I managed to see the final installment of the Harry Potter films last night, and figured that nothing has lit up the blog in the past quite like debating Potter, the books, the films, the cultural relevance of the series. So, why not employ the Resurrection Stone and bring this conversation back.
I’ll let this general subject stand, and comment below with hope to hear some of you chime in, if you’ve seen the new move or not.
First, to start with the latest film, The Deathly Hallows, Part Two–I think overall it was good, maybe my third favorite of the films, after Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire. Certainly the new one is the most action-packed and violent, and of course there’s the satisfaction of seeing it through to the end. I have to say, I even left the theater with a sense of relief that it was over–that is part praise, and part criticism, I suppose.
There’s no question in my mind that the very best thing about the new film is Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort. Thankfully, he is at last mostly in the film, where in the past he has been too absent. I’m amazed at how good Fiennes is, given that the books don’t detail a lot about Voldemort’s appearance or voice, and so I credit Fiennes (OK, and an amazing make-up and costume crew) for basically inventing the character–which is far scarier, to me, than Rowling’s version in the books.
The second best thing is Snape, and his story line, and how the film dealt with the revelation of Snape’s good intentions, his love for Harry’s mother, etc. Again, I think this was perhaps better in the film than in the book–only because they did add in the film the idea that Snape was the one who first came upon Harry’s parents’ dead bodies and Harry himself, and we see Snape’s reaction to Lily’s death. I don’t believe that was in Rowling’s story, but correct me if I am wrong. In any case, Snape’s death and his final scenes from the Pensieve were well done.
Otherwise, there was a lot of jumble of action and convolution around the Elder Wand and who disarmed who when, blah blah blah, which seemed beside much of the point–or at least revealed how a technicality is what ultimately brings down the most powerful evil wizard in wizarding history.
Nonetheless, I enjoyed the film, and would recommend it on the big screen. I was much more interested in Part Two than Part One, so I was glad to have some of the worst parts about The Deathly Hallows already out of the way by the time things get started. I still maintain that there is not a lot of reason to have divided the last book into two films (given that they did not do this for longer or equally long previous books), and so while I enjoyed seeing it all play out in some extended sequence, it does break the illusion of art and entertainment being somehow other than commercial (an illusion that I admit is merely an illusion, but the presence of which I have previously appreciated in other movie series).
Enough from me, but thought I’d see if there was some conversation to be had, since the blog has been relatively quiet, despite Ned’s yeoman’s work.
Sara and I attended the final segment today (so these opinions are pretty raw). My favorites books (by far) are Prisoner and Order of the Phoenix. I thought the Goblet of Fire was exciting as a book, though it did little to advance the major themes. Eliot thrilled in all the escapes and scrapes it provided for Harry. But the Goblet movie I can’t stand. Maybe it was a matter of vision (I can’t remember who directed that one).
Critics criticized the Order as a film, and though it leaves out much of the action in the latter part of the novel, I think the climax is brilliant and with the Order, Umbridge and the prophecy much of the entire framework is setup in Phoenix. In the book, a resolution moment with Dumbledore reveals Voldemort could not possess Harry because he was filled with too much love despite his failure at Occlumency. In the film this is not revealed in a discussion with Dumbledore, but in a scene where Harry’s memories, bad and good, are flashed across the screen, and then in the throes of pain, he professes that he feels sorry for Voldemort because he will never know love or friendship. This was a much more satisfying/profound/inventive conclusion to a confrontation than the wand business that Shotts refers to as blah, blah, blah.
I like the Snape revelations that occur throughout book 6 and 7, but other than that they build toward something that is ultimately not as profound as earlier moments in the series. That said, I agree the visuals are spectacular and Hogwarts under siege at night should be viewed on the large screen. I like the development of Neville’s role and I guess it ends as it only could. I guess to be more generous, I very much liked the idea of Harry as one of the containers of Voldemort’s soul, though Rowling kind of slips out of making that as much of a bind as it could have been. The older, heavy hitting actors very much bulster this film, Fiennes, Rickman, and Maggie Smith.
