I didn’t expect much from the last film in the Harry Potter saga (divided into two parts, one released in 2010 and the other in 2011) for various reasons. Two, above all:
- the seventh book by J.K. Rowling is probably the worst of the series with a really tedious first part that leads nowhere (see a review on Sifa Elizabeth reads);
- David Yates didn’t impress me as a director in the two films he had previously worked on.
Perhaps this is why I was pleasantly surprised by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows which I found to be a worthy closure of the young and scarred wizard’s film saga. The first part is decent, given that the first part of the book is actually hard to digest (or at least so I thought when I read it more than ten years ago). The story of Harry, Hermione and Ron lost in the woods barely has any rhythm at all and the lack of the school classes, exams, and professors really hurts the movie. It’s better to get over it in two hours of film than in six or seven hours of reading!
And the second part/film delivers a glorious and memorable battle of Hogwarts, with a lot of time dedicated to the most important confrontation, the one between Voldemort and Harry. The special effects are great, the epic tones are appropriate, and the cinematography is as usual too dark. Also, the animated sequence of the tale of the gifts of death is incredibly beautiful! That being said, there are a few aspects that, as a lover of Harry’s books, I didn’t like very much. I admit that in many cases Yates managed to remain faithful to the book, for example with the almost casual treatment of the death of Lupin and Tonks, two characters that I adored but to whom even the book devotes little space. On the other hand, the slaughter of the entire generation of Harry’s parents comes across as inevitable: think of Sirius Black, of Lupin, but also of Peter Pettigrew, of course James and Lily, and the heroic Severus Snape (well, even Bellatrix Lestrange if you want!). It’s a pity that this part of the story, perhaps the one that fascinated me the most when reading the books (also due to the my age being close to that of those characters), wasn’t developed very well in the films which, for obvious reasons of time, focused on Harry and his young friends.
But, above all, the thing I liked the least about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is how Albus Dumbledore was ignored. In fact, what surprised me the most when reading the book is how much Dumbledore was present despite his death at the end of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. His personal story is greatly developed in the book, while in the film there’s barely any mention of it. What a wasted opportunity! And as a collateral victim of this choice here’s Severus Snape who emerges as a true hero in the seventh book but who in the film lives only a brief moment of redemption that doesn’t do justice to what is perhaps the most complex character of the whole saga. All his actions of the last seven years should be re-evaluated in light of the great revelation of his loyalty to Dumbledore and, therefore, to Harry. I don’t know if this message is adequately conveyed by the movie…
I realize that my criticisms are linked to the (for me inevitable) comparison between the book and the film. If I forget the book for a moment, I can say that both parts of the film work (although the first one is slower and has little sense of direction) as an epic end of the saga. All the actors demonstrate an incredible chemistry built with years of friendship and joint work that clearly show on screen. And, like the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix finale, this ending is also great: it’s dynamic, well filmed, fun, tragic… In short, it closes an adventure that lasted for many years and that, if binge-watched, sum to almost twenty hours of film!
And what do I think about the whole saga? The first film is a beautiful fairy tale for children where the goal is pure fun. Columbus worked well and succeeded in creating a unique and unforgettable world, then developed considerably in subsequent films, including his second one which already took on a more serious tone. Cuarón with his prisoner of Azkaban probably gave us the best film of all. The decline started with Newell’s goblet of fire and, above all, with Yates’ works: the order of the phoenix, the half-blood prince and the deathly hallows, with the latter a step above the previous two. But beyond my thoughts on the individual films, this saga is truly significant in the recent history of cinema. First of all, it’s a European saga in a market normally dominated by big Hollywood productions. Then, at least two good actors came out of it, Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe, who are also making brave choices in terms of independent films that they decide to participate in (on the other hand, poor Rupert Grint has only managed to work on some low-level comedies so far). And what about John Williams’ music, so beautiful and easily recognizable? The same goes for Hogwarts, whose profile is certainly at the level of Peter Jackson’s tower of Sauron: it’s unique.
I am also pleased that, at least for now, there has been some respect towards this material which has managed to avoid remakes and reboots which seems to be the trend nowadays.
In short, I truly appreciate the Harry Potter films, I like rewatching them, I’m happy with my box containing them all on DVD (sooner or later I will upgrade it to Bluray, I know) and certainly recommend watching them (but if you haven’t read the books, please start from those, they are much better!). Ciao!