Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Re-reading and Re-watching: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two

Who could have known?  Who could have known that esteemed and hallowed British actor Alan Rickman would have passed away last week, along with David Bowie?  Both after battling forms of cancer. 

I first became aware of Alan Rickman when my dad made us watch Die Hard on VHS.  Before Die Hard, the most effective villains were either Emperor Palpatine or the Nazis, not even counting Darth Vader because he redeemed himself in the end.  All other villains, in my limited child-hood knowledge of movies, mostly came from the earlier Bond films and many made the most bone-headed moves that would later spawn the Austin Powers parodies.  

Until Die Hard.

Until Alan Rickman.

Rickman’s Hans Gruber was intelligent, crafty, well-spoken and near invincible.  He wasn’t like Jack Nicholson’ Joker, he didn’t exist simply because the hero created him and vice versa.  His was a villain that had a plan, who had brains, and could prove he was superior in every way to Bruce Willis’ red-blooded American hero.  There is no other actor who can play an international criminal mastermind and make you believe in your bones, like Rickman can.  There are many Die Hard sequels, and even more Bruce Willis action movies, but there is only one Die Hard, and a large part of that is because of Alan Rickman.

And then there is Professor Severus Snape.

I’ll explain more below but let me just say that Snape’s character in the books is complicated, yes, but not nearly as subtle, nuanced and secretly caring of his students than Rickman’s portrayal in the films.  Simply put, he elevates the character to unexpected heights, beyond was required of him.  The Harry Potter fandom will miss an integral character that was as real to them as any teacher, mentor or friend in real life. 

Spoilers below.


The last ten chapters, unsurprisingly flew by.  As I explained in my last post, I broke up the last book into two parts just as the movie had done.  One thing that I forgot to mention last time was the reveal of Harry Potter’s age.

Hermione finds James and Lily Potter’s headstones in the Godric’s Hollow’s graveyard with their date of births both being in 1960 and the date of their death as 10/31/1981.  From this we know Harry was born 7/31/1980.  I don’t recall putting this together on my first read-through of the last book, eight years ago.  I was born in ’82 and my parents in ‘62.  While this doesn’t change my opinions much, it is strange to think Harry, Ron and Hermione are all 2 years older than me when I always thought the characters were much younger. 

Another item I forgot to mention, was just how much I freaking cried when Dobby dies in the first half.  I can’t say the last book as a whole is my favorite, too many cherished characters die and the epilogue is quite a let-down.  In the first half, Dobby dies nobly and we the readers are given some time to recoup before the finale, when majors characters are just dying left and right. 

The book doesn’t not specify whether Griphook dies, as he is not specifically mentioned as one of the goblins that goes to Malfoy Manor and is murdered out of rage by Voldemort.  Though Neville is able to summon the Sword of Gryffindor during the Battle of Hogwarts, which would seem rather difficult to do unless Griphook did perish.  Lavender’s fate is also not specified in the books, as she is in grave peril but is shown to be feebly stirring after falling off a balcony.  Both film versions of Griphook and Lavender do die.  Wormtail’s on-screen death was bizarrely left out, making large plots of Film Three and minor parts of Film Four, utterly unresolved.

After a long lull, we finally get more details of House Ravenclaw than the last few books combined.  Professor Flitwick is finally specified as the Head of House Ravenclaw, we get to learn of the Grey Lady, and Ravenclaw’s diadem plays a larger role in the plot than say Hufflepuff’s cup, which doesn’t get nearly enough attention.  The new focus is limited to Ravenclaw, we don’t learn any new details of House Hufflepuff.  However, both houses remain to participate in the Battle of Hogwarts while Slytherin leaves the castle.  I love Professor Sprout’s response to Professor McGonagall’s request to defend the castle;

Filius Flitwick: "I suppose you are aware that nothing we do can indefinitely prevent You-Know-Who to enter the school, right? —"

Sprout: "But we can delay it."

Minerva McGonagall: "Thank you, Pomona."

Sadly her role in the film is relegated to Molly Weasley, though she does make a small appearance.

Now, for the thing I’ve dreaded, that epilogue…….


It’s not my favorite ending.

It’s one of the reasons the last book and the last film are not my favorites.

Speeding ahead 19 years is bad enough, we miss all the potential wonderful moments of the trio’s adult lives, their first date, their weddings, their eventual occupations, the re-building of Hogwarts, the birth of their first child, second child, third child in one case……I could go on.

I know I’m not alone in hating the epilogue.  J.K. Rowling just put a stop to all of the potentially wonderful endings in our head as to what the trio did next after a tragic, emotional journey of love, loss, pain and acceptance that, for many of us, lasted through years of our own formative childhoods and adolescent years. Compared to the ending in our heads, the actual written epilogue is just so mundane, boring, and unimaginative.  For one of the most magical tales of our time, the ending just doesn’t even come close. 

The ending basically consists of they got married, had kids, bam! The end!  Too damn bad if you were curious as to what our three heroes eventually grew up to become, what jobs they might have had.  According to the epilogue, they didn’t have new adventures, didn’t meet anyone new, stopped growing as characters, and all had kids in their early 20s at the same time.  We don’t even know what happens to George! What happens to the perfection of the character that is Luna? What happens to Hagrid, to Seamus, to Dean?  How even cares about Malfoy?  And Ron is still somewhat of an asshole, after 19 FUCKING YEARS!!!  Hermione doesn’t even say a word to Harry in the epilogue.  What fresh hell is this?

All outrage aside, I do realize that J.K. Rowling completely a herculean task worthy of all accolades.  There is no doubt she is the greatest writer of our time.  She kept her world scale -able, and within scope and by god, released those seven tomes of fantastical tales like clockwork.  Which more than can be said about George R.R. Martin.  She did not write about every wizard to have existed, she kept laser-focused and finished her generation-spanning saga in impressive time.

