I initially thought about the movie was that it felt very perfunctory. It moves – bam, bam, bam – from important point to important point as if it’s checking items off of a to-do list. The second half of Deathly Hallows is all action, though, so it makes sense that it would be that way a bit, and besides, we all wanted to see those important points. The audience I was part of definitely cheered the big moments of McGonagall, Molly, and Neville. What is less enjoyable, though, is the way in which some more dramatic moments (Snape, Fred, Tonks & Lupin) seem to get passed over in the rush to get back to more action.

Here’s the main point I want to make, though. I came to realize it yesterday, after reading RTM’s final assessment, in which she declares that HP7.2 doesn’t deliver on its advertised “epicness.” The very best thing about the world of Harry Potter is this. While J.K. Rowling created an incredibly rich and imaginative world, she filled it with real people. Magic abilities aside, all of the characters could be people we know. They’ve got strengths and flaws, some of them are equal parts good and bad, they feel happiness and pain, and they live. It is my opinion that the movies captured that aspect as well, particularly the last two. As such, I don’t think that we should want for the final act to be “epic” in the sense of a summer blockbuster. What it does convey is so much more real than that. It conveys a world in which nobody knows whether they’ll live to see tomorrow, a world in which young people are asked to make sacrifices and look inside themselves to find bravery and strength they didn’t know they had. The final days of the battle these people are waging are not epic; they’re exhausting. They’re moment after moment of triumph and then despair. One step forward, two steps back. And to me, whether or not I would’ve liked a few more moments to weep over the deaths of “friends”, or a bit more screen time for certain characters, the movie captured that perfectly. The movement from point to point signals a sense of numbness, of the job still to be done, in spite of everything else. And in the end, there’s no celebration. It is epic, but in a quiet way. This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang, but with a whimper.

Finally, the only thing left to say is Thank you. Thanks to Ms. Rowling, and to all of the people who brought her world to life. All the little nit-picky complaints we have about the movies should give way to the realization that we care enough to make them, and that means that something amazing has happened, and that it will not be easily re-created any time soon. From the first moment to the last, I’ve enjoyed every second, and I look forward to sharing it with my daughter (when she’s old enough) in the hopes that she, too, will find it all magical.


4 responses to “On Harry Potter (A review, with some other thoughts thrown in)

  1. Ah, woe me for wanting it to be epic then 😀 Anyway, nice review… way more well-written that I could ever do but that is to be expected of course. We all are going to have differing opinions about this but I agree that despite our nitpicks, it’s still an excellent series and perhaps one of the best cinematic literary adaptations that Rowling can be proud of.

  2. Aw, thanks! I certainly did not mean to say that your perspective was wrong … it just gave me something to think about. I agree that it was not “epic” in the sense of being a huge spectacle, but I guess I kind of liked that about it. 🙂

  3. I think it was ‘epic’. An epic anti-climax. But like you say, we never really wanted it to be the best film ever, or even the best film in the series. We’re just glad to have closure and that we can remember the films as fondly as we will the books.

  4. I’m totally with you in liking Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows the most. Yes, part 1 was a lot more contemplative and slow than the other movies but I really enjoyed that.

    I think Part 2 was overly economical. As you said, the film moves from important point to important points with very little time to breathe. Finally, you are totally right that Harry Potter was never supposed to be epic like Lord of the Rings for example. From the beginning, it has always been about Harry, Ron and Hermione, characters we have come to love. It wouldn’t have been right if the movie spent 15 minutes on the courtyard battle scene while the main trio of characters are off-screen doing their thing. I’m glad the movie sticks with the characters the entire time.

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