Episode 121: HP7DHPt2 (Accio Spoilers)

deathly hallows part 2 podcast

We’ve given you a full week to see the film and something like four years to read the book, so we’re not even going to bother warning you this episode/blog post contains spoilers. Your puny Petronus is no match for our Avada Spoilavra anyway.

A decade of Harry Potter comes to a close with HP7DHPt2. Which is the second half of the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and not a new virulent strain of the flu.

Yet, like a malaise, this cinematic end is causing acute sadness in some people. It’s the end of a magical era. There will no longer be another installment to look forward to; No annual booster shot of enchantment to revive the spell cast by the books that were such a profound experience for so many.

In others there’s merely this vague sense of relief or, if that’s putting it too strongly, a sense of finality somewhat similar to putting a cherished pet to sleep after a long and fulfilled life. But a pet you were never really that fond of. What’s playing next?

Richard Smith, of the Movies You Should See Podcast, wrote this blog post on opening weekend. In it he’s summed up most of what’s wrong with both Deathly Hallows films. Mainly that the pacing is messed up entirely. Things that should have had time spent on them are rushed and unimportant events are given long, atmospheric sequences. At one point I came back from the washroom and Mandi told me, “You missed Voldemort walking across the bridge.”

David Yates is certainly adept at conjuring up the proper atmosphere for Harry Potter. But but he’s a squib at telling the  story.

Too many small, but very important, details were cut seemingly for the sake of freeing up the time needed for atmospheric bridge walking. It wasn’t until the polyjuice potion wore off that I realized the bearded guy in the bank heist was Ron. Perhaps process of elimination should have clued me in but I was too busy trying to actually be immersed in the movie to do some critical thinking.

Those who know the book by heart (many in the audience probably) wouldn’t have this problem. But I’ve only read the book once and that was over a year ago. There should have been a five second shot of Ron transforming. Besides it’s always cool to watch wizards doing some magic. In a movie about wizards doing magic.

Though there were far too many small cuts of this nature, one thing I do disagree with Rich about is that the whole book couldn’t have been done in one film because the cuts would’ve been even worse. It’s not the cuts that are the problem, it’s the slapdash way they were handled.

If the proper amount of time had been given to each scene, the book could have been wrapped-up in three hours without jettisoning anything important.  At least, it couldn’t really be any worse than it is and we wouldn’t have had to sit through so much camping and an interminably drawn-out, unengaging, teenage soap opera.

Part 2 doesn’t suffer from the same poorly handled interpersonal drama by almost entirely removing personal interaction between any of the characters. Everyone is all business, all the time. There’s hardly time for Harry and Ron to share two words and none that aren’t pragmatic discussions about the task at hand.

The same goes for Ron and Hermione’s romantic reconciliation. When estranged true love’s reunite in the heat of battle, it should be an emotional experience. But like many of the scenes in the film, Yates relies to heavily on the audience’s knowledge of the book and not actually spending the time on telling the story in the film. Film kit contains everything you need to recreate the scene from the book! Some assembly required (emotions not included).

With this in mind, I find it amazing Yates handled “Snape’s Memory” so well. Or well enough for it to provoke an emotional response in me. He must have known this scene would be make-or-break for the movie.

Actually, I give all the credit to Alan Rickman. He’s one of those deceptive actors who fools you into dismissing him as a campy showboat then blindsides you with some subtly nuanced quivering-eyeball-and-lip acting. Perhaps that still falls into the campy camp. But he saves the entire film in one five-minute scene.

Speaking of campy acting, Ralph Fiennes does a pretty amazing Voldemort happy dance when he believes he’s killed Harry Potter. It’s as if, after ten years, he finally got a handle on Voldemort’s character at the end of the franchise. It reminded me of when the titular Bill shows up in Kill Bill part 2 and is disarmingly wacky, defying expectations (well, defying the expectations of someone who’s never seen a Tarantino film).

Voldemort finally transcends being a two-dimensional matinee villain and transforms into an actual flesh-and-blood character. You see just how crazy he really is; how his fascist, anti-Muggle beliefs are really just a smokescreen for a damaged, infantile psyche. He’s not just hateful, power-hungry and psychotically violent, his “evil” is much more tragically human. He can’t even begin to understand the world he inhabits because he sees the world through the eyes of an emotionally stunted child. He’s lost in the wilderness and doesn’t even realize it. It’s a glorious bit of acting and it lasts under 3 seconds.

Then it’s back to being the cartoon baddie until his inevitable and somewhat anti-climactic demise.

Really the film is an endless series of anti-climactic deaths. Bellatrix Lestrange, George Weasley, Snape, Remus and Tonks and others all die without quite enough ceremony. The deaths didn’t have to be long and drawn out affairs full of wheezing speeches and final breaths, but each should have felt more more significant than it did.

But anti-climax seems to be what Yates was going for with film. Which brings us to one of the most bizarre final shots in film history. Just before the “19 years later” epilogue (which itself is unintentionally hilarious for various reasons involving make-up), Harry, Ron and Hermione are standing on a bridge, the one Voldemort walked across atmospherically, staring ahead.

Staring at what, we don’t know.

The ruins of Hogwarts? Maybe. We aren’t shown. Towards the future or back at the past seven years? One would assume. Though that shot is traditionally framed from behind the actors so we can partake in the vista they’re contemplating. Whatever it is they’re standing there silently looking at was making them visibly awkward and uncomfortable. Fade to black.

They probably appear so awkward—as if they don’t know what they were supposed to be looking at or why—because they were actually looking at nothing, standing in a green screen studio with David Yates directing them, “More intense! And faster!”

Though not entirely unsatisfying (for those who’ve read the books and only need the films to be the cliff-notes version), it’s still a disappointing, slightly inglorious end to a monumental film franchise.

Not as disappointing as Warner Bros. stopping Brad Neely from making the entire Wizard People, Dear Reader series.

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