Harry Potter

Deathly Hallows: Part Deux

by sarahenni on December 21, 2011

[Posted originally July 18, 2011] So—it’s been more than 72 hours since the final installment of the Harry Potter & Friends film franchise debuted. I think we can safely say that the polite period of silence has passed, and it’s time for a spoiler-packed post discussing the film!

Overall I really enjoyed it, and I thought it struck an appropriate emotional tone to cap off the series. But of course, as I am a highly opinionated person, I have some thoughts on where the film succeeded, and where some choices left me scratching my head.

The Split I think the first film of The Deathly Hallows must have been the driver for when to split the two films. Deathly Hallows Part I took a somewhat meandering, action-less portion of the film and created a beautiful story arc about a friendship. Harry, Hermione, and Ron were tested beyond their limits, then their friendship was redeemed by selfless action and the ultimate sacrifice of a Free Elf. It was a whole story, driven by an emotional arc and the theme of the entire series: the power of friendship.

But that left this movie with little to build a similar arc around. David Yates & Co. had two hours’ worth of essential plot points (Gringotts, Aberforth, Diadem, Snape revelations, Harry’s death, showdown) that left little room for a cohesive emotional story to develop, or for the audience to get much of a break from the heightened intensity. In the second half of the book our favorite characters are still unsure of their plan, surrounded by chaos and confusion. And the same goes for the viewer, which makes this movie great, but also a more challenging watch.

Our Favorites McGonagall was amazing, and was given one of the only lighthearted moments in the film (“I’ve always wanted to do that spell!”). Her battle with Snape was fantastic—McGonagall whipping out hardcore attack spells and Snape defending—and it’s a testament to how well Maggie Smith portrayed the character that, when McGonagall starts to look genuinely scared we realize the shit is really going down.

However! One major problem I had with the screenplay was after Voldemort gives the Hogwarts crew the “give me Harry or die” ultimatum and Pansy Parkinson cries out for someone to grab Harry. In the film McGonagall says, “All Slytherins, get out!” (Paraphrasing a bit, here.) That was nothing short of a disastrous choice of dialogue. In the book McGonagall asks Pansy to lead the Slytherins out of the castle, to be followed by all the other houses. Every first year is evacuated, regardless of house. But when asked if some could stay to fight, McGonagall says any of-age wizard can stay behind. Of course that leads to the redemption of several members of Slytherin house, including Professor Slughorn. Leaving the quote as-is in the movie makes Slytherin a house filled with irredeemably bad wizards, which belies oh, you know, the entire point of the whole series.

I loved the Snape revelations. To be honest, all that information was a total infodump in the books, so the short and effective pensieve sequence was perfect. Of course Alan Rickman was devastating. Seeing him emote while wearing Snape’s robes was a bit shocking, to be honest, and his death slayed me. (Though I don’t quite understand the choice to have his tears hold memories, instead of… you know, a memory? I was like, “why is Harry scooping up his tears, this is awkward.”)

I ship this so hard.

Luna freaking Lovegood was amazing, per usual. But my favorite thing had to be when she stopped on the stairwell and shouted, “Harry Potter you stop right now and listen to me!” How many times did we wish someone would say that to Harry in the books?! He could be such an arrogantly myopic wanker. And the whole, “I’ve got the hots for Luna” revelation by Neville in the Battle? Totally not part of HP Canon (Neville marries Hannah Abott) but I dig it so much. These two are such badasses.

The kiss!! It was awesome. The timing was fantastic (duh who wouldn’t want a kiss after a near death-by-water-basilisk moment?) and of course these two were adorable.

The Battle of Hogwarts It was INTENSE, and the filmmakers made some necessary changes. The book’s version of events is, more or less, a string of blow-by-blow duels. For the film, though, it was important to give a visual context of how the castle was being attacked. For the most part those sweeping shots of Voldemort and his pale-faced avengers overlooking the castle (and the army of wood brogues led by a Johnny-Depp-as-Captain-Jack wannabe storming the bridge) replaced any duel scenes. I understand that, and thought it was successful for the most part.

