[Contains snitch-snogging and SPOILERS!!!]
I watched the two halves of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2010/2011) a week or so apart, but since they’re adapted from a single novel, I’ve decided to lump them together for the sake of this post. Although I thought this final instalment brought Harry’s saga to a satisfactory and stirring conclusion, I still have a few petty nits to pick…
First of all, I was amused that The Order went to all the trouble of creating multiple duplicate decoys of Harry to cover his flight from Privet Drive to the Weasely’s (rebuilt) homestead, only for him to travel there with Hagrid, just as anyone who knew the first thing about him could have predicted. I was also impressed by Dumbledore’s ability to keep annoying me long after his death, by taking The Most Powerful Wand In The World to the grave with him, rather than bequeathing it to Harry or another “white hat”… and not even bothering to have his tomb secured in a way that would prevent (or at least delay) Voldemort from getting his malevolent mitts on it! Tch! To be fair, the wand didn’t really prove to be all that useful in the final face-off, despite all the hype… and ole Albus did redeem himself a little by passing on the Resurrection Stone to his favourite student/lamb-to-slaughter. Unfortunately, I misunderstood how the stone worked, and assumed it was responsible for “resurrecting” Harry after his death… but I now realise from reading the wiki article that he never really died at all. Voldemort simply killed the part of his own soul that was living inside Harry… or something? I don’t think it was very well explained in the film, frankly. Meanwhile, Snape came off looking like a total rock-star, and I found myself very moved by his demise, and posthumous flashbacks (in which Dumbledore seemed even more dickish than usual).
As for our heroines… there was the heart-breaking scene of Hermione erasing herself from her parents’ memories and lives… before resuming her rightful role as the over-achieving prime mover, leading with her brain and superior spell-powers. Hurrah! Emma Watson was gifted with some very serious emotional scenes throughout the first half of the story, and even though I was never particularly invested in her relationship with Ron, I could still appreciate the quality of the acting involved on both their parts. Sadly, she took a bit of a backseat again in the second half, leaving a lot of the thinking/deducing up to her boyfriend and Luna (Evanna Lynch)… who had a rather passive first half, before coming back strong in the home stretch. I was also pleased to see Afshan Azad and Katie Leung get a little more screen time again, as Padma and Cho returned to help defend the school from the Death Eaters’ assault/infiltration…. though it’s far from their hey-day, back in The Goblet of Fire. I also have to give a shout-out to Kelly Macdonald, who had a brief but memorable cameo as ‘The Grey Lady’ (aka ‘Helena Ravenclaw’).
Apparently Bellatrix carving the word “mudblood” into Hermione’s arm while torturing her was the brainchild of Helena Bonham Carter and Watson… so top marks to them there, though I can’t help wondering why this disfigurement was never referenced again… especially when Hermione took a polyglot-potion to impersonate her attacker for the sake of a wacky heist caper! And, while I appreciated the Aliens-homage in the scene where ‘Molly Weasley’ (Julie Walters) drops the B-bomb while defending her daughter from Bellatrix, I can’t help wishing that Hermione had been the one to finish the wicked witch off! The two of them clearly had some unfinished business to work through, but apparently the author had other concerns, which I’ll get back to in a jiffy. Either way, considering how many corsets HBC has worn over the course of her career, it was pretty funny to see one finally cause her death onscreen!
Besides some very bitter-sweet behind-the-scenes stuff, the real treat on the final disc is a half-hour featurette dedicated to “The Women of Harry Potter”, in which J. K. Rowling discusses her fictional femmes, and affirms the importance of a mother’s love, both to a baby’s early cerebral development, and to her hero’s survival. In this context, Mama Weasley had to be the one to take down Bellatrix, to bear out Rowling’s belief that even if a woman chooses to become a mother/housewife full-time, that doesn’t mean she can’t also be a badass spell-slinger on the sly. Right on! While you could question why a self-proclaimed feminist would make the main character of her novels a boy-child, I think it’s worth noting that Harry isn’t the central protagonist because he’s superior to the other characters (of either sex) around him , he’s simply drawn into the eye of the storm by his inconvenient mystical connection to the main antagonist. In fact, it’s frequently noted that Hermione is much smarter, and much better at magick than him, and I’ve no doubt she’s a wonderful role model for young female readers. Embarrassing side-note: I kept getting a little weepy every time Watson was on camera, talking about how much she appreciated being surrounded by so many strong, talented and successful women while she was growing up, and why she tried to be as dedicated a student in real life as Hermione was on the page/screen! Bless her.
The Harry Potter flicks are currently the most successful and popular series in cinema history, so my opinion carries even less weight than usual here… nevertheless, I still don’t think they really work when viewed as films in themselves, separate from the books (or a handy wiki reference guide), which must fill in a lot of important details, deepen the relationships, and explain the peculiar inconsistencies that crop up throughout these adaptations. That said, purely from a technical stand-point, they are fantastically well-crafted Fantasy films, with an insanely talented cast… and it’s a particularly impressive achievement when you consider how young the central trio were when they began, and how well they grew into their roles. Not only that, but they also seem to be remarkably grounded and charming individuals, miraculously uncorrupted by the fame and fortune that’s been foisted upon them as a result of their involvement in this epic undertaking. So, all gripes aside, I do have a great deal of residual fondness for these films, and I leave the experience with a newfound respect/envy for fans of the original novels.