Monday, January 2, 2012

Thoughts on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

It's been a little more than the most recent, and final, Harry Potter movies appeared in my house on DVD.  I have also watched them, out of order, and it inspired some more thoughts that I thought I would share.  First, and foremost, I really liked them, please don't misunderstand anything I say after this, I do really like them.  But seeing them nearly back to back (7.2 last night and 7.1 today), it inspired a few thoughts I hadn't considered when I first saw them in theaters.

First - how do they stack up as separate films?
The short answer is: they don't.  There is a lot in both films that, I imagine, would be hard to understand if you haven't read the book.  And because of the detail of J.K. Rowling's work, there is a lot that is left out or rearranged in order to make it into 2 films.  But the longer answer is that 7.2 could, with about 20 more minutes of introduction, be a film all on its own.  7.1 tells us a LOT of information and does a fair amount of character development and fills a lot of holes, but doesn't build to a particularly good ending.

Second - is one better than the other?
I wouldn't have guessed this, but I really liked 7.2 much better than 7.1.  I think a lot more happens and that action usually contains a fair amount of building the plot forward so that it makes for a more cohesive film.  However, there are scenes from 7.1 that I really enjoy - particularly the scene when 3 gifted actors other than Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint have to play Harry, Hermione and Ron in the Ministry of Magic.  That scene works wonderfully for humor, tension, and building the story.  I think 7.1 could have used more editing (trimming the time in the tent) and a stronger ending scene - the whole scene at Malfoy mansion is very strong in the book, and somehow wasn't brought to the proper climax on film - seriously we should have been crying and it just doesn't quite get there.

Third - other gripes?
Yes, 7.1 works visually on a large screen.  On my smallish TV during the day there were more than a few scenes where I could barely see anything on screen.  The whole scene where Ron fights the horcrux is nearly invisible.  For such a powerful scene, it was disappointing to have it disappear.  I don't know if the color scheme was completely deliberate, but it makes for a dull trudge through almost anything dark or in the woods.
Yes, 7.2 has some really terrific moments, but, in general, the dialogue (when it differs from the book, which much of the battle of Hogwarts does) is not great.  It's hard to tell if it's the acting ability of the cast or just bad acting moments, but in general the dialogue or lack thereof is not great - particularly when they're trying to get across something already known (ex - Ron and Hermione's relationship being exposed to Harry before he goes to the forest, or Neville's speech to Voldemort).

Last - is the epilogue worth the effort?
No.  The make-up, hair and costumes fails miserably to live up to the spectacular 8 movies that precede that final 7 minutes.  None of them actually look measurably older or specifically 19 years older.  Harry looks sick, Ron looks fat, Hermione looks busy, and Ginny looks chic, but none of them look older.  C'mon, they had all the money in the world and they seriously produced that?   As a completion of the film, it's okay since it's so short, but looking at it on it's own, I have to agree with Rachel - they should have put it AFTER the credits for those would might have wanted it.

I'm sure I'll have more and more thoughts as I watch this many times over the next many years, but these are my first set of thoughts on the movies seen within 24 hours, out of sequence.  Perhaps I need to try them again in order.  Since I have another 3 weeks before the spring semester starts, maybe I'll try that.  Advice?  Thoughts?

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