I need to get this off my chest: I’m not excited about the final Harry Potter movie, and the Deathly Hallows: Part II. I’m just not.
Why? Not because I’m snobby or anything. Though I am snobby, but that’s besides the point here. I like Rowling’s books. I’ve read them several times. They’re fun, and I happen to think that fun books are fun to read. As a bonus, they’ve got some depth, and some really engaging characters.
I even like some of the movies, and the Sorcerer’s Stone captured a sense of childlike wonder at being introduced to a world with magic quite nicely, and and the Prisoner of Azkaban actually managed to tell a story pretty well…plus, Gary Oldman.
But and the Goblet of Fire and and the Half Blood Prince illustrated the problem with turning Rowling’s ever longer and more complex books into movies. First off, they can’t cram all the material in, so they skip over big chunks and trust that the audience has read the books. This means that they’re just reminding us of an involving story we once read, rather than involving us in the story they’re telling. Second, they need to keep up the action. That sense of wonder in simple magic from the first movie has worn off, and the sequels needs to provide bigger and bigger thrills. Also, we might notice that the movies aren’t actually telling involving stories if we aren’t disoriented by the occasional action sequence.
Remember the scene where Harry has to steal the golden egg from the dragon in Goblet? In the book, Harry pulls off the summoning charm (hooray, all that practice paid off!) and then pulls off the Wronski Feint (hooray, he’s such a talented flyer!). This takes all of, what, three pages? Remember the scene in the movie? Remember watching a solid fifteen minutes of Harry running from the dragon, way out of sight of the crowds, trashing the school?
That was a solid fifteen minutes of NOTHING HAPPENING. It was a car chase, and if I want a car chase I’ll rent Bullit.
A major point of the last two HP books is that victory lies in understanding. This is why the climactic battle between Harry and Voldemort is mostly a conversation, followed by each man casting a single spell. Oh, spoiler alert (but why haven’t you read the book yet? Don’t want to spoil the movie? Don’t like to enjoy reading? Bugger off). Harry can’t hope to beat Voldemort in a straightforward or prolonged magical duel, in the end it’s Harry’s understanding that lets him win. He understands Voldemort, he understands all the plans and schemes, and he understands a few things about magic that seemed too trivial to Voldemort to bother with.
That’s all well and good…in a book. How do you think a five minute conversation would go over in the climactic battle in a movie? From what I’ve seen of the previews, the conversation is replaced with gems like, “Come on, Tom, let’s finish this the way we started it…together!” to make room for a protracted fight between the hero and the villain. Now that sounds like some silver screen magic!
Skip to 1:50 for the money shot!
So once again we’ll be getting a car chase instead of substance. Fine, I can enjoy a special effects romp…sometimes.
But I don’t think I’ll enjoy this one. And the Deathly Hallows: Part I was trying so hard to be gritty and grown up that it was almost completely joyless. It was, in fact, a little painful. Remember that bit where they run through the woods shooting spells at death eaters, and the camera’s just whipping around, never quite focusing on anything, and the only sounds are of running and the loud, sharp pops of curses? That just gave me a headache. And it wasn’t suspenseful or exciting at all, because I already knew how it had to end.
They needed an action sequence, so once again they drew out a fight (that wasn’t even a fight in the book) into a few minutes of unenjoyable car-chase-ism.
The other big component of the final book is tragedy; people dying, lot’s of important people dying. Oh, but they’re not important people in the movies because their parts we’re cut to make room for more action. So the movie has to either try to build the characters up in about thirty seconds each, rely on us to remember from the books how important these people are, or go for such over the top tragic moments that we just have to be sad. I figure it’ll be the least involving combination of the three that Warner Brothers can manage.
So I’m expecting about two hours of car-chasing; loud, dark, gritty, joyless car-chasing, mixed in with about forty minutes of overwrought tragedy. I’m sorry, I just can’t get too excited about that.
We’ll see how I feel after I see the movie…probably the day after it comes out.