SPOILERS AHEAD. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
WHAT WAS THAT DAVID YATES
YOU THINK YOU KNOW BETTER THAN ROWLING HOW TO END THE SERIES? SHE WROTE THE BOOKS. SHE KNOWS BETTER THAN YOU DO. WHAT WAS THAT
VOLDEMORT AND HARRY FLYING AROUND FOR FIVE MINUTES, AND THEN HAVING THEIR CLIMACTIC, SEVEN-YEARS-IN-THE-MAKING DUEL WHEN NOBODY ELSE IS AROUND? THEN VOLDEMORT CRUMBLES AND FLOATS AWAY IN THE WIND? WHAT WAS THAT
Alright, now that all of that is out the way, let’s get to the more verbose, well-reasoned criticisms of the film.
First, let me say that David Yates had better be holding up a sign that says “Screw You Peter Jackson”. The Battle of Pelennor Fields? Muggle please. Battle of Hogwarts was one of the most satisfyingly epic cinematic warzones in the history of cinema. Even as our three stalwart heroes scramble to find and destroy the three remaining Horcruxes, the students are scrambling themselves – seeking refuge, finding loved ones, searching for solace. It was chaos at its cinematic best. Leading the resistance was Maggie Smith as the wonderful Professor McGonagall, whose role is finally given the spotlight she has deserved so long. Her brief duel with Professor Snape was a shining moment for her character. Seeing all the professors perform similarly impressive feats was a wonderful treat.
The scene with Snape and all the students in the Great Hall was excellent. Seeing Harry step out and the Order charge in was so grin-inducing that despite the intensity of the event I couldn’t help but smile. And from there we were launched into the aforementioned chaos, which was a thrill to experience.
Voldemort’s army was visually very impressive, and their attacks against the shield that McGonagall placed around Hogwarts provided a much needed sense of urgency that even the chaos in the castle could not create. Even as Harry spoke to the Grey Lady – a rather dull scene in the book – the failing shield provided a wonderfully dire sense of impending doom that energized the scene. Seeing Ron and Hermione actually enter the Chamber of Secrets was a treat as well, since the set was such a beautiful one that would be a shame to not see after the second film. It also proved a very well equipped romantic get-away spot.
The scene in the Room of Requirement was also a treat – the Fiendfyre was visually appealing, and I greatly appreciated the change from the fyre destroying the diadem to the fang doing so – it avoided an unnecessary line of exposition as well as provided a much more appealing Voldermort-flame-face door slam sequence. Goyle’s death was very uninspired and didn’t seem to affect Draco nearly as much as Crabbe’s death did in the book, and overall wasn’t as dramatic.
Snape’s death was also quite the scene. The snake attacking him as Harry sat outside the room was quite intense, though we never fully saw Snape’s wounds (I would hazard a guess that in the initial cut, we did, and it got an R rating back, which is why it took so long for the film to get an MPAA rating). Snape’s final words were just as emotional as they were in the book, and Rickman did a stellar job of delivering them.
The next sequence bothered me. Seeing Lupin and Tonks dead in their beds in the Great Hall was one thing, as their deaths were not as impactful in the books among all the chaos. Fred’s death, however, was poorly communicated. In the books there was an intense duel between Fred, Percy and Bellatrix that ended in tragedy – but here we only see Fred lying on a bed in the Great Hall. WHAT? Not seeing Fred’s death was my first disappointment with the film.
Fortunately, the scene that followed more than made up for it. Snape’s memory sequence was incredibly emotional, and I had to fight back tears. Rickman proved that all these years, he has been an incredible actor under our very noses. Snape’s love for Lily was so well conveyed and so beautifully described – this sequence lost nothing in translation from book to film.
And then came Harry’s death march. This was the high point of the film. Harry marching slowly to his death, unflinchingly. One could feel the gravity with every footfall. To see Sirius, Lupin, James and Lily again at the end was wonderful – and the very end was fitfully intense.
And this is where I choose to cut off my memory of the film. With Harry’s death.
Before I launch my long, hate and disgust filled rant about the end of the film, some other thoughts:
- I loved hearing John Williams’ original score throughout the film. Nostalgia, bookend, and closure at its finest.
- I was disappointed that Yates papered over the Dumbledore family’s drama. I felt that it was an important plot piece that caused Harry to question his faith in Dumbledore, and thus, his faith in his own ability to end Voldemort – which was a very welcome thing indeed in the book. It added depth, and I can’t help but feel very angered that Yates did not include it.
- The epilogue, which I hated in the novel, worked well here. It provided a perfect sense of closure to the series, a perfect sense of ending where it all began. And I loved that. The book’s version seemed to saccharine, whereas this one worked for reasons I can’t quite describe. It’s a visual thing, I suppose.
And now, what you all came here for: hate-fueled rage.
Film and literature are different media, and thus require different treatment of the same events. Harry’s death should have been Harry’s permanent death in the eyes of unreading filmgoers. The King’s Cross scene should not have followed his death scene right away. Why?
