15 July, 2011

Harry Potter. The End. The analysis... well, some of it.

I think I'm still recovering from that viewing; I'm at LeakyCon 2011 presenting on film adaptation and geeking out with some friends, and we've just returned from the screening.  I kinda forgot the mania and emotion with final installments; I haven't been around one since the seventh book came out, and this is like mecca for dramatic reactions right now. At Leaky Con, at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, when the final film comes out... craziness. It was like the last day of summer camp when girls don't want to say goodbye to their friends. Wailing. Heaving sobs. Madness... but also a brilliant exhibition of the emotion manifested through reading, books, adaptation, and the communities created with fiction.

Right... back to the post... 

Hot damn, so much to talk about. I wrote most of this post two weeks ago, but I’ve been at LeakyCon all week in Orlando Florida, talking about Harry Potter, analyzing Harry Potter, watching clips, debating text vs. film, seeing the park at Universal Studios, and seeing the film for the second time surrounded by the most die-hard fans I’ve ever had the pleasure of sharing space with. So, all of this has reshaped a few reactions and thoughts on my initial viewing.

I started writing down ‘just a few quick thoughts’ and 8 pages later, I was still just ‘jotting things down.’ So I’ll start with the things that are really irking me, and then just list the rest. Read what you want, skip what you don’t.

Overall, what a beautiful, poignant, and emotional ending to an amazing era. Certainly a forming force in my life, and in the lives of millions of others, I'm sure. Through Harry we encountered evil, supported good, learned to fly, defeated difficult demons like trolls and first kisses... and this film beautifully summed up quite a bit of the emotion I was feeling. I loved the cinematography, the soundtrack, the lack of dialogue-- take note of it on your next viewing; there are a number of scenes where the filmmakers must have decided "we don't need to give exposition; if they made it this far, these guys know the backstory," and the quiet scenes are just lovely.

The actor's performances were fabulous, with Hermione, Harry, Ron, Lucius, and Snape really standing out, in my mind.  The special effects stunning; I love the shield over Hogwarts and how it started to look like a cracked windshild as the Deatheaters spells struck it. The music was tonally spot-on, filling in multiple gaps of dialogue that was not needed, as the music portrayed what words could not.

Okay, analysis. I'm going to get my big problems out of the way first, and then move onto Pros and Cons, as per my usual :)


Final Battle:
WTF folks, WTF. WHERE was Harry saying “No one fight him, it has to be like this; it has to be me and him!”; ….oh wait, where was the HUGE crowd of people that were supposed to watch the battle; revel in Harry’s heroism, and witness Voldemort’s demise. And where was Harry’s “expelliarmus”, so we see a definite action from our hero, a spinning of the wand in the air, a rebounding of the curse, and a physical, mortal wound attacking Voldemort. As it stands, it is an unexplainable moment of destruction, and how on earth is anyone going to believe that Voldemort is truly gone, because NO ONE SAW IT!?

***UPDATE*** Okay, so upon seeing it for the third time, and closely scouring the scene, there ARE a number of people there, but they are rather removed. They are in the cloisters and in the doorway, not immediately surrounding the battle. So I suppose we can assume from this that SOMEONE saw Voldemort die, and Harry do it... I'll give them that, but I'm still not happy about it. There was no speech, and no admiring crowd... bother.

I miss my Harry hero worship; I miss the conquering of love over evil

Which leads me to point two: Voldemort dissolved into whispy, floaty, flakes of Voldemort. "Like Dandruff" as my mother described it.  There was no corporeal body.  I felt this a necessary moment in the novel and an irresponsible omission in the film.  In the book, we see Voldemort returned to the empty, powerless shell that is a mutilated Tom Riddle. His body is ignored, and tucked away in an alcove away from the other dead. It is mortal, empty, and non-threatening. In the film, no one is there to see it, Harry does not sacrifice himself for their protection, and Voldemort disappears, leaving the question of ‘could he come back’? At least I’d be asking that, as everyone thought he disappeared/was killed when Harry was one, but we can all see how that turned out…

Lastly, the focus on love (or lack thereof). There was a sacrifice by Harry, we know and see this, but only in order to save the world from Voldemort by making the enemy mortal.  His sacrifice does not put the protection on all around him as it does in the book.  Love is the main crux of the story, the weapon against the worst evil, and the filmmakers didn't emphasize this weapon to save humanity, to save his adopted family… it lessens the strength of Harry’s character against the pull of the Hallows vs. Horcruxes; a pull that also was largely ignored. We didn’t have Harry debating inner demons about which to choose; self-promotion or self-sacrifice.

