Thursday, July 28, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Dumbledore is dead. Snape is the new headmaster. Voldemort grows in power and controls the Ministry of Magic. The war on the muggles is escalating. The darkest times have come. But Harry and the Order of the Phoenix aren't resting. They're working tirelessly to find the legendary horcruxes, the items that give Voldemort his immortality. Although Voldemort himself is getting closer to finding the legendary deathly hallows, three items that if put together will give ultimate power.

Or something. So I watched Part One the other day and then I went with some friends to see Part Two. I wrote a review for Part One, but I don't really like it. Also, my problems with the first part continue with the second part.

It's confusing. Confusing as fuck. Who the hell introduces new characters in the last part of a series? That's ludicrous. Maybe they're not even new and I just can't remember them because everybody including their distant cousin is named in the Harry Potter books. I'm almost not joking. Everybody gets named. It's ridiculous.

I gotta be honest, I don't what the fuck is going on in this movie. Is this how normal people feel when trying to watch Doctor Who or Star Trek? I don't understand practically anything. I had to consult Wikipedia so many times during the first part I think I lost track of everything. And it's not like I haven't seen the last six movies. Did the filmmakers just cut out anything helpful and hope only the diehards show up for the premiere?

And again, so many things would make much more sense if fucking Dumbledore had just been upfront with Potter. If he had just sat him down and explained shit, then Harry wouldn't have wasted all this time with goblets of fire and books and shit and he would've just destroyed these horcruxes or whatever the fuck in the beginning.

Plus, it drags. Thank God they split it into two and didn't put out a four hour movie, because that would have been a serious marathon. The first part is so slow, not just in pace but in plot. At least half of the movie are the three leads standing around in the woods trying to figure out their next move, based on cryptic clues left by everybody in the world. The second part spends a lot of time with emotional moments, but sine I care nothing for these characters, these moments just went on forever.

However, all is not terrible. The first part has a great chase scene and the second film improves on the promise of the action in the first. I was really impressed that the director somehow managed to make a wand battle seem dangerous. Normally, with modern films, the CGI effects are so overpowering, I never feel like the characters are in any mortal danger; it's simply blobs of light being lobbed from one end of the screen to the other. But with Deathly Hallows, it feels like those blobs of light are deadly. It helps that the director borrows the visual language of a gunfight for the magic battles, minimizing the non-diegetic music and increasing the diegetic sounds of ricocheting magic and exploding furniture.

The Battle for Hogwarts at the end of the second film is equally epic and awesome. When the forces of darkness amass for a final confrontation, the stakes feel ludicrously high, and many cast members meet their end, including one of my beloved Weasely twins (!). It's cutthroat. However, a small criticism: sometimes it feels like Rowling and by proxy the filmmakers are killing characters not because it makes sense, but because they have a huge cast and it's a cheap way of conveying to the audience that shit is getting real. In other words, characters were introduced simply to kill them off for an easy shock.

One of the best parts of the movies has to be the emergence of Neville Longbottom. He starts out in the first six movies as a fat awkward kid who tries really hard but can never quite succeed. The actor was saddled with fake teeth, a fatsuit and prosthetic ears. In the last part, he sheds his fatsuit and ears (but keeps the teeth) and BECOMES A GOD. I've never been so impressed by a character before. He goes from fat kid to awesome badass and it makes sense and it's totally awesome. When he leaps up and cuts the head off the snake, I almost cheered in the theater. On top of that, at the very end, he's sitting around all badass with the sword just chilling and it's fucking sweet. Yes, I know, not the most professional of reviews, but whatever, this is my blog, not yours.

Pretty much Neville's ascent to godhood made this movie for me. I loved it because it. I was bored and confused for the first half of the film, but when (the attractive) Neville steps onto centerstage, I was enthralled.

The absolute worst part of this film is the epilogue. In case anybody doesn't know, the film adds on a flashforward (or prolepsis if you speak proper English) that shows us the cast 19 year later, when they'll have had a litter of cute ragamuffin wide-eyed kids. For some reason, the primary cast felt as if having one kid wasn't enough. They all have three or more. It's disgusting. That complaint can be expanded to encompass the entire epilogue. It's INCREDIBLY superfluous. It adds NOTHING to the characters' arc which had come to a satisfying conclusion not five minutes before. One of the hardest parts about telling a large scale story such as this is knowing when to end the story. Often writers can't help themselves and keep dragging it out (see Lord of the Rings - the movie and the books - for a perfect example of how to avoid an ending). This epilogue might go down in history as one of the worst endings I've ever seen in a film. It's dismally poor.

I understand that many fans want to know what happens to their favourite characters, but that's an awful thing to ask of a writer, because many of them will indulge in this. This problem comes up in geek culture all the time. Fans don't know when to say goodbye to a character. We want to keep following them and find out what happened, even if we were provided with an entirely satisfactory ending. I don't necessarily mean a neat ending. If the character's arc has come to a logical conclusion, to what end is there following him or her? The answer is fan entitlement and indulgence. Just let them be.

Rowling has proven herself to be a writer who won't shut up about Harry Potter. She constantly teases that she knows everything there is to know about Harry and his friends and what happens to them all. She keeps teasing things that aren't in the books, like Dumbledore's sexual orientation. Rowling is the perfect example of a writer who doesn't know when to stop. Her fundamental storytelling skills are excellent, but her more refined skills leave much to be desired. She has to know when to stop. Stories aren't like life. Lives peter out and end without any symbolism or poetry. Stories end because stories are circles. Lives are not; they end because that's life.

The epilogue really soured me on the movie, but Neville Longbottom and the final battle kept me from hating the film. I could probably write another thousand words on the incoherence of the Macguffins or the poor acting from the leads, or the fantastic casting or the amateurish pacing, but I think that this will suffice. Overall, I liked the film, but I will probably never see it again, and it did not make me want to read the books.

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