I first saw DH2 on Friday night, and my thoughts after watching it were:
On Wednesday night I saw it again, determined to find out why I disliked it so much, and whether I was just being too hard on it. Interestingly, most Potter fans seem to have liked it this time, which was not the case before. Mike Patterson though has this interesting writeup pointing out in very specific instances why the movie was bad. I myself have only raised my rating a couple of notches. Seen independently, the movie is decent, but after multiple readings of the book and ten years of association with Harry Potter it is plain bad.
To get the good parts out of the way, the Prince’s Tale was beautifully done, Alan Rickman brings his marvellous portrayal of Snape to a great ending. The movie was visually pretty good, and Hogwart’s defending itself was well done, though a bit artificial in the performances of the professors.
But in the bid to add action and drama to the movie, certain themes of the book were pushed aside, and that made this movie just another action thriller. There was some weak acting in places and just terrible situations too, but to focus:
We start at Gringotts and Harry casts the Imperius Curse on the goblin. To lend some perspective, use of the Unforgiveable Curses is akin to murder in the Muggle world. Harry has demonstrated countless times before that he is not comfortable with hurting others (Expelliarmus anyone?). In fact, it is Griphook who has to put the idea in his head.
“Act now, act now,” whispered Griphook in Harry’s ear, “the Imperius Curse!” – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Page 531 of the US edition
And another memory darted through his mind, of the real Bellatrix Lestrange shrieking at him when he had first tried to use an Unforgivable Curse: “You need to mean them, Potter!” – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Page 533 of the US edition
The use of Imperio in the book is an act of desperation, because certain things are simply evil, even in the magical world, and making a person go against his will is one of them. In the movie, we aren’t even shown Harry’s face as he casts the spell, and when Ron casts it again in the depths of Gringotts, he does it trivially. Obviously you cannot explain thought processes on screen, but a touch of hesistation, an expression, goes a long way into conveying the seriousness of the act. After all the goblin does die in the movie due to the curse.
Wands are the crux of the books, the one way humans get access to magic. They are ‘alive’, and bond and grow up with the wizard. Wands are respected, even Death Eaters don’t just destroy their enemy’s wand. The breaking of the holly and phoenix feather wand is immensely important. That wand has kept him alive 6 years. Its breaking is also symbolic of how Harry has to sever connections with Voldemort to defeat him. The re-joining of his wand is the last thing Harry does in the book, signifying a new beginning. Where is the holly wand in the movie?!
Now to turn to the Elder Wand, the Deathstick, a wand with more lore than any other. The scene in the Headmaster’s office in “The Flaw in the Plan” is to show that Harry has the selflessness to give up that power and accept Death, but he still does not destroy it because it is an artifact, and Harry realizes that and puts it back in the grave, aware that its power is not really neutralized just yet.
In the movie, he just snaps it and throws the pieces away. You DO NOT snap a wand!
“Is this the moment?” Harry asked weakly… – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Page 625 of the US edition
Ron and Hermione do not kiss because they destroyed a Horcrux! The Kiss serves multiple purposes in the book. Tension between Ron and Hermione has been brewing since Book 3. Ron has always been attracted to Hermione, but she holds back, unsure of Ron’s seriousness. Book 6 and 7 are about Ron maturing and starting to think about others. Ron abandoning Harry and Hermione and then returning is the test of his growth.
Meanwhile Hermione has always been the one to watch out for others. She also has a fanatical desire for equality of all species. Rowling clearly wanted to point out against discrimination in our society, and what better way than to use a Muggle-born girl with no pre-conceptions. S.P.E.W. is just her being formal, but all through Book 4-7 Hermione has stood up for the down-trodden – even when Kreacher is lying she supports him.
Ron remembering that the house-elves need to be rescued flips the switch. It convinces her that Ron truly has changed and is capable of the compromises required in a relationship. Second his acceptance for something she supports is crucial for her to commit.
The Kiss was not spontaneous, it was building up for 4 books. The only thing spontaneous was the absurdity of the situation. All of this was lost in the movie.
The Flaw in the Plan…
was badly dealt with.
So there is the most powerful wizard of all time, he has the most powerful wand of all time, WHY would he try to rip out Harry’s face with bare hands?
And why would you show both Bellatrix’s and Voldemort’s bodies as some kind of container for their souls, so that once the curse hits, they just disintegrate? Voldemort was after all, only human and the falling of his frail body with “mundane finality” was supposed to indicate this.
Then the theme of love and remorse that is a cornerstone of the book is never raised. That Voldemort’s spells are no longer binding on anybody because Harry has effectively ‘pulled a Lily’ on everyone is skipped. That love and sacrifice defeat Death is ignored. I would have loved to see Voldemort scream “Accidents” like he does in the book, to show his ignorance of “house elves and children’s tales, of love, loyalty, and innocence”.
Expelliarmus and Avada Kedavra, Harry and Voldemort’s trademark moves were for a reason. For Voldemort it represents his conviction that Death is the worst damage you can inflict, while Disarming fits Harry’s character of not wishing death even to his attacker. In the movie the spells were never uttered (and we know that Harry is bad at non-verbal spells). The spells seemed to be different too, since Avada Kedavra does not disintegrate the body.
Ah, were to start with this. Book 7 took this great great man that was Albus Dumbledore and tore him down, producing the flawed human every one of us is. Harry and Dumbledore are two characters shaped by death and Dumbledore’s reaction proves opposite to Harry’s reaction for a while. Dumbledore is the man who campaigns for equality, non-discrimination and all other things that are Voldemort. He is the character who brings out the deeper flaws in the wizarding world to casual readers. And contrary to being all this through wisdom, Rowling gave him these attributes by making him a man filled with remorse.
Rowling is trying to show throughout the books is that its the choices that matter!
If that wasn’t enough, Dumbledore is linked to the Hallows and Horcruxes and essentially scripts this entire storyline in a very high-level manner. His theories about the connection between Harry and Voldemort and how Magic is connected to conscious phenomena like Love is the only channel the reader has of deeper insights into the Wizarding World. To drop all mention of Dumbledore in the movie was representative of Hollywood’s bid to add only action and bling to known blockbusters, creating movies that do not make the reader think or disturb them.
Many readers judge of the power of a book by the shock it gives their feelings. – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Kavanagh, Chapter XIII.
In re-reading this article, I feel I haven’t been fully able to convince the reader due to a lack of writing skills. I’d take that up in specific comments if any :)
Summing it up the books are about death and love and innocence and good and evil, but also about moments and small scenes that create intricate characters in our minds, and frame unspoken laws about the world of the book. You cannot make a good movie without keeping those in mind.