Other Random Notes, divided into like, dislike, and wonder:

Horcruxes: I think it brilliant that Harry can FEEL them. This isn’t true in the novels, and that high pitch squealing is a fab reminder about what they represent; a cutting evil like a dentist’s drill… I also love that Hermione picks up on it, especially after the fiend fire; she looks at Harry’s chest, and they have a little understanding; that Harry doesn’t just recognize a horcrux, but that he also relates to it; he can feel it… therefore he must be one. 

This easier to recognize moment on film allows the viewer to question Harry’s relationship to them, and also to emphasize the threatening power of them. The constant shriek, the recognition of evil in each other… these devices allow for otherwise inanimate objects to rise above being just a cup or just a book, but an actual threat; a villain worthy of fear.

Harry Taking Charge: I like that he becomes proactive instead of reactive.  He really starts to come into his own being decisive and not just reactionary.  He says, “I need to see the Goblin” at Shell Cottage, and strongly makes a deal with Griphook, and bluntly tells Ollivander that Voldemort has the Elder Wand. Harry is decisive. We know that this is him making a decision of horcruxes over Hallows, but they never tap into that moral dilemma: I think this is a missed moment for character development and understanding as we don’t see the temptation for Harry from the Hallows; we see it a tiny bit with Dumbledore in the flashbacks of Snape’s memories, but overall, he just does as he’s told without a lot of internal reflection/decision making.

Hermione in Gringotts: First of all, how great was our first vision of Bellatrix/Hermione? Great performance.  So after that, Hermione is the one who makes the decision to jump onto the dragon. I love that it’s her move; definitely a stereotypically un-Hermione moment, but necessary, and it gives her a hell of a lot more of the moxie that I enjoyed so much from the last film.

The dragon was brilliant. A phenomenal work of special effects and animation. It didn’t look CG at all, really, and I felt quite a bit of sympathy for it. Bloody from digging chains, retreating painfully from the noise of the Clankers, I loved how it sniffed the air when it finally broke out, and the crashing on roofs as it can’t really fly all that well at first was very effective.

The Passage to Hogwarts: It was a great effect of the passage to Hogwarts through the picture of Ariana. And the first "rah rah" moment for Neville… I love him. And there was a brief moment of hero worship for Harry here via the burst of applause from the crowd, and a reference to Potter Watch on the radio (“lightning has struck”) that I really missed from the first one as it set up Harry’s heroic position in the wizarding world (yes, I’m harping on this… but he’s a hero! Don’t take that away from him!)

Great Hall and Snape: Very interesting change from the book where they’re standing the great hall, Snape is imploring the students for information, asking them to step forward if they know anything, and out steps Harry! It's a rather uncalculated risk on Harry’s part, but it was a fab reintroduction of the Order’s arrival, gave a great action moment for Snape and McGonagall as they battle before Snape “does a bunk” (a line I sorely missed in the film),  and the beginning of the final battle within  the grounds of Hogwarts

Neville and McGonagall! I enjoyed Harry here turning to Neville, and instructing him to “hold the fort” whilst Harry continues on his mission. Also the lovely interchange between McGonagall and Harry, “It’s good to see you” and McGonagall not questioning what Harry needs, but providing all that she can without question. Also, who didn't laugh when she used the locomotor spell to bring the stone statues to life and had a moment of glee “I’ve always wanted to use that spell.” Cute.

1st tears arrive: setting up the guard around Hogwarts. Very serious, beautiful music, somber, and you get a very strong impression that these people may die for what they believe in.

Diadem- Grey Lady, well done scene. We didn’t need all of that back story about the Bloody Baron and whatnot as it detracts from the central necessity of Harry's story line, but I do wish there was a line or two about why Helena wasn’t bothered that Harry wanted to destroy it. “I could never live up to my mother… a disappointment… couldn’t even destroy it…” something so we understand why she’s helping Harry, and why she wants the diadem destroyed

Draco: well done to Tom Felton. He worked the “I’m tortured” face the whole time, and his uncertainty as to which side he should actually be on was rather fab. I really hoped he was going to stay back in Hogwarts when Voldemort taunted people to switch sides, but meh well... I'll take what I can get from Draco.

