My brain has been thoroughly steeped in Harry Potter for a few weeks now, and that really hasn't been the case in a long, long time. Even when the last book came out four years ago, I was engaged and actively participating in fandom, but I wasn't exactly obsessed. But about a month ago I decided to re-read Deathly Hallows, in anticipation of the final film release, and after I had finished that, I started re-listening to the audiobooks, starting from the first book. I'm now on Order of the Phoenix, and when I started that book, I realized that I also wanted to start re-reading fernwithy's companion stories that begin with a story concurrent to OotP, so now I'm alternating between that and canon. (It suddenly occurs to me that I could have re-read Hermione, Queen of Witches and Ron Rants during the first four books. Missed opportunity—oops!) I've also been reading some Snape-related essays and fanfiction. And between all that, and, of course, going to Wizarding World and the new movie release with several fandom friends last week, I've been very much back in obsession mode.
Well, I've decided to take a break from all that consuming, fannishly speaking, and do a bit of producing. There will be no carefully organized film review here—just my thoughts, more or less off the top of my head. But before I start, I think it's important to recognize that different types of audience members—FREX, 1) fans of the books, 2) casual film-goers who haven't read the books (or maybe read them ages ago but haven't re-read, obsessed over, or particularly remembered what they read), and 3) critical film-goers who may be anywhere on the spectrum of familiarity with the books but have more concrete ideas about what makes a good effects-heavy action/adventure film—may have a hard time seeing things from the POV of the other group(s). Realistically, I can make guesses about what would or wouldn't make this film “good” for the other types of audience members; in the end, however, I can only really speak as a fan who knows these books very well, loves them very much, and is probably a bit less picky about how “cinematic” a film is as long as it's true to the books, especially in terms of characters and themes.
My overall reaction to DH part 2 is very close to my overall reaction to DH part 1, which is that I love it. It was lively, engaging, and it portrayed many of the great moments of the book with near accuracy, including word-for-word dialogue of some of the best lines. I have several quibbles and just a handful of major criticisms, but unlike most of the films prior to DH part 1, I feel that these issues are forgivable, because the overall package is very good.
What I liked, off the top of my head:
- The first scene with Griphook—the makeup artists did a great job, and Warwick Davis's performance gave us the perfect mix of mystery, greed, scorn, and reluctant admiration for Harry.
- Helena Bonham Carter as a polyjuiced Hermione rounds out the third of three excellent polyjuice scenes in the DH duology. And this scene also gives us the first of three cosplays from DH part 2 that I really would like to do some day. Bellatrix may be an evil you-know-what, but she does have great fashion sense, IMO. I also liked Ron's disguise.
- The Gringotts dragon, as many have said, was wonderful—it looked incredibly real and appropriately pitiful, yet powerful.
- I liked Aberforth's scene. Yes, the Dumbledore history got cut, but...well, something had to, and I think it's understandable that this was something that had to be just hinted at rather than fully explained.
- “Lightning has struck!” Indeed it has. XD
- Harry/Ginny lock eyes, and Ron and Seamus commentate. “There's only one Harry,” indeed.
- The Hogwarts mobilization! So much love for Dame Maggie Smith here—just a really shining performance, and a very cool moment for Professor McGonagall.
- The kiss! Finally! No house-elves reference, which is entirely understandable, but I thought it was every bit as passionate as I pictured it in the books. And I'm highly amused by the Chamber of Sexual Symbolism. XD The awkward laughter after they pulled apart may have been Rupert and Emma, as some of my friends that I saw the movie with said (not sure what the source is for that), but it didn't come across as out of character to me.
- Helena Ravenclaw—again, we didn't really need the full story. And this is the second of the three cosplays from this movie I would like to do someday. I also like the lead-in to this scene with Luna.
- The Fiendfyre was really cool. And I loved the little R/Hr bits throughout, but “that's my girlfriend” and Han Solo!Ron was one of my favorites.
- The sequence that includes Snape's death, mourning the fallen during the one-hour reprieve, and Harry viewing Snape's memories was the best part of the film, and had me sobbing constantly the second time I watched it (for some reason, I just wasn't in a crying mood on the first viewing). Alan Rickman's performance is heart-breaking perfection throughout. And it doesn't bother me that most of the battle deaths, including Fred's, aren't shown as they happen. It's actually pretty realistic—the battle was huge in scope, and it makes sense that Harry wouldn't necessarily witness the deaths of the people who matter to him the most. I didn't think this worked well in the books, where the deaths of Tonks and Lupin were too understated for my taste, but it worked much better on film for the trio to walk in and just suddenly have to deal with the fact that people they care about are gone, just like that.