I feel a bit sad it’s over, but I guees that’s natural.
One thing I noticed was the very Christlike moment where Snape says “…you’ve kept him alive so that he can die at the right moment. You’ve raised him like a lamb for slaughter.”
Also, if you go down the side on recent comments. I actually added a recent post about the books, “Recurring Themes”.
Thanks, Ned. You are indeed the yeoman of the blog.
My favorite two books are Prisoner of Azkaban and The Half-Blood Prince (though the movie of Half-Blood Prince was a little weak). I thought Order of the Phoenix so bloated, both book and movie, that it lost traction. I really like the Goblet of Fire movie for the Tri-Wizard Competition, and mostly for the first appearance we have of Fiennes as Voldemort, which I remember being startling as he so off-handedly kills Cedric Diggery.
Ned, you’re right to mention Maggie Smith. It is a highlight of the new film when she briefly duels it out with Snape. She’s a great actor.
So much of the end of Deathly Hallows–book and movie–is “Christlike” that I balk a bit. Maybe too easy and less original. Maybe a wink to all those Christian commentators who felt the Harry Potter series was satanic/unchristian/whatever.
I don’t see what’s new and about Harry Potter in the original “Recurring Themes post, but I will look again. I thought that was about Eliot reading a comic book instead of going to bed. Recurring theme, indeed.
There was little emotion to me in the last movie, so I don’t agree it’s natural to feel sad it’s over. As I said, I felt more of a relief. I think Daniel Radcliffe said much the same, but then he will have the Potter burden weighing on him for the rest of his life. I wonder how many of those great British actors kind of wince at the whole thing as well, much as Alec Guinness did with Star Wars: “I spend my whole life becoming a classically trained, Shakespearean actor, and in the end I will almost entirely be known only as Obi-Wan Kenobi.”
Right you are, I think the one I posted under was “Participate if you want.”
I do agree that Phoenix was too long and laborious but I guess I feel that about pretty much most of the series.
Eliot loves it so maybe it’s okay for kids, but I always find myself wanting to zip through the Quiditch parts, which I never care much for.
It was a nice touch in the movie to show the Quidditch field ablaze…
It is a bit ironic to think of Gambon, Smith, and Rickman making their mark on history with these roles. But I would say, in general, the acting in the Potter saga is quite a bit more impressive than that of the Star Wars saga. Neeson, Jackson, McGregor, Portman… the list of capable actors who turned in mediocre to poor performances goes on… Admittedly, the screenwriting had much to do with it.
Agreed. I would say, too, that the casting of many British actors in the original Star Wars has had its effect on many such series since. And I think Alec Guinness taking the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi probably raised eyebrows at the time, but it has also made it fashionable, perhaps, among the British acting elite to take these “pop” roles.
Ned, I get the sense we’re having a one-on-one dialogue. Fine by me. Hope you’re well.
I am fine. And certainly Potter is not done with me yet, as Eliot is enthralled with the series. I am trying to postpone the next few books until he is a bit more mature.
Our little family had some sad news recently, but hard to sympathize with for outsiders and non-dog owners. After about 12 years with us, Agnes has been diagnosed with advanced Lymphoma and won’t be with us too much longer. It was hard to believe how sad I’ve been about the news over the last few days.
How are you guys?
Glad to hear you’re extending the series with Eliot, and not running straight through it all. I think the suspense would be fun for him too, a pause between books.
Very sorry to hear about Agnes, however. I know she’s been a part of the family for a long time. Hope it goes well from here, as well as it can.
Thanks, Jeff. How’s your summer going?
I sort of suspect/intuit that Shotts has Snape’s disdainful “Potter!” voice in his head whenever he conjures up images of Rowling and the success of this whole thing. Honestly, I am looking forward to a time when I can share these stories anew with Ruby and see them through her eyes.
Recently, while looking at the dvds, I noticed that the Phoenix is the shortest of all the films, which makes Shotts’ comment that the film is bloated odd to me. The book, yes.