I have sat down about five different times over the past two weeks trying to begin what I imagine won't even be a review of this movie as much as it is me just weeping over my keyboard, and each time I was unable to accomplish anything. My love for the Harry Potter series knows no bounds, so sitting down to write about the end of it is quite emotionally overwhelming. I don't even know where to start or how to organize my thoughts. So, hopefully this post won't turn into a horrible mess, hah! I've been told by a few people that if it's so hard to write I should just not write it, maybe it's too close. But usually, when something means this much to me, I have to write it out, get it out on paper so I don't have to carry it around. It's my own little version of the Pensieve.
I think I've gone about trying to write this the wrong way. With other movies of the HP franchise, I would have to see them over and over to really nail down all the things I wanted to say, otherwise I'd be at a loss. But with this one, I have so many things to say just from the first viewing, that seeing it over and over again before I started writing has actually become a hindrance. Now that I've had some space from it I think I can finally start. LET'S DO THIS.
|Gorgeous graphic, no idea who to credit.|
I don’t have reactions like this to every series I read. I’ve cried at the end of a few because they have moved me, but I have never felt so deeply connected to characters like I have when reading Harry Potter. It’s absolutely my heart and I love it so much. The only book series that has ever rivaled it is Lord of the Rings. So, needless to say, heading into the theater to see the ending for the first time was confusing. I was excited because I couldn't wait to see what it looked like, I was dreading it because I didn't want it to end (plus I knew some of the things that happen within it are horribly sad), I was skeptical because there are moments that I wanted to be absolutely perfect, I was hopeful because Yates had done a great job with the last three movies, and yet I was scared that there was no way it could all really hold up to the standards I held for it.
I'm not sure if any of you have seen this cartoon before:
But... this was pretty much me and my crew during the opening. It didn't take us, especially me, long to get emotional. In fact, the first shot of the entire film is so meaningful I couldn't even stand it. We start to hear one of Desplat's beautiful pieces (the one called Lily's Theme) played over a shot of a silhouetted figure, shrouded in black, Severus Snape. He watches over the courtyard as the students are marched inside the castle in a sort of boot camp style arrangement. A thoughtful, perhaps indiscernible expression is worn on Alan Rickman's face, and then the Harry Potter logo appears.
It was absolutely the perfect way to open this movie. Snape is the character that the entire series hinges on. It would have been easy to go straight in to the trio's story at first. I mean, that's the next step in the book, after all. Yet Yates is smart enough to know that he has to remind movie audiences that there is a crap-ton of mystery around Snape and that, by God, we're finally going to figure it out within these next two hours. Not to mention, he threw all of us book fans an enormous treat by opening with Lily's song during a Snape shot, something movie-goers will only understand after they see it. (HIGH FIVE!) Since I wasn't expecting this image so early in the movie, I got choked up immediately (especially since, Snape is my favorite character).
This opening set the bar pretty high, but I felt like the movie continued to hit the right mark in the following scenes, too. Helena Bonham Carter playing Hermione playing Bellatrix was enigmatic, Ron's hilarious and oddly attractive Death Eater costume was awesome, and the dragon at Gringotts was exactly how I pictured it. Exactly! There were some changes that were made for the movie, such as the goblets didn't burn the trio, but I think it was ok to leave little things like this out. Especially since visually, it would be really hard to explain what was happening without having a Legolas-line in there explaining the charm. ("Guys, it's a diversion!") I thought it was smart to cut that.
When the trio made it to Hogsmeade I got really nervous because I knew from that point on there would be no moment of relief until the end. I was also curious to see how they dealt with Aberforth since so much of Dumbledore's story had been left out. Just as I wondered that, this line happened: "I don't care about what happened between you and your brother," as if Daniel Radcliffe had paused the movie to say directly to me 'Audree, it's not gonna happen, we will not be dealing with that storyline. That crap doesn't matter.' And while I guess I understand why it had to be left out at this point, since it would have been pretty overwhelming to bring it up in the last hour and a half of the entire 8-movie series, I was still slightly disappointed.
Some may argue it was unnecessary backstory, but I love that Dumbledore had a sordid, questionable past. It is just another example in this series of how choices define a person’s life (a motif that the series deals with in every book). It also makes Dumbledore so much more relatable and human, in my opinion, because it shows us he had flaws that even he had to overcome. It makes all of his achievements that much greater because, unlike we were lead to think by seeing Dumbledore through Harry’s idealizing eyes, Dumbledore wasn’t always this god-like, all-knowing genius. Once he was a mixed up kid who was overly ambitious and self-centered. He had to work through all of that to become great, and that’s one of my favorite elements of his character.
