So last night I was at the press preview for “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2”, which I think everyone and their uncle knows by now is the final (FINAL!) installment of a film series that has lasted a decade and earned Warner Bros $6 billion dollars.
Much like any normal fan that grew up with the books, I was pretty excited and actually expected to be quite emotional at this event. After all, the books have been with me for almost 15 years, while the movies have been a mainstay in my movie viewing schedule for almost a decade.
I have actually been liking the movies more and more over the years, and I thought that as they were increasing in quality, the ultimate film in the octet would be the best in the lot. Maybe that was the most crucial mistake on my part.
Because I thought the movie was…well…
kind of a fail not as good as I wanted it to be.
I thought the movie was off to a good start by jumping right into the ploy, with the terse negotiations between Harry and the goblin Griphook to get into Bellatrix Lestrange’s Gringotts’ vault, where Harry and his friends suspect one of Voldemort’s horcruxes is being kept.
From there, the movie moves at a quick pace, ticking off all the important points in the book that devoted Potterheads are bound to recognize and appreciate. From the trio’s daring escape from Gringotts to the gains and losses made at the Battle of Hogwarts, and even all the way to the divisive epilogue “19 Years Later”, the movie makes sure to include all the things that made the last book in Rowling’s septet such an exciting and emotional read.
With quite a bit of the books making it onscreen, compounded with the fact that this is the last time Potter will be on the big screen, it’s easy to get caught up in these final moments. As characters who meet their end in the book finally meet the same ends onscreen, it’s doubtful that any Potter fans who have followed both versions of the story will be able to hold back their tears.
For the most part, the few scenes from the book that were discarded in the movie made sense. Deciding not to further explore the complicated family situation of Albus Dumbledore in this movie is completely expected, as the opportunity to lay the groundwork for that particular subplot was already passed over in the first “Deathly Hallows” film.
Having said that, dumping the whole Grindewald/Dumbledore subplot was a really sore spot for me. I’ve been looking forward to it for the whole year, most especially since I’m a gay man. I thought that since it’s the last film already, why not go big and completely blow everyone’s mind away? Nevertheless, I have to admit why it’s understandable that they had to discard it.
Another thing that I missed was what the defining moment of Slytherin house, when McGonagall gave them a choice to finally pick a side. In the movie they are just summarily carted off to the dungeons, and it kind of lessens what could have been a great moment for Albus Severus (bleaugh) at the epilogue.
However, the problem with the faithfulness to the book that this final film has attempted is that it brings into even sharper focus the uneven quality of the past seven films in the series. Seen as a whole, the series only ends up looking a jumbled mess, barely approximating the richness of the experience of reading – and most especially, growing up with – the seven Harry Potter books.
Because of the schizophrenic tone of the movies and the sometimes atrocious handling of some characters that would turn out to be important in later books, most of the emotional scenes in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” are robbed of their impact, most especially when one has calmed down and looked at it objectively.
For instance, how can one mourn the death of two characters who barely made an appearance, much less any impact, in the previous films? How can one properly appreciate the poignancy of certain flashbacks the movie makes when the characters involved have slowly begun to fade in the background in the past installments? Any emotional impact that these scenes may have on viewers may just as well be attributed to how well fans have imbibed the Potter canon rather than on any of the previous films’ achievements. Seen without the emotional baggage that comes with growing up with something so intimately, one might even say that this series ends not with a bang but with a whimper.
While these last two installments are no doubt the most faithful among the lot and will probably be remembered with fondness by most fans, the jury is still out on whether the entirety of the series itself will have as long a shelf life as the books that inspired it. Maybe we can look back again 19 years later?