22 July 2011

HP: A Review

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. The end of an era. The end of my childhood.

Okay, sorry, I’ll stop being dramatic.

I’ve had a week to mull, process, and discuss the final installment in the Harry Potter series, and overall I am very, very satisfied. Sure, there are some things I wish they’d done differently (that Voldemort dandruff was really unnecessary, don’t you think?), but for the most part I think it was handled well. So, focusing on the positive, we’ve broken it down into subjects: Characters, Scenes, Overall Themes.

Characters (and the actors who play them)
While our three heroes have gotten better as they’ve gotten older (the first few movies are hilarious if judged on acting skill), the awards must go out to the supporting cast. Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis), Professor Minerva McGonagall (Maggie Smith), Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch), Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter), and last but absolutely not least (really, he’s most), Professor Severus Snape (Alan Rickman). So, in list order—

Matthew Lewis as Neville Longbottom. Who would have thought ten years ago that he was going to grow up so well? Seriously, the guy is more attractive than any of his peers. And aren't you just so proud of Neville, the way he fights back and becomes so rebellious. I love it. And the Luna romance! Oh, it was just too cute.

Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonagall. She did well in every movie, but in this one she just shone. That duel with Snape was awesome. And some of the best lines were hers: "And Potter . . . it's good to see you." Oh! I nearly cried right there. "I've always wanted to use that spell!" and "Why don't you confer with Mr. Finnegan? As I recall, he has a particular proclivity for pyrotechnics," were some of the funniest lines in the entire movie.

Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood. I've mentioned previously how well cast I think she was. She does not disappoint in this one either. A little different and slightly flighty without being too weird. And I was so proud of her when she yelled at Harry on the staircase up to Ravenclaw Tower.

Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange. She's phenomenal in whatever she does, but her best scene in this movie was when Hermione takes the Polyjuice Potion so they can break into Gringotts. She absolutely nailed Emma Watson's portrayal of Hermione. Fabulous acting.

Alan Rickman as Severus Snape. One of the best casting decisions ever made. He is Severus Snape, and his scenes were hands down the best scenes in the movie. But I'll get to that in a minute.

Scenes (or specific shots)
There were a few scenes that I thought played out very, very well. The dragon. Oh goodness. Those poor goblins working up at their desks had no idea what hit them. Every time I think of that dragon bursting through the floor I start to laugh.

The scene when Harry confronts Snape in the Great Hall. This has caused some controversy, as it is very different than the book. But I really liked its effect, and I liked the lines Harry threw at Snape regarding Dumbledore's death. Did we see that occur at the end of HBP? I'm thinking no, so this was a good chance to add that bit in. And the Order walking through the doors of the Great Hall after Professor McGonagall fights for Harry was pretty impressive.

The Epilogue. I don't love the epilogue in the book, but in the movie I thought it played out really well. The aging wasn't so great, but I loved the way they pulled in John Williams's original score as you see the Hogwarts Express preparing to depart. Very reminiscent of the last scene in the first movie when Harry looks out from the train and says goodbye to Hagrid. A strong reminder of why they fought so hard in the first place, and a nice tie in to the very beginning. Plus that little boy playing Albus Severus was adorable.

The Prince’s Tale. This was the best scene in the movie, and nothing will convince me otherwise. You are allowed into Severus Snape's life for the first time (except that brief dip into the Pensieve in OOTP) ever, and you suddenly understand his motivations. I love his love for Lily, and I love the shot of him going to the house in Godric's Hollow and holding her and crying. I'm nearly crying just thinking about it. My sister pointed out that it replaces the scene in the book where he steals half the letter Lily wrote to Sirius. It was a perfect replacement, and one of the strongest images in the entire Harry Potter series.

Overall Themes
She really only had one theme overall, didn’t she? Love conquers all. And we see that over and over again. When Aberforth comes to fight in the castle, even though he said he’d given up. When Mrs. Weasley duels with Bellatrix to protect her daughter. When Severus attempts to save Lily. When Severus spends the rest of his life protecting Harry. When Harry knowingly walks into the Forbidden Forest to die. When Neville stands up to Voldemort and says they will continue to fight even if Harry’s dead.

The people who sell this theme to me the most are the Malfoys. We see them start to realize what Voldemort really is in Half-Blood Prince as Narcissa begs Snape to protect her son. We see Draco struggling with his instructions from the Dark Lord, but fearing for his life and those of his parents if he refuses. We see him hesitate to kill Dumbledore because he is not truly a killer. We see them frightened and upset as Voldemort uses their manor as his headquarters. We see Draco refuse to positively identify Harry, Ron, and Hermione.

And then Harry dies. And we witness one of the most powerful acts of love in the entire movie—Narcissa volunteers to see if Harry is truly dead, and when she discovers that her son is still alive in the castle she lies to Lord Voldemort. She doesn't care that she just lied to the greatest Dark wizard of all time, she only cares about the life of her son. And she proves again what Voldemort could never understand, that the ability to love is more powerful than anything he possesses, and it's his one great weakness that ultimately destroys him. But Narcissa Malfoy understands, and she voluntarily leaves with her husband and her son before they even know that Voldemort will be killed. They choose to walk away from evil. And that is what this series was all about.

"It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."


  1. I have been eagerly waiting for you HP analysis! (And this will be a long comment!)

    I will admit that the movie lost me a little in the last 20 minutes. I thought that they changed things that they didn't need to, that the original drama was plenty. The movie did so well in building up momentum that when they changed those critical moment, at least for me, it lost some emotion. I want to see it again knowing that the ending is different, because I think I'll enjoy it more. I guess I was just so surprised by the changes (because they followed the book so closely up until then) that I didn't enjoy the end as much as I could.

    I'm really glad that they showed Hermione destroying the cup—that wasn't in the book and I loved it that they showed that!

    So on our way home from the movie last week, we made up a list of the shining actors for each movie. I think you'll appreciate it.

    Sorcerer's Stone: Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid
    Chamber of Secrets: Kenneth Branaugh as Gilderoy Lockhart
    Prisoner of Azkaban: Emma Watson as Hermione
    Goblet of Fire: Daniel Radcliffe as Harry (Josh was actually opposed to featuring Radcliffe in this list at all)
    Order of the Phoenix: Evanna Lynch as Luna
    Half-Blood Prince: Tom Felton as Draco
    Deathly Hallows, part 1: Rupert Grint as Ron
    Deathly Hallows, part 2: Alan Rickman as Snape

    Honorable mentions go to Michael Gambon as Dumbledore, Richard Harris as Dumbledore, Maggie Smith as McGonagall, and Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort. (I actually could probably name the whole rest of the cast here, so I'll just stop at Voldemort.)

    And lastly, I love the point of Harry Potter: love. It's so simple, and Rowling has shown how powerful it is, not something to be underestimated. Really, though, we need to discuss this over lunch. How does 1:00 sound? Okay? Okay.

  2. Minerva McGonagall and Neville Longbottom are two of my favorites. I love Neville's stand at the end. I've loved him from the beginning and I was so glad she gave him such a great role at the end. And I thought the scene where we saw Snape's memories was perfect. My roommate was actually sobbing in the movie next to me. Oh I love Harry Potter! It has been part of my life since I was 8 years old. It will definitely be required reading at my house.