Monday, July 18, 2011

Nitpicking Harry Potter--Because You Can Only Nitpick Good Movies ;-)


I finally got to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II yesterday, and I loved it. Yes, I did. I also kept saying, "I haven't cried this much at a movie since Beaches."

I absolutely cannot wait to see it again (especially since Belle and I had to make a quick bathroom run ... fortunately, Addie had already seen it and told us "the best" time to go).

That being said, though, there were a few things that bothered me.

Okay, I know, movies are for entertainment and should be enjoyed as such. However, I am an English teacher (not to mention a ridiculously voracious reader), and the magic of the movie your mind makes while reading is going to be limited by a film adaptation, no matter how good the movie might be.

The Harry Potter books were so exemplary, in my humble opinion, that transferring them to the big screen was a downright draconian task.

And for the most part, I think the movies are fairly true to the books, no mean feat. I mean, J.K. Rowling created an entire world with her stories, a world with complexities and political repercussions and betrayal and intertwining storylines and seemingly innocuous actions having serious ramifications and so on and so forth.

That being said, I had three glaring issues with HP7-2 that I felt either egregiously countered the magic of the book or else left open plot holes that bugged me. A lot.

If you haven't seen the movie yet and want to be surprised, please stop reading right now. If you haven't seen the movie yet and don't care about being surprised, by all means read on. (By my logic, any of the real hard-core "Pottheads" that would care about scene spoilage have probably seen the film by now)

****************SPOILER ALERT**********************************

Still reading? Good :-)

Here you go ...

1. Neville Longbottom somehow knew that he needed to use the sword of Gryffindor to kill the snake.
In the book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry made very clear to Ron and Hermione that, should he die, it was imperative that he kill Voldemort's pet snake, Nagini. In turn, Ron and Hermione sent this message on to Neville. As the last horcrux (well, the last known horcrux), Nagini had to be destroyed no matter what the cost.

The film left out the conveyance of this message to Neville. Addie argued that it was "implied", but Neville roaring out of the clear blue sky and beheading the snake with the only weapon that could have killed it just as it was about to strike at a defenseless Hermione and Ron without any sort of foreknowledge seemed ... well, contrived.

It irked me.

2. The backstory of Dumbledore's little sister, Arianna, is all but ignored.

I can remember leaving the theater with Addie after seeing HP7-I and talking about how great it was that they divided the book into two parts so that important events, specifically including the sad death of Arianna Dumbledore, could be addressed more directly.

Uh ... it wasn't.

Perhaps it's because the filmmakers didn't want to get political with the fact that Albus Dumbledore blew off his family responsibilities because he was having a homosexual affair with the dark wizard Grindelwald (he of "for the greater good" fame).

Maybe exploring the possibility that the great Dumbledore might have killed his damaged sister was considered potentially too much for filmgoers.

It's even possible that the violent rape of Arianna Dumbledore by Muggle boys and her father killing them in retribution was just too much for the necessary PG-13 rating. (And I know these events are touched on in HP7-1, but if I hadn't read the book in advance, I'm not sure I would have gotten the full picture)

For whatever reason, this plot arc is seriously minimized in the movie, and it's significant because of the conflict faced by Dumbledore's younger brother Aberforth, who helps Harry, Ron, and Hermione when they arrive in Hogsmeade (in a far less interesting way than in the book, I might add) and plays a significant part in the battle for Hogwarts.

3. Dumbledore is ultimately portrayed as an uncaring jerk who falsely befriended Harry knowing full well that he was just going to let him die at some point.

This is perhaps what bothered me the most.

While it's technically true that Albus Dumbledore knew that Harry Potter would have to be "killed" by Voldemort in order to defeat him, it is made very clear in the book that Dumbledore had a degree of foreknowledge that Voldemort's actions would once again ricochet against him.

As I recall, Harry confronts Dumbledore at King's Cross following his "death" at Voldemort's hands with his frustration at being used so cheaply by a man he trusted, even revered. Dumbledore basically says it was a hunch, adding with a typical Dumbledore wink, "a strong hunch".

This allows Dumbledore to remain a "good guy" ... a flawed character, certainly, and a man who spent most of his life trying to make up for his role in the death of his sister, but ultimately "good".

The impression I got from the "King's Cross" chapter of the book was that his actions toward and feelings for Harry Potter allowed him redemption for his past failures. It made Dumbledore "real" as well as "good", and that was very important to me as a reader.

The Dumbledore portrayed at the end of the movie? He basically affirmed to Harry that he'd been playing Russian Roulette with a loaded gun. I kind of wanted to punch him.

If I was Harry Potter, I would never have named my son "Albus" after a man that had treated him so shabbily and appeared to have no remorse, floating off into space with so many questions unanswered.

But anyway ...

Those were the three main sticking points for me. Otherwise, I thought the movie was outstanding and would highly recommend it to anyone.

Also, I've started writing a piece on Snape as the true hero of the Harry Potter series ... it's very good, I think, but quite time-consuming. Is this something y'all would be interested in reading?

If you saw HP7-2, what were your thoughts? And am I being too nit-picky here?