However, in my opinion, that choice kept the film from mirroring the book Battle’s brutality. When I read the battle scenes for the first time I sat straight up, mouth agape, totally horrified by the uncurbed violence. It was abattle, for doxies’ sake. The film seemed much more detached. Not showing Fred’s death was a decision I don’t entirely disagree with, but it certainly was a glaring absence. And the one major duel that the film did choose to highlight—Molly Weasley striking down evil witches like a BAMF—was short, and lacked the savagery I remember from the book.

Another thing I thought noteworthy about the duels was the lack of verbal spells. In my opinion, it was incredibly important for us to see Molly Weasley use the Avada Kedavra spell, and Harry choose not to. When Molly annihilates Bellatrix using the most unforgivable of curses, we cheer along. We are a party to the bloodshed, as responsible for the destruction as anyone rooting for the other side. That’s crucial to the reader & viewers’ role in the series. And it’s equally crucial for us to see Harry use expelliarmus, his old first year fall-back spell, as the ultimate undoing for Voldy. The dichotomy is important, and I don’t think the film highlighted it well enough.

Voldemort’s Death Though it was a bit underwhelming, it was wholly accurate to the book. So props for authenticity on that one. But that leaves the best Voldemort battle, by far, as the showdown between he and Dumbledore in The Order of the Phoenix. THAT battle had all the elements I hoped to see more of in this film’s duels: tremendous acting, creative visual displays of magic, and cruelty and fierceness in equal measure.

The Epilogue We’re all pretending this didn’t happen, right?

The filmmakers had quite the high-pressure gig trying to get this story told properly, and I’d say that overall they did a fantastic job. I was crying and laughing, and it made me want to reread all the books—and isn’t that truly the point?

So, what about you?? Do you agree with my rambles? What did I get completely wrong? Also—big question: I maintain that there’s no way this film could be someone’s “favorite” Harry Potter film. Dr F vehemently disagrees. I made another blog post about it. What do you think??


The Deathly Hallows

by sarahenni on December 20, 2011

[Originally Posted Nov. 22 2010] If you spent this weekend doing anything besides seeing the Deathly Hallows, I sincerely hope something large with sharp fangs was holding you back. The über-anticipated first half of the Harry Potter finale came out on Friday, and Dr Fiance and I saw it with a (bizarrely not packed) theater of HP-lovers, and on the whole I think we both enjoyed it quite a bit. Below, my (spoiler-packed) thoughts on the film.

The Split I was really eager to see how the filmmakers decided to split the seventh book. It must have been agonized over, and I think the final decision was very well done. However, the first half must have been extraordinarily difficult to translate to film as — though our heroes destroy the locket horcrux, go to Godirc’s Hollow, and escape from the Malfoys — nothing really happens. The first half of the book is all build-up. The dynamics between Harry, Ron, and Hermione get twisted and brought nearly to (perhaps beyond?) the breaking point. Voldemort gains the upper hand and the magical world devolves into outright danger, but since we’re in Harry’s head we barely see any of it. In short, the first half of the book was much better suited to be a book. This filmmakers had a tremendous challenge, but I think they lived up to it.

(However, David Yates is still on my ‘naughty’ list for the sixth movie, which was undoubtedly the weakest and in which he flagrantly made shit up like having the Burrow explode into flames which, though I know Jo Rowling approved, was still appallingly bizarre. Etc., etc., I could go on for days. Another blog post maybe.)

Setting The film must have been absurdly challenging for any audience members who have not read the books. For so many reasons, this film would be the most difficult to understand or appreciate unless you knew the details that Yates & Co. merely hinted at, or showed in not-explicit ways (the mirror; the ‘Snatchers’; the radio program). One of the most disorienting things about the seventh book and movie was the lack of Hogwarts. The school, and the castle itself, has served as setting (and a character in and of itself) for the entire series. In Deathly Hallows Part I, not only do our heroic trio never set foot on castle grounds, we never hear anything about what is going on there. And without the castle and the structure of a school year, it was difficult to get a sense of the passage of time.