Well done!


Steve Kloves acts, again, as screenwriter on the last film and does a mostly admirable job of condensing plots and characters.  This film is actually the shortest in the series.  When I mentioned Film Five being the shortest previously, I should have specified that is was the shortest film based on an entire book.  Many details of the finale are re-worked, changed, and even left out entirely.  I realize this is necessary to present a film with a better flow and more tension.

The reveal of Lupin and Tonks son is cut out, as is Percy’s apology to his family, much of Aberforth’s reveal of Albus is shaved down, as well as Hagrid’s involvement in the Battle of Hogwarts.  Both he and Percy show up randomly without explanation.  I still believe Kloves best work was adapting the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Mercifully Luna, whom I have decided is my favorite character in the books, has most of her scenes intact, as well Neville.  Flitwick has a few additional things to do, though McGonagall duel with Snape is minimized and her duel with Voldemort is completely cut out.  Seamus has more to do in the last film, including a punch-line that has been 8 movies in the making.  Props to Kloves and the actor, Devon Murray, for knocking that out of the goddam ballpark.

Filch is back in handful of scenes as our comedic relief as well as Voldemort, himself, giving Draco the world’s most awkward hug, which was rumored to be improvised by Ralph Fiennes and kept in the film.

Despite the PG-13 rating and light comedic beats, the last film is not kid’s stuff.  Voldemort’s true form and Snape’s rather bloody death can attest to that. 

Blood splashed all over that window.  In the book there is just the green light of the killing curse.

Alan Rickman’s layered performance aside, I still do not care for Snape’s character, though Rickman goes a long way in subtly showing how he cares, in by holding back his punches with McGonagall, hesitating much longer than necessary in attacking her.  As I mentioned with Film Three and Film Six, Rickman’s Snape goes beyond his book counterpart and is shown to be truly protective of his students. 

I still have problems in that Snape still is fully obsessed with Lily Potter, so much so that he completely ignores a bawling infant directly behind him.  Unrequited love rarely stays as an innocent love.  It can turn to full blown obsession.  Such obsessions in the real world, so rarely ends as well as in this book. 

His death is slightly underhanded to miscasting of Daniel Radcliffe and the young actress that plays a young Lily Potter as neither have green eyes or even remotely the same shade.

She has brown eyes....Radcliffe's are blue.
My favorite shots include the opening scenes at Shell Cottage, after the recap of Voldemort breaking into Dumbledore's tomb.  Wouldn't everyone love to live in a beach-side cottage like Bill and Fleur's?

Sounding like a broken record, but again, I love any shot of the Dementors, circling the castle.  They are just so cinematic and haunting, floating in the air.

There are some wonderful shots during Snape's flee from Hogwarts, very reminiscent of the Third Reich in many World War II movies and documentaries.

I love that the Shield charm cast by Professor Flitwick, Molly Weasley, and Professor Slughorn resembles a living object with a visible nervous system.

The film pulls off Professor McGonagall's spell to enchant the suits of armor stationed around the castle from the very first book, to become animated and acts as ground forces for the side of good.  An impressive move to rival Gandalf and Dumbledore and one mercifully kept in the films, though her duel with Snape is kept short and her duel with Voldemort is entire cut.

Equally impressive are the shots of the Death Eaters might and destruction during the Battle of Hogwarts.

During a lull in the action, prior to Harry giving himself up to Voldemort in the forest, we get to one of the worst deaths in the book and this truly amazing shot which depicts the Weasley family in different states of anguish composed in such a way, reminiscent of Dutch masters like Rembrandt or Vermeer.  Ginny, stands slightly right of center, staring straight at us and Harry.

Shots from pensieve sequence are almost as  beautifully composed though not quite as layered as the above shot.

I was surprised and delighted to see the filmmakers decision to follow Ron and Hermione's task to defeat the Hufflepuff cup Horcrux in the Chamber of Secrets, my favorite set from the entire movie.  In the book, we follow Harry and so do not witness Ron and Hermione's own little escapade.  I love their little adventure, and would honestly watch more sequels with just the two of them.

Lastly, the King's Cross scene and the below shots from the finale with Voldemort mark as some of my favorite from the last film.

Now, back to that ending.  I want to just point out that 19 years later would have seen Harry, Ron and Hermione at age 36.  Sirius Black, Remus Lupin and Severus Snape were all 33 years old during the events of Harry Potter and Prisoner of Azkaban, and 36 years old during the events of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.  Gary Oldham being 46, David Thewlis was 40, and Alan Rickman was 57 during the time of filming the third movie.

In the books all these people are 36 years old.

Apart from my disappointment in the epilogue, I will miss, truly miss, Alan Rickman’s Professor Snape.   Both he and Rupert Grint worked wonders in making their respective counterparts simply a joy to behold.

Rupert’s Ron Weasley is still my favorite, out of all the books and all the films.  His scene in Gringotts, his heart wrenching sobs over Fred’s body show demonstrate his the sheer talent of his acting ability from his very first scene. Both his and Alan Rickman’s performance made this world real for me.  

J.K. Rowling provided and will continue to provide, hope, light and encouragement to generations of children.  Whom must all struggle to understand what is dark, what is scary, what is immensely sad and to find the courage to make it to the other side.  For love.  For each other.

Thank you Ms. Rowling, from the entirety of my own heart.

I eagerly await the next time I delve into the world of Harry Potter whether introducing them to a new friend or my little nephews, my god-child, or even kids of my very own.

For Mr. Rickman,

Goodnight, sweet Prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.


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