Also, it mirrors Snape’s life to a degree. Obviously these characters are very different, but a lot of their choices in the past lead them to be the great Wizards they were. Which, I believe, might be why Dumbledore ended up giving Snape another chance, because he saw some of himself in Snape and believed that people could turn around from bad choices they have made in the past. Leaving Dumbledore's past out of it robs the movie audience of this depth to the story. But then again, maybe it wouldn't have worked so well on screen and in the last stretch of the story. I forgive them.
When the trio is taken by Neville through the portrait back into Hogwarts and they emerge into the Room of Requirements to clapping and to the original Harry Potter theme music from the first movie, tears. Tear. Tears. So sweet and so wonderful! I especially appreciated the fact that they were able to keep some funny or light-hearted moments going, especially in this scene. Helped to balance all the looming deaths a bit, I think. (Also, can we just take a moment to applaude Yates for Neville/Luna? I always thought that's how it should have ended up!)
It was after this scene that the movie did one of those things that makes all book fans cock their heads to side and say: "Whaaaa?" Ginny comes in and says Snape has heard Harry was spotted in Hogsmeade and he calls all the students to the Great Hall. Then he makes a speech (with cleverly worded phrases that can later be interpreted differently) and asks the students to step forward if any of them know where Harry might be. Then Harry jumps out and accosts Snape for killing Dumbledore and wreaking havoc on Hogwarts as the Order of the Phoenix marches through the doors.
That moment was pretty epic, however, it never happened in the book. I do, on the other hand, understand why they added it. It was important for them to establish that Snape has killed the headmaster and now he is parading around as the headmaster, standing in Dumbledore's spot. Here the line is visually (albeit symbolically) drawn in the sand with the two sides taking stands. The only issue is that Snape belongs on the side of the line Harry is standing on, so as a Snape fan, it was hard for me to hear Harry yell horrible things at him, but it was good for the audience who didn't know what the heck was to come,
One nit-pick tangent: The only part about this scene I did not like was when McGonagall told Filch to take the Slytherins to the dungeons like they were in trouble. I get it, the Slytherins are supposedly the "bad guys" but that's... not really true. And the movie kind of took the idea that "all Slytherins are bad" and ran with it. It undermines a lot of what I think houses stand for. Some people have even gone so far as to say they should just eliminate Slytherin house but I think it’s important to have Slytherin in Hogwarts. The reason why I feel this way is that motif I keep talking about in context of Harry Potter: choices. I think the sorting hat has a lot more to do with choices than people realize (Harry even says this to his son at the end), and by taking Slytherin away, you are eliminating a choice the students could make. Harry could have been sorted easily in Slytherin, but he chose Gryffindor. I guess what I am saying is you can’t have good without the bad, and so Rowling keeps it that way to show that life is full of choice and no matter where you are put, even in Slytherin, you can always choose to be good. Look at Slughorn. He’s a Slytherin and the worst thing he’s ever done is be a raging opportunist and steal some weeds from Herbology.
Just because someone is in Slytherin doesn’t mean that they are evil. Being sorted into a house is more about which traits are stronger in you, but not necessarily that you lack any of the other houses’ traits. There are examples of many people acting “uncharacteristically” within all houses. You could use Percy as an example, or an even better one, Peter Pettigrew, for Gryffindors who don’t always do the “courageous” thing. In fact, Peter turned out to be one of the most cowardly and treacherous characters in the entire story. And then we have Snape who was a Slytherin who spent more than half his life choosing to be the most courageous spy in the Wizarding World, constantly in danger. They had to make choices and that defined them; it was not the houses they were placed in. Dumbledore did many things in his youth that a lot of people would say are Slytherin traits, while Snape did many things in the second half of his life that were very Gryffindor. So to lump all Slytherins together and send them away, with the rest of the Great Hall cheering, just rubbed me the wrong way. In the book she gave all of-age students a choice, and I like that better. Because Slytherins, by definition look out for themselves and probably would have decided to leave anyways, but at least then she didn't single them all out.
< / tangent>
Back to the review: This is when all of the professors and members of the Order start stationing people all over the castle and setting up protective charms. As soon as this began I started to tear up. Not only was Desplat's beautiful score to blame for this, but also what Hogwarts represented to the characters and to me, and knowing that it was about to be destroyed. When it was attacked by the Death Eaters and parts of it began to fall apart and be set on fire, it felt like I was watching a character I love die. Not to mention the little moments Yates gives us with characters we know will die, just before the battle begins (Remember Lupin quoting himself, and the "You ok Freddie? Me too" moment? TEARS. TEARS FOREVER.) And from that point on, the flood gates were open. There was no "Is she crying?" about it. It was more a question of just how hard the crying was at any given moment.