However, that served a distinct purpose in the book and the film. Our characters are lost and disoriented, too. The different scene locations that Yates & Co. used (misty English forests, the underside of a run-down bridge) were not only gorgeously shot, they were also used effectively to mirror the emotions of our hopeless, confused trio.

Character Development Hermione was the emotional story arc of the film, and it was executed ridiculously well by both David Yates and Emma Watson. From the opening scene, where she nearly broke my heart with her emotional restraint, to the reunion with Ron (come on, Emma, you can swing a rucksack harder than that!), Emma Watson was the core of the story progression. She was at her weakest (withdrawn and disconsolate after Ron left), and at her strongest (refusing to betray her friends and their mission even while Bellatrix carved rude words into her arm).

That was the true story of the first half – our characters were tested and brought to rock bottom. But, in the end, they are reinvigorated with the true sense of friendship that has gotten them through every scrape they’ve been in before. (And that sets us up for Part II, in which they have a renewed sense of purpose and do incredible BAMFy things like fly on dragons and OMFG I am so excited.)

Lovey-Dovey Whereas in The Half-Blood Prince I felt that David Yates’ attempts to illustrate the group’s growing romantic tensions were clunky and heavy-handed (Ginny bending over to tie Harry’s shoe? Really?gag), I thought this time around was subtle and touching. The opening shot after the first night in 13 Grimmauld Place, with Hermione and Ron’s hands barely touching, was lifted right from the book, and was all we needed to see to get an accurate sense of their budding romantic feelings. (I totally swooned.)

Minor Characters Shine Some of our favorite non-trio characters (Snape, Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood, Draco Malfoy) had only fleeting scenes in Part I. However, each one of them really maximized their screen time. Most especially, IMO, Snape and Draco. Alan Rickman (an absolute genius, per usual) gave such a subtle performance (doesn’t he always?) and his expression when he saw his Hogwarts co-worker floating above him, begging for help, was completely devastating. And Tom Felton (looking increasingly attractive off-screen, might I add) was brilliant in evoking Draco’s growing internal struggle between begrudging loyalty to/fear for Voldemort and increasing understanding and respect for Harry.

So… Sorry to be overly verbose (as is my wont) but those are my main take-aways from the movie. In fact, after writing this post and thinking even more about it, I enjoyed the film very, very much. What about you? What did you think?

{ 1 comment }

What Your Favorite Harry Potter Movie Says About You

by sarahenni on November 7, 2011

Over the ten years that the Harry Potter films were released, the franchise had four different  directors and an ever-evolving take on the world J.K. Rowling created. Just as almost every Harry Potter die-hard can point to their favorite book, many have one movie that stands out among the rest.

But which film best captured Harry, Hogwarts, and the magical showdown between the righteous and the snake-loving for you indicates more than just how tolerant (or not) you are of overly-long Englishmens’ mops. Read on and don’t be alarmed if I’m more accurate than Professor Trelawney with a gazing ball.

The Sorcerer’s Stone

Generally, you prefer beginnings. They’re filled with such hope! Such promise! Endings can just be so…complicated. No amount of sub-standard CGI or stilted child acting can get in the way of what you really love—the fantastic, magical story. And, your love of Sir Richard Harris is only matched by your hankerings for chocolate frogs.

The Chamber of Secrets

You are Christopher Columbus’ mother.

The Prisoner of Azkaban

You are, on the whole, a big fan of film. (Also, you refer to movies as ‘film.’) You probably thought Harry should die at the end of the series, and may have cackled while reading Rowling’s recent comments on the fate of Ron Weasley. You’ve though too much a lot about what life at Hogwarts would REALLY be like (and should probably read The Magicians, if you haven’t already). You are deeply in love with Gary Oldman, and you shipped Sirius and Lupin back when it was a raft.