The fiend fire was a brilliant effect. The way it crashed like water, but destroyed all in its path, took on shapes, the most harrowing of which was Voldemort’s face after the destruction of the diadem.  There was a change from fiend fire being able to destroy the horcrux to instead using basilisk fangs, but I’m okay with that. The fiend fire destroying horcruxes always seemed a little convenient to me in the novel anyway J

**Fave moment** After this scene was one of my favorite moments of performance, story-telling, and the positive potential power of adaptation additions. When the diadem is destroyed, both Harry and Voldemort feel it, very strongly.  Harry falls on the floor, clearly in some kind of pain as sweat drips down his brow, but he plays it off as “I know where the snake is” to distract from his own suffering, and to move the story along to the next horcrux, but Hermione sees through this. She looks at him solidly, knows there’s more happening here, but doesn’t say anything; she lets him be the self-sacrificing hero.

Voldemort’s weakening: It’s an interesting spin/change how Voldemort becomes weaker, more vulnerable, how even his dark mark disappears (which is odd; as all of the other death eaters are human, and theirs have not faded…hmmm) and more ‘human?’ with each horcrux killed. I don’t recall this from the books. It added to the drama, I think, of him realizing his vulnerability, and desperately trying to hang onto his immortality (perhaps why he randomly “Avada Kedavra-ed” that death eater? Was that a last ditch effort to make another horcrux?).

Move from Shrieking Shack to Boathouse for Snape's end- that’s a fine change. It doesn't affect the story, it gives a neat visual location with rowing shells and oars, and moves the dispute closer to the castle, minimizing massive travel (they just don’t have time for that, really). And also, if you have sharp eyes, there’s a Gryffindor scarf just behind Snape’s head through this whole scene; I can help but wonder if that’s a suggestion as to the shread of good in Snape, or ever-constant presence of Lily.

Snape. Alan Rickman. Snape. What can I say… brilliant. Stunning. His emotional responses made me cry times 2, 3, and 4.  The inevitability of his demise, the horrific, violent death (I think it’s worse that we can’t actually see it from the other side of the glass, but we hear it, and see Snape’s shadow thrown up against the window), the pleading cry to look at Harry's eyes, and his sincerity.  I’m glad the memory came from him via tears and not through the wounds as it is in the book; this allowed a stronger focus on Snape’s eyes as they desperately tried to lock onto Harry’s/Lily’s, before he died.

The Memories: this montage had a lot of ground to cover in about thirty seconds.  I’m listening to this section of the novel on the audio books as I type this, and the film really did encapsulate all of these elements in a very short amount of time, but I didn’t feel like it was rushed. The casting of the children were good matches for the character (and they were at LeakyCon this week; so adorable and enthusiastic!), you could see the rift between the sisters of Lily and Petunia, the sorting hat at Hogwarts separating Lily and Snape, and introducing the rambunctious James, the development of the hate between Potter and Snape, the constant adoration of Snape to Lily, Snape begging Dumbledore to protect them, the flashbacks to the first film (when Harry was so tiny!), Dumbledore deciding his own death (although I missed the “compose your epitaph” line, but that comedy didn't fit in such a heart-wrenching collection of scenes), and his instruction to inform Harry that Harry must die by Voldemort's hand.

Also, it aptly covered Snape’s protection of the boy, and while I don’t think there was reference to Snape finding Lily dead in the novels, that scene was tough one of the most devastating I’ve seen in ages! I was definitely close to wailing, but it was rather a quiet scene… it would have been pretty damn obvious if I started bawling.

It was a beautiful death scene of drama and violence, with redemption and secret heroism for Snape. Plus a brilliant performance by Alan Rickman, who really embodied the depiction of a “man on fire” with love. If you haven’t read his comment on the back of the recent ‘Empire’ magazine, google it. It was beautiful, and packs the emotion, gratitude, and drama that I think we’re all feeling as fans.

Harry’s Acceptance of Death: Harry, after learning that he must die immediately grabs his chest. This was satisfying as I vividly remember the impact of the line in the novel about his pounding chest, how his heart almost knew its beats were numbered. He showed resolute acceptance that he was off to die.

