Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2: Always

 Always. That word is on my cell phone wallpaper with the Silver Doe. My older cell phone flips open and doesn’t have a keyboard for texting. So all the while I am tapping out a text, I look at the picture and the word that I found the most poignant in the whole book.

It’s not just a word that applies to Snape, though it is his. Always, Dobby was loyal to Harry, willing to do anything to save him, even when it meant giving his life. Always, Kreacher was faithful to his master Regulus, even at the torturous hands of Lord Voldemort. Always, Harry could count on Ron and Hermione. Disagreements over broomsticks and tournaments were but minor separations for the three of them. Ron left them both in a fit of anger and jealousy, and yet, he regretted leaving as soon as he had done it. And it was Dumbledore who knew that Ron would always want to return to them and gave him the deluminator as the means for him to come back, always. Always, help will be given to those at Hogwarts if they desire it, or as Dumbledore amends it in the movie, if they deserve it. Lily, James, Remus and Sirius are with Harry, always. And that word was added to the movie when Lily says, “Always”.

There were so many things that were spot on in this last movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. Harry’s meetings with Griphook and Ollivander give us all the information we need before Harry, Ron and Hermione set off to find the remaining Horcruxes. Yes, with changes. Ollivander in the movie does know about the Deathly Hallows, where, in the book, he clearly does not. It’s one of the few reminders the movie goers get as to the story they might have forgotten from the last movie. Gringotts gave us a wild ride to the vaults that reminded me of our recent visit to "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter" at Universal in Orlando. Only wilder. Visually, it was amazing – Gringotts with all the goblins, the Lestrange vault, the treasure locked there, the multiplying treasure, and the escape on the dragon. Minor changes there as it is Hermione who sees the dragon as a means of escape. I don’t think that is one of those changes that matters.

The Battle for Hogwarts had all the right elements, though not in the same way as the book. Some of the characters were there but didn’t have their moment to really shine. It would have detracted from the pacing of the movie, even I admit that. It’s enough that we saw them all fighting for the school, doing their duty as McGonagall ordered the armor that marched forth in a Bed Knobs and Broomsticks manner. Was it the same spell? In seeing the movie the second time, I do think that Voldemort and Harry did the same spells as in the book, but we don’t hear them say them aloud. The result is the same – Voldemort is disarmed and Harry catches the Elder wand.

Thankfully, Yates took the time for all the other things going on during the battle. The Grey Lady (though I missed the back story connection between Helena Ravenclaw and the Bloody Baron) and the Room of Requirement. Ron and Hermione in the Chamber of Secrets and a moment we’ve been waiting for since that first hand touch in Prisoner of Azkaban, the one that started in Chamber of Secrets when Hermione and Ron awkwardly avoided hugging after she was un-petrified. Snape. The Prince’s Tale. Harry’s walk into the forest and his talk with his parents and their best friends. Harry’s talk with Dumbledore at King’s Cross Station, which looks more like a cathedral in the first images when Harry opens his eyes, just as I imagined it when I read the book the first time.

David Yates is able to do more with unspoken scenes than most directors. His use of flash backs is better than any director I know of. They are quick, but enough to remind the viewer of past events or choices made. There is a moment with Fred and George that reminds us of their closeness and their transformation from jokesters to serious fighters, one which foreshadows what is to come, be it ever so subtle. What was missing in Fred's quick death, which I didn't see the first time I watched the movie, was the reconcilliation with Percy. That moment of his asking for and being granted forgiveness is important and should have been included. There is a look between eleven year olds, Lily and Severus, that tells us all we need to know about the change in their close friendship and Snape’s regret, even though we don’t have the conversation between the two that Lily can’t be Severus’s friend any longer because of his choice to be with the future Death Eaters. It was in the moment of their sorting that their friendship was changed forever and that point is made in that one look of regret on Severus's face.

I’ve been an Alan Rickman fan since he was first cast as Severus Snape. I’ve watched every one of his many movies that I could find – even if I didn’t like the movie, I loved his performances. So it’s no surprise to me that he gave Snape the richness of character that we all saw by the time we finished the seventh book. I wasn’t the only one in the theater crying over his death and Harry’s last excursion into the Pensieve, this time with Severus's help and permission. One of the best added lines in the movie is Snape telling Harry that he has his mother's eyes just after he said "Look at me."

Was this movie perfect? No. None of the movies are, in my opinion. But that, I’m afraid, is the problem with trying to translate a complex book to a movie. As with all of the Harry Potter books, so much of what is important to the story is seen internally through Harry’s eyes. That’s very difficult as we are reminded with the release of every movie.