The Goblet of Fire

tumblr_lo57dhHRiF1qbsjpxo1_500You love a good action sequence, but also have an appreciation for the dry humor and sweater-vest choices by Neville Longbottom. You found the soft-core hate between Durmstrang, Beauxbâtons, and Hogwarts hilarious. If you aren’t already, you’ve thought about joining your local quidditch team. In your opinion, The Beatles were just not shaggy enough. You’d welcome Viktor to Durm your Strang anytime. You sort of love to hate Harry sometimes, and may or may not have shipped Harry and Hermione in the past. When Cedric Diggory was chosen as Edward Cullen you had to explain to all your friends who RPatz was. Also, you’ve been known to dance like a crazy elf.

The Order of the Phoenix

Uncomplicated characters bore the crap out of you, and you have a distaste for authority. You can’t get enough of the Harry/Voldemort psychological parallel. You have total Schadenfreude when it comes to fictional characters, and love when things get downright terrible (related: The Empire Strikes Back is your favorite Star Wars movie). You used to crush on Snape the most, but Voldemort has officially taken over as your romanticized villain. You like your stories like you like your below-the-floorboard electrical wiring—dark and twisted.


The Half-Blood Prince

In your opinion, people who haven’t read the books have no business seeing the movie. Severus Snape owns your heart. But you’re more interested in his tortured and confusing inner life (and Alan Rickman’s laconic, impeccable pauses) than his ultimate redemption. Your other favorite genre is dystopian. You don’t have a problem with the film-makers adding new scenes or omitting large parts of the story, since film is another medium entirely. In your book, it’s about time that Ron Weasley got some already. You enjoy DRad lolz. Also, you ship yourself with Draco Malfoy.

The Deathly Hallows: Part I

Sometimes, you think the movie versions of the books should never have been made. You’re into slower, character-driven books and movies, and looking back you think your favorite part about the HP series was watching Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s relationship mature and grow. You crush hardest on Hermione. The mythology of the HP universe is fascinating to you, and if it were possible to read Hogwarts: A History, you totally would.

The Deathly Hallows: Part II

It doesn’t have to be happy, sad, or clean, but you like resolutions, and tend to enjoy the last movie in a series. (Historical war films also float your boat.) Also SNAPE & LILY = TEARS FOREVER. You can’t get enough derring-do in sweater vests and love a good ugly duckling story. You look forward to reunions, and have known to be very nostalgic, and oh yeah have you gotten your Pottermore email yet? Also, you have a rockin’ Butterbeer recipe for the DVD release party (ready for the drinking game).


The True Friendship Test

by sarahenni on October 14, 2011

Me: Danielle—POP QUIZ

Danielle: yo yo.

Me: name 5 harry potter spells off the top of your head.

Danielle: avada kedavra.
I’m a bad person for that being #1


Danielle: Accio.
Wingardium Leviosa

wingardium leviosa

Me: damn
pulling out the O.W.L. level shit
3 more!

Danielle: bombarda
that’s the one in chamber of secrets
when hermoine blows up the door to get what’s his face out


Me: This has been confirmed by the Harry wiki: “Bombarda is a spell that provokes small explosions.”

Danielle: I always remember that one bc emma watson looks like such a BAMF when she does it
the light one

Me: nah that’s lumos right?

Danielle: I think that was 5
that’s what I meant
you know where I was going

Me: well that’s 3.5 then*

Danielle: avada kedavra, accio, wingardium leviosa, bombarda, and lumos

Me: OH I forgot accio
you pass the friendship test

Danielle: HA
expecto patronum and expelliarmus are probs the important ones to remember
but the killing one is what I remember first.
there’s a psych test in there somewhere.

Me: that’s like the Rosarch test of the magical world.

* Oh, the maths.