From here, all hell breaks loose and the battle has officially begun. I felt most all elements of the battles were just perfect. The graphics, the pacing, the music, pretty much everything seemed wonderfully awful, like it was supposed to be. They also added an element that I thought worked really well in the film, Harry being able to hear the horcruxes, which simplified Harry's search for them and I think added to the coalescence that he is one. For movie-only audiences, that probably worked very well to smooth out any complications or misunderstandings in dealing with that storyline, plus it helped trim some of the extra exposition that would seem out of place being explained at this point.
It's here I have to mention how wonderful the performances of the trio really are. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint cannot be complimented enough for their chemistry and their talents. Especially Dan, who in many scenes gave me goosebumps, specifically when he tries to look into Voldemort's mind. So intense, so genuine. It also needs to be pointed out that film was the first time I didn't question Ralph Fiennes once as Voldemort. His performance in Part 2 was spot on and I believed him every second he was on screen. I don't know if it was because he got to do more with him because Voldy was a lot more emotional in this one, or what, but whatever he did sold me on him, finally.
Like the book, the movie pulls no punches. People are going to die, people you really love, and it might be shocking, and it might not even happen while you're able to watch, because that's war. After the trio saves Draco and Blaise and kill the Diadem, they have to run down to the boat house (Which... I don't know why they changed where this next scene takes place from the Shrieking Shack to a boat house, but ok, whatever. I guess it's not really that big of a deal.). As they make their way through the Hogwarts courtyard, it's just a horrible mess of friends being beaten up, Death Eaters attacking, giants crushing things, Hogwarts being exploded, me ugly crying.... oh the horror. But maybe the most disturbing thing for me, something I was not expecting (and perpetually forgot about until it was right in my face each time I've rewatched) was the trio coming across Fenrir Greyback chewing on a dead Lavender Brown. Genuinely horrified me each time I saw the film. It was a small moment, but very impactful.
The way Snape was killed was shocking, even though I knew it was coming. There was something really frightening and sickening about not actually seeing it happening, but only hearing it through (and slightly seeing against) the glass of the window Harry was ducking underneath. In the trailer there is a glimpse of what looks like Snape being attacked by the snake. I think it was wise to leave that out of the finished product because it was much more significant the way it ended up.
Then, there's this moment, this beautiful moment, where the goodness in Harry won't allow him to let Snape, a man he hates, die alone. So he rushes in and comes to Snape's side and does what he can to stop the bleeding, and instead of a bitter or hateful expression, he sees a man with anguished tears streaming down his face. (I absolutely love that they changed the memories to tears! What an absolutely perfect personification of Snape's entire life! The memories that are his secret miserable lonely regrets are revealed in his TEARS!
Immediately, we are thrown into another tragic moment (Fred being attacked by a Death Eater) that was completely lost on my first viewing because I was rendered so useless from the perfection of Snape's death scene that I ugly cried right through it. One of my friends had to tell me that we actually see Fred being disarmed. Then we see the Weasley family weeping over his body as the trio re-enters the castle. It's just awful! So heart-breaking, especially seeing George's face. Then the camera cuts to Lupin and Tonks, both pale and dead on the floor. It's bam! bam! bam! with these deaths and Yates gives us no time to recover from any of them, much like Rowling did in her books. Honestly, I felt like it kept with the tone of the book quite well and I appreciated why it was dealt with in this way. I know many people felt like Fred's death deserved more screen time, that it was just glossed over (heck, I nearly missed it the first time), but I actually don't have this complaint. It's war and there isn't time to pause the battle to savor a dramatic moment. That's one thing I really loved about Yates' Battle of Hogwarts.
The Pensieve scene hung looming, right around the corner. As it began, I held my breath. The children they cast as young Lily and Snape were perfect and the music during this part was astounding. As we meandered through Snape's most personal moments at school, I hungered for more. They had skipped some of my favorite scenes of the book from when he and Lily were at Hogwarts. It jumps from the Sorting Hat straight to when Severus was in his 20s and leaves out the awful memory about Sirius and James which I felt was important. But, because of how the memories kept sweeping from one thing to the other, I didn't have time to be very disappointed. During the scene where Dumbledore tells Severus that Lily has been killed, I couldn't believe how perfectly Alan Rickman played Snape. It was just what I wanted to see because that moment in the book is so heartbreaking. Also, the mixing in of sound bites from previous films to give the flashbacks context were brilliant. I really loved what I was seeing, but, still, something felt like it was missing and I didn't know what.