Letting Ron and Hermione in on his Death: I liked the change from the novel where Harry tells Hermione and Ron that he’s heading to the forest now.  They’ve been through so much together, it does seem natural to include them in on this massive decision. It was nice to have the recognition from Hermione, and the understanding, and also the goodbye.  Although, where was Ron’s hug?! Denied…

However, I also love in the novels that he goes into the forest without anyone knowing. Perhaps a compromise (you know, if I had a say :-p), would be tell Ron and Hermione, have him stalk off, take stock of what’s happened in the Great Hall, see the destruction, the sacrifice, and then he throws the invisibility cloak over him and goes to the woods.  Ron and Hermione would still know, but the rest would be unaware of his self-sacrifice.

The Forest: The Open at the Close: The ethereal ghosts were beautiful, and the slow shot of him releasing the stone into the forest undergrowth, dropping his mortal life, and walking bravely into death supported by those that love him… beautiful… and cry #6? 7? I’ve lost count at this point

King’s Cross. I like that it was a subtle suggestion of King’s Cross, and how it got mildly clearer and more defined as Harry and Dumbledore conversed.  It was also fun seeing it with the London audience who snickered at the “It looks like King’s Cross, but cleaner” line. It’s true. It did.

I also liked Dumbledore saying “Brave Man” and Harry sans glasses. He’s not naked, as depicted in the novel, but this lack of identifying accessory has a similar effect. It is just Harry; not famous Potter, or The Chosen One, just Harry.

I pictured the crumpled piece of Voldemort to be more like the baby-like thing that Wormtail threw into the cauldron in the fourth film, but this was more like a bog-man.  Curled up fetus-like, bloody and pink, but decayed and depleted. Ugh… different than imagined, but very effective.  It’s more of a mutilated and mutated form of what it once was.

Narcissa checking on Draco with Harry; I was glad this was still here. It shows the Malfoys as not evil, just made some bad choices (lots of focus on choice) and how difficult it was to get out of those choices once they were so deep into that world.


Continuity errors: I’m not sure if it was an editing thing or what to make the treasure only multiply and not burn (I think not, as the actors didn’t react), but when they escape off the back of the dragon into the water, surface, and are on dry land, Hermione puts dittany on their hands to cure the wounds from the burning treasure. We know this from the books, but it’s not explained in the films. Therefore it kind of just looks like Hermione is putting anti-bacterial gel on their hands. I suppose you never do know what germs those albino dragons can pick up in the fathoms below London.      

Friggin’ Ginny: I’ll try not to harp on about Ginny. But for the love of pete… worst reunion ever. Ron completely saved it with his fab humor about her not seeing him for six months and yet she only has eyes for Harry, but there’s just nothing between Harry and Ginny. It’s more like she caught him in the middle of an awkward act or something, and the kiss had no response, whereas Hermione and Ron's brought down the house.

Slytherin Issue- I’ve a problem here where Prof. McGonagall straight out instructs Filch to take the Slytherins to the dungeon. That is inappropriate, and contrary to the true spirit of Hogwarts.  As Harry says at the end to lil’ Albus Severus, Slytherin is a great house, and not necessarily evil.  To condemn the whole house because of one tattle tale and a few bad eggs is very un-Dumbledore, and very un-Hogwarts. In the novels, the Slytherins are clearly told “You have a choice. Stay and fight with us, or leave, but do not get in our way.” Their immediate banishment to the dungeons in the film smacks of apartheid.

Um... Teddy Tonks? The loss of Tonks and Lupin was of course devastating, but they are a couple cheated as the films did little to depict their growing and developing relationship.   I fully understand the need, as they are non-central characters whose arcs don’t need to distract from Harry’s, and the trio’s, but hello? The baby? It’s mentioned with the circle of loving ‘ghosts’ that walk with Harry into the forest, but that’s it! There’s never actually an announcement of a baby (the half-sentence with the seven Harrys doesn’t count), there’s no mention of Harry as godfather, no mention of his birth, no image of him in the epilogue… I can only assume this is a continuity issue.

No Grawp! No Kreacher! I missed them. Particularly Kreacher with his fab change of heart; I love the image of that lil’ elf running out of the castle, locket bouncing on his chest. This  must be due to time and the cost of creating Kreacher scenes, but this, along with Dudley’s change of heart in the first part, are character arcs I missed from the novels.