In the book, as readers we are tied to the viewpoint of Harry. Only in select few chapters – typically the opening one – are we ever given a glimpse of a viewpoint other than Harry’s. As such, Rowling could not keep up the illusion that Harry had died – he was our “narrator”, so to speak. It would not do to act as if he had died only to bring him back later, and once again tether our viewpoint.
In the film, however, we are given a purely objective viewpoint as long as we remain outside the minds of the characters. Harry’s death should have been evidently a true death. With the knowledge that Harry had not, in fact, died, the scenes that follow lose a great deal of their potential dramatic impact. The scene with Voldemort’s army and Neville’s speech? A great scene, no doubt – but it lost something with the knowledge that Harry was still there. With Harry evidently dead, it is a scene about Neville stepping up to fulfill the role that Harry had left – it would have been a much greater moment for Neville, and a much more dramatic and inspiring scene. BUT NOPE. Harry is alive, even in the minds of the viewers, so it’s just Neville standing up to Voldemort while Harry thinks through his plan.
And here is where it all goes to hell.
In the middle of Neville’s speech, unprompted, Harry randomly jumps out of Hagrid’s arms and runs for it. In front of hundreds of Death Eaters.
What. The. Frak.
What follows is even worse – an elaborate “let’s distract Voldy while you kill the snake” sequence in which Harry runs through the castle for no apparent reason while Voldemort chases him. In the meantime, Ron and Hermione foolishly try to kill the snake. Harry grabs Voldemort and throws himself – and Voldemort – off the side of the castle, prompting Voldemort to do his flying stuff and land both of them in the courtyard, where they slowly crawl to their wands and – wordlessly – shoot spells at each other. Neville comes out of nowhere and kills the snake, Voldy and Harry break spells, both reeling from the Horcrux destruction, and then resume slinging spells at each other. Voldemort’s wand breaks, and then the worst offense Yates commits happens.
He disintegrates and flies off into the wind.
Now, this is why I hate the ending of the film. Harry defies all logic by jumping out of Hagrid’s arms. There was no reason to at all. Had he an invisibility cloak, perhaps, but even then – just leaving Hagrid’s arms in the middle of Neville’s defiance speech is foolhardy. There was nobody that needed immediate defending, as there was in the novel. In the novel, Harry only revealed himself when Voldemort went after Mrs. Weasley after she had killed Bellatrix. He threw off the cloak and shot a Shield Charm in between them, and then told everybody to hold back while he and Voldemort finished it. But instead, we have a Harry who randomly takes off and runs. He RUNS.
This is weak because it leaves out the important detail of Neville being made an example of by Voldemort. He had the Sorting Hat placed on his head and then ignited, and yet because Harry died for the people of Hogwarts, Neville was unharmed. Then, in an epic moment, Neville pulls the sword out of the hat and kills the snake. All of this, of course, happened after Grawp shows up and causes chaos, after the House Elves – led by Kreacher – attack the Death Eaters in the name of Regulus (a touching scene, I may add). All of that abandoned so that Harry can simply embrace the exact same thing he has always done – run. It robs Neville of his greatest moment, and it robs Harry of the character development that death should have brought him. He had faced DEATH – I think that somebody coming out of that would no longer be compelled to run.
So, that aside, what follows is an exercise in futility. The fundamental scene has been ruined, after all. But what really rubs me wrong is the very final duel between Harry and Voldemort. In the book, it was a tense bit of exposition, in which Harry illustrates what made Dumbledore’s plan go wrong. What tethered him to life. What made it certain that Voldemort was doomed. It showed Harry’s trust in Dumbledore, something that the events of the seventh book had shaken. It shows Harry’s character development, no longer afraid to face those who would kill him. It was the culmination of seven books worth of events and character growth – and Yates took a giant scissor to it and eliminated it.
And then, the icing on the cake, was that Voldemort – in the book – fell over and died. As Rowling put it: “Tom Riddle hit the floor with a mundane finality, his body feeble and shrunken, the white hands empty, the snakelike face vacant and unknowing.” This is the most important line in the entire series of Harry Potter. Voldemort was just a man – nothing more. He was born a man, he lived a man, he died a man. Despite all of his efforts, all of his evil, he was only human. That is the greatest, most overarching theme of the entire series – evil is only human. Rowling calls him by his real name in describing his death, and describes him as dying like a normal man.
BUT IN THE FILM HE DISINTEGRATES AND FLIES INTO THE WIND. HUMANS DO NOT DO THAT. In the film, Voldemort WAS special. He wasn’t “only human”. And that, my friends, is why I absolutely hate the ending of the Harry Potter film series. Yates took scissors to the book and cut out the most symbolic and plot significant moments of the ENTIRE SERIES so that Voldemort can die with the grace of hamfisted CGI.
That, my friends, is why Deathly Hallows Part 2 will always – for me – end with Harry’s death.