I do have some complaints about this movie, for all that I liked about it. The Battle for Hogwarts gave us the visual of the scope of the war and what that would look like. But the final battle between Harry and Voldemort is done out of sight of everyone else. The rest of them are apparently still fighting in the Great Hall and unaware that the battle for their way of life is happening without their knowledge. Consequently, when Harry tells Voldemort a few of the things that he does in the book, no one else hears it. Harry doesn’t elaborate on how he knows that Snape was loyal to Dumbledore and intent on betraying Voldemort. We don’t have the satisfaction of Voldemort being given one last chance at remorse and failing to see that what Dumbledore said all along was what would save his soul.

In reading comments from a few people I’ve talked with for almost ten years, the split on whether the battle in the movie is well done or not hinges on whether they choose to acknowledge the Christian elements in the books, especially in the last book. Those who didn’t like that part of the last book are much happier that it was all left out of the movie and those of us who appreciated the fullness of Rowling’s story are disappointed that this was the part that was changed and omitted from the movie. We’ve been told that Ms. Rowling herself was one of the producers on this last film and that changes made were by her approval. She was so forthcoming about the point of the books, especially the last one, having Christian themes, I have to wonder why she is now backing away from it. What did it take to convince her to give her OK to the changes in the battle?

Yes, I like the dialogue in the book better. I missed hearing Harry once more remind Voldemort that his mother’s love protected him and that his mother’s love bound the two of them together when he mingled their blood at his rebirthing. Those who don’t understand the power of love place their trust in things that aren’t real, that aren’t lasting. It’s the part that ties the last book to the first book and completes the story beautifully. I wish that had been included in the movie.

At the end, we see that Harry explains the Elder wand to Ron and Hermione, rather than to all the people in the Great Hall. He doesn’t have that last conversation with Dumbledore’s portrait, nor does he use the Elder Wand to try to repair his own Holly and Phoenix Feather one. Someone pointed out that in the previous movie, one of the snatchers throws away Harry’s wand in the woods. But wouldn’t that have been the wand he had that Ron brought him after he returned and not his own? I’ll have to re-watch that part of Deathly Hallows, Part 1, I guess.

However, I think that Harry breaking the Elder Wand puts even more of an end to its power than putting it back in the tomb with Dumbledore. Breaking wands isn’t something that is done very often in the wizarding world – it’s only Hagrid’s wand that we are told is broken when he is expelled, Ron’s wand that is accidentally broken beyond repair when they crash the car into the Whomping Willow and Harry’s wand that is accidentally broken when he and Hermione escape from Godric’s Hollow. Breaking another's wand seems to be an act that just isn’t justified in fighting another wizard. Otherwise, when one wizard disarms another, why wouldn’t they just snap the wand in two? So to see the wand broken and discarded at the end leaves us with the reality that the Elder Wand won’t be used by another wizard ever again.

We saw Harry drop the Resurrection Stone in the forest and he makes no mention of wanting to go back to find it. Anyone who has ever dropped anything in the woods would know that it’s extremely difficult to find it again. And of course, he still has the Cloak of Invisibility, though we don’t see him use it as much as in the book. I've always thought that was a technical choice they made for the movies - too much time under the Invisibility Cloak doesn't work as wel in a movie as it does in a book.

Some of the other things that happen during the Battle are implied rather than said. Voldemort silences them all, but then Ginny is able to scream and Neville talks, so his spell isn’t working like it did – they just don’t comment on it like they do in the book. The hug is odd from Voldemort, but Draco’s reaction is really the point. He looks like he is being struck rather than hugged – like he finds the attention from Voldemort repulsive. Gone is all his bravado and Draco's only goal at that point is to get to his parents. They are a family that has suffered more than they ever imagined possible. In the book, they remain in the Great Hall, ignored by the others as they grieve, marginalized as they have done to those who aren’t pure bloods. In the movie, they walk away and I found their exit very effective. It makes the point stronger that the Malfoys, for all their faults, have in the end chosen their family over the ideology of Voldemort and the Death Eaters.

There is one more detail that I thought I saw the first time I watched the movie and definitely saw the second time. When Voldemort is in the boat house, he has his back turned to Lucius (I think it’s him and not Snape, but it doesn’t matter). Voldemort pulls up his sleeve and his arm looks scarred where the Dark Mark was. When he turns back around he hears a muffled sounding Lucius’s voice. That is the pointer to Voldemort’s diminished power over others. He knows it, but still tries to bluster his way through, thinking that by killing Snape he has once again mastered the Elder Wand.

The Epilogue was well done as far as it went. But because there was hardly any mention of Teddy Lupin he’s not there and that leaves out a completion of the alchemical story. The two children with alchemical names, Hugo and Rose, are listed in the credits but no one says their names aloud, so we miss that as well. But we do get to hear Harry tell his youngest son that he was named for two Headmasters of Hogwarts and that Severus was the bravest man he ever knew. It is the verbal affirmation that Harry knew and acknowledges all the sacrifices that Snape made for Lily's memory. And Harry does tell Albus Severus that, if it matters to him, he can choose which house he is in – even the Sorting Hat will take his choice into account.

Love and choice, two themes that come through loud and clear, in the books and in the movies. Always.