Sunday, August 7, 2011

Coming Full Circle - Review of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" part 2

There will be spoilers for the last Harry Potter movie here, just so you're aware.  And a little sentimentality too - but not too much (hopefully).

Well, I finally saw the movie over the weekend - the one I wanted to wait until after all the hoopla and mourning had died down.  Honestly, it had gotten to a fever pitch in the lead-up to July 15 and people were being downright ridiculous about it.  I mean, I was one of Those People.  You know, the people who went to midnight showings and dressed up in Hogwarts robes and run over little kids to win actual replica wands at the Barnes and Noble trivia contest (I wish I were joking about that last one - I still have the wand on my bookcase at home).  But this time - I didn't indulge in the fandom.  Mostly because the HP fandom has become so cliqueish and self-important and a real pain in the ass in the past few years.  And really, in high school, Harry Potter was what helped me escape people like that in the real world.  It would be disrespectful to my memory of the series to get away from one set of jerks only to end up in the company of another gang of equally insufferable jerks.

But enough venting about the HP fandom - this is about the Deathly Hallows movie.

I suppose it's fitting that I ended up seeing this movie in the same theater that I skipped school to stand in line for tickets to see "Sorcerer's Stone."  I even got my picture in the paper and everything! (still is the best picture ever taken of me - mostly because I'm looking down into my copy of "Prisoner of Azkaban").  I wasn't anticipating liking this movie very much, only because the movies have been really disappointing in recent years - though I still maintain that "Order of the Phoenix" turned out to be the best movie of the set.  My biggest gripe about the movies is that they've sacrificed coherent storytelling in favor of razzle-dazzle special effects and pointless padding (a dragon chasing Harry around Hogwarts in "Goblet of Fire" - really??) The list of the movie makers' crimes against this beloved series is long and painful (I'm still seething that they didn't explain the Marauder's Map or even what the Priori Incantatem spell meant).  This has led me to believe that certain stories can only be told in certain mediums - a story like Harry Potter was first told in book form because that's what worked the best.  Star Wars can be done as a movie because that's how it was created.  Doctor Who is best done as a TV series with a few spin-off novels and audio adventures, but never a big-time Hollywood production.  The stories wouldn't translate very well.

Initially, I thought the "It's complicated" exchange between Harry and Griphook was going to be the mantra for explaining all these key plot points.  That's how it's been for ten years, so why should that change now?  JK Rowling was a one-woman production crew when she wrote these stories (with some help from her editors, I'm sure).  Everything came from her imagination and it proved to be too complex for a bunch of directors and screenwriters and producers to cobble together something worthy of being called a Harry Potter movie.  Maybe I'm just so nit-picky, but I value storytelling over "Hey, look - we can make Harry fall out of a flying car and almost get pulverized by a moving train! Ain't we neat!"

But when it counted - when it honestly, truly mattered - the filmmakers got one thing right.  They took the time to explain why Harry had to die.  And for that, I do give them credit.

The emotional moments were there too - not just the sad ones either.  I silently cheered when Professor McGonagall dueled Snape and forced him out of the castle (I don't care what sordid behavior those Hufflepuffs get up to in their common room - they will NEVER have Minerva McGonagall as their Head of House).  That goes double when she mobilized the stone suits of armor to protect Hogwarts and she turns to Molly Weasley and says "I always wanted to do that spell."  Yes, that was an addition by the writers, but it was a welcome addition - one that gave Professor McGonagall some of that tongue-in-cheek personality that she had in the books but was sorely missed in the movies.

Oh, and how great was Luna Lovegood?  One of the best things the casting folks ever did was find Evanna Lynch for that part.  I've always loved her characterization and her performances in these movies.  And of course she would befriend a lonely ghost like the Grey Lady, so that worked out as well.

I was a little put-off by the scene with Ron and Hermione in the Chamber of Secrets - mostly because I didn't get why all the water rushed up at them when Hermione destroyed the Horcrux.  But, I guess they had to get that kiss in somehow and since they had long-since disposed of the house-elf subplots, they had to come up with something.

The Malfoy Family - are a bunch of baby-pants-wetting twerps and Harry should have left Draco to roast to a crisp.

And - The Prince's Tale.  It made me cringe when I read it and it made me cringe when I saw it on the screen.  I still can't accept that Snape was a good guy, even though it explicitly states it in canon.  I'm even more weirded out that he and Lily were somewhat of an item (until the greasy little toerag called her a Mudblood - Lily very rightly dismisses him from her circle of acquaintances and married James Potter, whom I've been rather partial to from the beginning, personally).  But Alan Rickman was amazing in his role as Snape.  I may not like book!Snape, but movie!Snape has always been a joy to watch.

I think my picking of nits ends there - to the end of the movie, I just ate everything up.  From the scene where Harry sees his parents, Sirius and Remus in the forest to the scene in heavenly!King's Cross to the final confrontation with Voldemort - oh, can we get a big hand for NEVILLE freaking LONGBOTTOM!!  Matthew Lewis has always been one of my favorites in these movies.  He was fabulous - his stare-down of Voldemort was a call-back to him standing up to Harry, Ron and Hermione in Sorcerer's Stone, proving that the Boy That Could Have Been had it in him all along.

The day finally belongs to Harry Potter - defeating old No-Nose in the fight of his young life.  Sure, there are things to go "um... okay..." about, but this ended the way it needed to.  Harry beats Voldy, Ron and Hermione celebrate with him (though, that final scene with Hermione taking Ron's and Harry's hands sort of looked like the beginning of a "Hermy and the Boys" rock band).  All is right with the world.

And here, I must give love to the epilogue.  Because the fandom has heaped hate and dumped invectives against it and I think they're outside of their minds to hate it ('course, the HP fandom are mostly a bunch of self-important baby-pants-wetting twerps that'll smile at you while they're twisting the knife in your back.  Too many Death Eater fangirls, I think).  It was a lovely send-off in the book and it's a lovely send-off in the movie.  Maybe it was the visual medium that made it hit home, but it was so sweet to see the Potter/Weasley clan all grown up with young wizards and witches of their own - realizing that they risked life and sanity to come to this moment.  They all have normal lives and going to Hogwarts isn't as scary as it once was - especially if your surname is Potter.  Seeing Harry as a dad, calming his own son's fears about his first year at Hogwarts melted my heart (and it was a little jarring to see Harry with a wedding ring - but jarring in a good way).  And it didn't help in the waterworks department that the music playing underneath that scene was the same John Williams score from the end of Sorcerer's Stone where Harry - fresh off his first year at Hogwarts - proclaims that his home is Hogwarts.  Now, his kids are off to Hogwarts and life is good and things are happy.

(Okay, I'm about to get really mushy here, so that will end the review part of this post.  I'm about to get weirdly personal.  Just warning you).

As much as Harry, Ron, Hermione - and Ginny, to a degree - had conquered so much to come to this point, it felt like I'd conquered something substantial since that first time I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.  I learned that I could relate to my world through stories - that I could pick up meanings and things that no one else could understand.  And because I will always look to these stories and characters as real events and real people, I will probably be a little weird to others.  But I'm okay with that.  I feel like they add some depth to my life - that I have a greater understanding of myself and things that go on around me.  Even if other people try to ruin my love of these stories (whether they themselves are fans of the work or not) it doesn't matter.  The stories are what matter the most.

The story is far from over.  Because I still have the books and the movies to revisit.  I don't need fandom to tell me what I should like or what I should accept as canon - I don't even need to participate in fandom to love the Harry Potter series.  The stories stand on their own without it.  And I can too.

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