Then, the final part of the memory begins. If ever I had doubts about anything in this film, this scene completely erased them all. This is, arguably, the most important part of the entire series, where all the mysteries are revealed and we finally realize Snape's motivation for killing Dumbledore, the true depth of his love and selflessness, and what Harry will have to do in order to defeat the Dark Lord
Oh, but don't think you have any time to recover from this wave of emotions, either. There's not even enough time to wipe your eyes and (let's face it) your nose before the next heart-wrenching moment is all up in your face. Because as soon as Harry pulls his face from the Pensieve and the weight of everything he's just learned about his fate crashes down on him, he's in the arms of his two best friends and they are saying goodbye to him, forever. This scene isn't in the book because Harry goes to the Forbidden Forest alone and under his invisibility cloak, but I think it was important to show the trio's reaction to this news. The only thing I didn't like about this moment is a perpetual problem the entire film series has always had: making Ron secondary to Hermione. It always bothers me that Ron tends to take a backseat in the trio to Harry and Hermione's friendship because in the book all three are very close and Harry needs BOTH of them to survive. But in the grand scheme of things in this film, it's a small complaint for another post.
"The Forest Again" scene, at risk of sounding horrible redundant, was just beautiful and it seemed to be adapted word for word from the book! Daniel was so moving in this scene and delivered his lines with the best kind of vulnerability (my ugly crying continues). Then, there was another precious addition to this scene that took me by surprise. When Harry says "They won't be able to see you?" Sirius replies, "But we're here you see," and his mother adds, "Always." (I really feel that Yates ships Lily/Snape, too, as well as Neville/Luna!) Again, this is a change I never imagined, but when it happened I couldn't handle all my feelings. Just when I thought I couldn't get choked up any more than I already had, Harry marches into the forest to his death, and it cuts to Hagrid tied up to the trees, begging Harry to go back. (I'm surprised I didn't frighten people around me with my cries, though I was told that even though I was obviously distraught, I did a good job muffling/hiding it. So there's that.) Again, Daniel plays this part with palpable vulnerability, a boy who has come prepared to die for the ones he loves, and then he does.
The last stitch of hope I had held on to that they would visit some of Dumbledore's past was squashed when Harry woke up in King's Cross. Some of my favorite lines of the headmaster from the book were still in this scene, but the tone of the entire thing was all wrong. In the book Dumbledore explains everything to Harry in an apologetic, broken way, and Harry, for the first time in their relationship, comforts Dumbledore and reassures him. Harry wasn't unsure of what to do next in the book yet at the end of this part in movie his last words to Dumbledore are "Professor, what do I do?" What really upsets me about this is, in Dumbledore's last scene of the series, his character has officially NEVER been presented correctly on screen. It's such a shame, because he's such a wonderful, complex creation.
Onto the final battle! Many people had some reservations about the way the final battle was handled. I think mostly because of the odd blocking they chose instead of how Rowling had it mapped out, but to that I say this: It's a movie about a war and they are going to sensationalize it. I feel making the final battle of an 8-movie series bigger, scarier, and bloodier is called for because we've waited for ten years to see this showdown. Yes, they prolonged the killing of the snake and drew out the physical and violent nature of Voldemort vs Harry because, if they hadn't, people would have then complained it was anti-climatic. Plus, all that epic stalling made Neville's shining moment that much more awesome. (Also, ZOMG MOLLY WEASLEY. That is all.)
In the end, the last few people Harry interacts with are Hagrid (whom he hugs in the Great Hall after Voldemort is finally dead), and Hermione and Ron. I desperately wanted Ron or Hermione to ask Harry about Snape or about the Pensieve so he would talk a little about him, maybe even mention that he's going to have a portrait of Severus hung in the Headmaster's office with the others. But that didn't happen. Instead, Harry explains about the Elder Wand to his friends and not to the Dark Lord in the heat of battle, which I think was a much more reasonable and believable choice
Many people didn't like the epilogue in the books, and many more people didn't like the name Harry and Ginny give their youngest son, but I love both because it's so sentimental and meaningful. The Boy Who Lived who wanted nothing more than a regular life finally got to live one. I thought the movie portrayed this scene quite well. As our three heroes get their kiddos ready to board the Hogwarts Express, we get to see these beautiful characters we've watched grow on screen across the last decade act as parents. They are now sending their own little ones to the place that started it all for them and the magic is about to begin again. It's never over, it's just about to be experienced in a new way! Kind of like when you finish a book series and decide to start it over.
And then I never stopped crying, ever.
But seriously, the way I feel about this movie is almost indescribable. I've never really taken the Harry Potter movies very seriously as films before because the adaptations were never up to par with my expectations. I can say with this one, a film that blew my standards out of the water with what it achieved, I feel very different about it. I can't verbalize what it means to me to have a movie adaptation of a series finale that I approve of so triumphantly like this. It was everything I could have hoped for. All I can really say is I am so grateful to be in this generation where I got to catch the books being released and I got to wait for the movies to come out, and I got to share all of this with my best friends and my husband. I am just so thankful. It's something that will always be special to me and something I hope to experience in a new way with my kids someday!