- King's Cross was very well-done visually, and most of the dialogue with Dumbledore was spot-on, especially his parting line. <3
- Narcissa Malfoy, the third cosplay I would like to do from this film. Of course her canon heel-turn was nice, but my favorite moment was when she just grabs Draco and gets the heck out of there, with Lucius scrambling behind, looking over his shoulder. (Too bad he didn't turn into a pillar of salt!)
- Molly vs. Bellatrix was kept very close to canon.
- I liked the Neville/Luna nod.
- That little exchange of looks between Harry and Ron/Hermione at the end. I did miss “Is this the moment?” and “Oi! There's a war going on!”, but that scene was a good substitute for Harry's acknowledgment of their relationship.
- The epilogue was really well done. I thought young Albus Severus did a great job, and the aged-up kids all looked about right, IMO.
- In general, the trio turned out great performances, not just here, but in part 1 as well. Lots of great supporting performances as well, and not just from those I mentioned.
- The first one is more about the films as a whole, but it makes me sad that we never really get to see H/G as it is in canon, mainly because we never really get to see *Ginny* as she is in canon. Oh well. H/G is nice and I think most of you know that it's important to me, but it's not really the heart of the story. The films chose to focus on the trio at the expense of many of the side characters, and, well...that was a fairly understandable choice. I just think they might have balanced things a *little* better.
- ”The Forest Again” was nice, but not quite as affecting as it was in the books. I wish they wouldn't have made this scene the only reference in the films to Teddy Lupin, besides Tonks' not-quite announcement in part 1. A little nod in the epilogue wouldn't have gone amiss, IMO.
- Not a real quibble, but the Draco/Voldy hug was kind of LOLtastic. On the second viewing, the friends I was with and I really had to fight not to crack up in the theater.
- I wasn't that impressed with the drawn-out Harry/Voldy battle and snake chase.
- Harry bidding farewell to Ron and Hermione before giving himself up to Voldemort. No. Just no. There is NOTHING that will make this okay. There are very good reasons JKR didn't have Harry do this in the book, and there was NO reason to put it in the film. It undercut the pacing as well, and I think this scene is a large part of the reason why “The Forest Again” just didn't have the same impact on me that it did in the book, because that beautiful flow of sorrow on sorrow from Snape and the battle deaths to Harry's Via Dolorosa was interrupted by this out-of-character and maudlin CRAP.
- In King's Cross, Dumbledore goes on this weird tangent about the power of words in order to emphasize the Sword of Gryffindor foreshadowing. It was a nice turn of phrase, I guess, but I would have greatly preferred cutting it in favor of actually explaining *why* Harry was able to come back from the dead. Not only is it kind of an important plot point, but it also is important thematically, for both emphasizing the power of love over death, and for creating the fantastic irony that Voldemort's misunderstanding of this power led him to turn himself into something like a horcrux for Harry.
- I thought the dispersing of Voldemort into ash was highly unsatisfying, and runs counter to the books' theme of death and accepting our mortality. The whole point at the end is that with Voldemort's horcruxes gone, he's been stripped of his mysterious immortal powers. He's just a man—not a “Dark Lord” or “He Who Must Not Be Named”, but plain, misguided, human Tom Riddle. In the book, when he dies from his own rebounded curse, his body drops lifeless like any mortal being and is secluded to a different resting place from the battle's heroes. I don't really care that dissolving into ashes may be more “cinematic”. You shouldn't go under-cutting a major theme of the story just for some special effects trick.
Well, in spite of those things, I enjoyed the movie very much, not quite as much as part 1, but after that I think it's easily my second-favorite of all the films, and unlike most of the earlier films, it's one I look forward to watching again and again once it's out on DVD.
One of these days, I do want to go back and view the pre-DH films again, as most of them I haven't seen more than 2 or 3 times at most, and nearly all of them I haven't seen since they were in theaters. (Yeah, can you tell I haven't really been a big fan of the films? The odd thing is, there's only one, Prisoner of Azkaban, that I would say I really *dislike*. I just haven't liked them enough to sit down and re-watch them on DVD/TV.) Perhaps I'll find that I like them more now, or perhaps not. Either way, I would like to re-visit them and see how I feel, now that the franchise is complete.
This entry was originally posted at http://hymnia.dreamwidth.org/144416.html.