As promised, I’ve been to the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2 and watched it in the cinema. Did it feel like an entire franchise that spanned the decade influencing and inspiring children and adults alike had finally come to its inevitable final resting place? Well, yes, it certainly felt like the end. Is that a good thing? No, not really.
The film follows on from where Part 1 left off, almost exactly. This point comes around Chapter Twenty-Four, entitled The Wandmaker, in the book. In a novel of about thirty seven chapters (I say about, because the Nineteen Years Later epilogue isn’t numbered), that leaves only thirteen chapters for the final film. Granted, within those final films they ride a dragon, start a war on Hogwarts and Harry dies, has a afterlife vision and ‘kills’ Dumbledore. I use the word kill loosely, but to be fair, that does seem like it’s a lot. Yet, the movie still seems to drag. Hermione and Ron have no chemistry, probably brought on by the fact that the actors are best friends and have no romantic connections to each other. Voldemort stands around the majority of the film waiting for Harry to come to him, and most of the battle of Hogwarts seems to happen off screen. We don’t even get to see Fred’s death. Hagrid appears for about all of five minutes, at the end of the film to carry Harry back to Hogwarts when he’s suppose to be dead. Grawp doesn’t appear at all.
Perhaps the worst offender is the actual battle between Harry and Voldemort. In the books this is done inside the great hall, with its roof still intact, and all of the Hogwarts staff and students gathered around with the Death Eaters to watch the final battle. When Voldemort is defeated, the entire hall erupts with cheers for Harry, and everyone rushes to hug him, desperate in some way to place hands on the boy who defeated Voldemort. It’s a triumphant victory. In a bizarre change, the film sets the final battle outside, after a rather cattish tumble through the air in a black cloud, where Harry and Voldemort face each other alone. Rather than have them both cast one spell, their spells are more like beams of light. Why a disarming spell would appear as a beam of light is anyone’s guess, but more importantly, Voldemort seems to be winning the beam battle until Neville cuts the head off the snake. In the books this takes place a couple of pages before Harry and Voldemort even begin their final battle. Harry then emits one final push, disarming him and turning him to ash. Why he would disintegrate from losing his wand is never explained, especially when the novel explicitly states that his body was laid away from the bodies of the others, such as Fred Weasley and Colin Creevey.
This probably isn’t a problem for people who’ve followed the film series, rather than reading the novels and it’s not that they changed details from the novel and that’s why it sucks. Instead, it’s because the details they changed are illogical and don’t even work. After Harry defeats Voldemort in the film, he walks through the hall, being congratulated by no one and then meeting Hermione and Ron outside where he explains how he was able to defeat Voldemort. Viewers don’t really want exposition after the climax of the film. They want to see Harry beat Voldemort and walk out with his head held high, then fade into the nineteen years later a triumphant passing into the future, rather than meeting depressingly with this two friends outside, explaining why he won, doesn’t even see his girlfriend, then holds hands with his friends and they all appear to wish really hard for the future. It just doesn’t work as well. I’d be happy for changes to be made to the book, if they worked or if they explained something that people still felt was a loose thread in the plot, but the edited the triumphant victory over a great evil into the biggest battle that everyone missed.
Other details that were changed include plastering Voldemorts face on the dying creature under the bench in the great King’s Cross in the sky and oddly enough setting up Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood, as though the film couldn’t possibly end without setting up all the loose characters with someone. Perhaps though, it’s because I’ve always silently shipped Luna with Harry, but the decision to include that Neville/Luna pairing in the film just seemed odd. It had no bearing on any of the events to any major degree and the nineteen years later epilogue wasn’t even edited to reflect the change. In the novels at least Hermione and Ron appear to have some semblance of chemistry, Harry and Ginny fight side by side at times, showing good team work I guess, but Rowling never attempts to suggest that everyone must have a partner for the ending to be happy, and everyone isn’t going to pair up with someone they know from high school. It’s worth noting actually that aside from marriage and jobs there doesn’t seem to be much to Wizarding life after high school. You could potentially say the same for real life, but where are the wizarding universities or is there no such thing as further education to magic folk?
If there were, perhaps Voldemort could have went there to brush up on his dark arts. This isn’t necessarily a flaw with the film, because it crops up in the book too, but the unforgivable spells seems to be the only black magic that anyone can use. There’s some way to splice up your soul and stick it into other things, animals and people, but how to do that is rather vague, and there was some blood magic used to give Voldemort a new body. Why is the black magic of the Harry Potter world horribly circumstantial? Only the most abhorrent people would corrupt themselves by tearing their essence apart to live a little bit longer, and even then you have to do it multiple times and place them in items which no one could ever find. Horcruxes seem to work similarly to the One Ring from the Lord of the Rings epic, but Sauron and Saruman are at least capable of some darker magic on their own. Sauron is explicitly known as the Necromancer in The Hobbit, and even without a body he appears as a shadow of fear. Sauron is capable of extremely powerful corruption, a power which is within the nature of the One Ring, but also corrupted the entire Númenórean civilization and replaced either worship of Eru with a false god called Melkor. I suppose you could say that Voldemort has some sort of corrupting influence, since the locket did mess with Ron’s head, but messing with one ginger kid’s romantic attachments verses the ruin of an entire civilisation leaves Voldemort’s dark powers looking rather meagre. In the Half Blood Prince, Severus Snape had an entire book of his own spells. Voldemort apparently has no such creativity, in which case I revoke his status as Dark Lord.
