Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Much like the books, this final installment, despite all the action, sort of peters out. I realize this is heresy to many fans and movie-goers, but I was never a huge fan of either the written or filmed version of the story. I did, however, read and see both full cycles.

So, first, a brief response to the last film and then a short discussion on my reasons. Feel free to disagree or click away–I’m aware I’m trading on consecrated ground for many people.

Generally speaking, this was a fine adventure film, but with very little emotion. Given that it was the wind up to the previous Part 1, this isn’t surprising and is really a manifestation of the studio’s decision to not do one overlong movie and so that their bottom-line wouldn’t plummet before the last Batman came out. The performances were as steady as always. The action is very action-y. The final fight is disappointing, but if you don’t have the emotion and you do have a ton of huge battle scenes for the previous 2 hours, of course it will pale in comparison.

There was nothing particularly bad about this last installment, it just wasn’t great. It was also filmed with very little light on the screen, which I found annoying at times. It is a good way to hide the edges of CGI, but it also means you can’t see very much. So for this particular film, I think it is best to say it just doesn’t stand on its own nor pays off particularly satisfactorily. I do intend, someday/weekend, to watch the whole cycle beginning to end to see if it works better and if I can remember all the important bits that slipped my memory during intervening years.

As to the story as a whole and its adaptation, I have many opinions, but I’ve focused my thoughts into two main areas.

On the written side, Potter was a great 4 book story told in 7 books. The story was stretched out and uncontrolled in places. The endless breast beating and then rush to the end are evidence of that. It was perfectly fun to read (OK, minus some of the Harry whining) but its real success was getting so many from outside the genre to buy in.┬áThis is something I truly admire the books for–JK did one thing utterly brilliantly: opening the world so slowly that “muggles” were willing to buy into the fantasy before they even realized they’d shifted into that realm.

On the adaptation side I think the movies fail in many ways. Mostly this was due to what they left out and what they assumed. Leaving out characters and plotlines is expected, especially in large stories. This is fine and can be done exceedingly well. We’ve seen it so. However, while main plotlines and events were left out, they were still assumed to have happened without ever imparting the information. I know this to be the case as I didn’t start to read the books till the end of 3rd or 4th movie (they start to blur for me) when the last 20 minutes made utterly no sense and I had to ask a friend what the heck was going on. Thus ensued a 40 min primer on what info had not been explained. Crucial information.

This practice continued up through the end of the series. This was a choice the various adaptions made… to assume the viewer had already read the books. IOW, the opposite of what JK did so well in unfolding the world, the studio decided to reverse. The final effect of that is these become moving comics of the books rather than stand-alone entities of the story. Let’s face it, they had a theme park to sell, and changing anything would have ruined that goal and likely brought on the wrath of the fans. Ultimately, I don’t think they will stand the test of time because of their approach, though certainly they raked it in for now. Heck, even I bought the cycle on blu-ray; though mostly for my niece, I hold out hope watching it together may change some of my opinions… and I’m not too big to admit that if it happens. And watching 8 films over 10 years (when I watch over 300 a year) is not the most cohesive experience.

Potter has had a hugely positive effect on the genre business. Well, the fantasy genre business anyway. Science fiction is still the shunned child in arts and letters. For this I am grateful, that I no longer feel self-conscious reading my books in public places. But as durable art, I don’t think Potter was more than a visual romp and nice adjunct to the books. They are not their own entity and, therefore, as movies are weaker for it.

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