Aberforth. I’m of two minds here. The performance was great; there was good resemblance to Albus without being a complete mimic; you can believe that they are merely related but quite different individuals. He explains the mirror in a manner of speaking, which I really wondered about how they’d climb out of that hole, so that was good.   The mirror doesn’t have the import, as the audience doesn’t know that Sirius gave it to Harry, and that Harry had hoped that he would see Sirius in it after his death… it just suddenly appeared in Harry’s hand, but it was good to see it on Aberforth’s wall, and I love Hermione’s declaration that “he was watching us, and saved us twice… that doesn’t seem like someone who’s given up.” Very true.

However, there was another missed opportunity for moral import.  This is where the audience gains another hint of Albus’s potential for not being an honest, wonderful wizard; that there’s more to him. We get a brief mention of Albus sacrificing many things, we are to infer this is Ariana, but there’s no explanation or discussion of the relationship to Grindelwold (I don’t mean his romantic one per se, but certainly the connection; how Albus got the want, their relationship to eachother as a building block of Albus rising, his potential desires for power, and him ultimately choosing good, although tempted by evil, over ruling power “For the Greater Good” argument and all of that.

However, I LOVED Harry's response. "I don't care about your history, I respected the man that I knew." Decisive, proactive, rational Harry. 

The Chamber of Secrets. I’m glad that Hermione and Ron told Harry their plan. I remember being bothered in the novel when they just disappear. I don’t think they’d do that and worry Harry additionally. Plus, that scene was awesome.  I thought it a bit of a cop out and convenient with the Parseltongue to open the door with Ron's explanation of “Harry talks in his sleep”… really? But meh, it works.

Once inside, I think there was another minimal cop out as we don’t see the horcrux going after Hermione as it did Ron. It’s difficult, and then there’s retribution with the water, but there’s not the personal torment to Hermione's character as with Ron and Harry in the destruction; it’s just a close call to escape and rather brief. Once the waves die down, however….

The. Kiss.

SO CUTE, and so natural, fitting, great payoff… the whole audience erupted.  And their lovely relationship just continued. The little giggle after the kiss, Ron mentioning something Hermione said last year and her befuddlement that he remembered that… the adorable look Herimone threw Ron’s way when he runs after Draco in the Room of Requirement, and their hand holding at the end with Harry's smile of "finally".... it was very natural, and just lovely.

Harry didn't fix his wand!
Meh, I know it shocked and smarted (there were gasps in the cinema tonight), but I just tell myself he fixed it before meeting up with Ron and Hermione.

19 Years Later
Um... hrm... well? Hrm... 

I didn't really like this epilogue in the book. It didn't fit, it was too tidy, but I didn't hate it either; it just didn't quite flow for me. So it was similar in the films. Plus I couldn't help laughing at Ginny's bad hair, her shoes, Ron's paunch, Draco's receding hairline... meh; it was cute, and I liked Harry's hug with his son... that part, at least, was sincere, and my first thought was "ah; he has a real family now."  For the filmic depictions though, I'm think they as well as they could do. They streamlined the scene (again, no Teddy, but I think we've established that story line is messed up somewhere), and certainly wrapped it all up with a shiny bow.

I once again missed the hero worship moment, however, when people on the platform stare at Harry, the kid asks about it and Ron responds with, "I'm very famous..." comedic relief alongside hero worship. Sigh... 

Thanks Jo! It's been a stunning 13 years, and I hope this is just the end of the beginning :)

More to come, I'm sure, and I'd love comments to chat and consider stuff. I'm sure I'll have some more analysis as there are specific scenes I feel I could write a whole book on, but for now... gotta grab a beer with friends and discuss, and lead an adaptation workshop tomorrow. 

Sigh. Sweet dreams to all :)

1 comment:

Laura said...

I'd like to thank you for putting into words the same thoughts that I had when I watched the film this morning.

I felt the same way about Voldemort's death - I felt like "Dust in the Wind" should have been playing in the background.

And Snape's death. I think I cried from the time Snape walked into the boathouse until the end of the movie. What an amazing sequence.

I also agree with you about Ginny. It's just painful to watch her and Harry together because they have zero chemistry.