As I’ve said though, Voldemort’s lack of explicit dark arts isn’t the fault of the film; it’s the fault of the writing. Voldemort should be using black magic and he should be doing spells that no one else can do, but this isn’t the case. White Magic also works with increasing convenience in the story too, accumulating in Harry’s ability to come back from the dead. This is actually to do with Voldemort using Harry’s blood in the blood magic spell to give himself a new body, because the resurrection stone doesn’t work that way. Apparently sharing blood in the magical world prevents Voldemort from harming Harry. So why didn’t the spell rebound? Why would Harry be sent to limbo at all? I mean, let’s be clear about this, even if the spell had killed the horcrux, the most it should have done to Harry is give him a sharp knock. Instead he has a entire vision of the afterlife with his mentor explaining to him why it worked and he even gets to see the dying piece of Voldemort. Dumbledore explicitly tells Harry that if he wanted he could board a train and never come back. Harry Potter is very clearly in a state of living and dead at the very same time, but Voldemort apparently couldn’t harm him. Why is it that so much magic in the Harry Potter world can be cast unknowingly? First, Lily Potter dies and casts a protection over her son that causes the killing curse to rebound. Then Harry’s wand is made from the same magic substance as Voldemort leading their wands to want to give up fighting and just hang out. Finally, Voldemort uses Harry’s blood to create a new body, repeating the same protection Harry had in the beginning.
I just have to ask, in what way is it a good story to set up your character for perilous adventure and then reveal, after the event, that they were never in any real danger? Not only that, but they never really have to do anything slightly immoral. Harry doesn’t kill at all, even when it would be required of him. In the final battle, in both film and book, he deflects the killing curse with Expelliarmus. Even in self-defense Harry refuses to even stun Voldemort, relying on good on Expelliarmus. I mean, come on, he’s done worse to Draco Malfoy.
One of my biggest issues with the resurrection chapter is probably that I feel it undermines the theme of death within the novel. J.K. Rowling has said herself that the novels are all about death, and dealing with death. This theme comes up constantly in that Harry’s friends and family die a lot throughout the duration of the series, but nothing surmises this better than the story of the three brothers. Having been offered gifts from Death, the eldest brother is given a wand. He’s clearly the kind of guy who attacks head on; takes life by the britches and asks for all it can throw at him. It’s all to do with power. Think of him as the guy who goes diving off cliffs and generally does things for the thrill. The second brother is so caught up with the past and what he’s lost that he commits suicide. Only the third brother, who hides from death, and treats it with the respect that it is due, is able to greet death as an old friend. The first two meet and early grave because they either treat death as a thrill, or as something that has taken someone from them. They suggest that Death is a part of life, and not accepting it as such will lead to unfortunate consequences. Even though the story proves that there is no way to truly cheat death, Harry does just that. The Third brother doesn’t really cheat death, he just hides. Harry undoubtedly cheats death by doing to the spirit station. Given the presence of Dumbledore and the suffering creature, it is clearly not somewhere that the living should exist. Thus we must assume that Harry died and cheated death to return. The final story in the series undercuts the major theme of the entire series, which is a pity because I enjoyed the series up until that point.
It is the final story. It is strange to think that there will be no more books, or no more films, although Pottermore will bring us new details, but you guys already know my thoughts on that. If you don’t well go back and read Potternomore. It’s unfortunate that the films couldn’t go out with more of a bang. Not only did they strip Harry of his triumphant victory, but this film felt like the end of a film. Not the end of a series, but the end of a film. There was no beginning or middle. Just the end of the first part and it’s not even a very good end. Oh, its fine, and it actually got a final battle, which is more than can said for Breaking Dawn. Fans of the movies, who have never read the books, will enjoy it. Fans of the books might be narked by details that have been changed, but they’ll probably find it generally satisfying. In that regard it’s a fine ending, but it’s just fine, when a series such as this deserved more. I was asked earlier in the week whether it was worth reading the novels and I unashamedly said yes. Whether you like them or not, it’s worth reading them for the cultural phenomenon that they created, but I just don’t feel like the films have had the same impact. When it comes down to it that pretty much describes Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2: It’s fine, but the book is better.