Now My Charms are All O’erthrown: Intial thoughts on Deathly Hallows Film and Leaky-Con (so far)

I really should be resting up for my Leak-Con Presentation in the morning, but, since I’ll be a little tied up with further wizarding excitement, and our Headmaster does TWO presentations tomorrow, I wanted to go ahead and toss out my initial reactions (not to be confused with a full-scale, completely analyzed review) as well as provide some thoughts on the terrific Leaky-Con Programing I enjoyed today. Follow me after the jump for some thoughts from a dark theater and a sunny day in Orlando.

Film Thoughts

If you haven’t seen the film yet, nothing I’ll mention will really spoil things for you. If you’ve not read the book yet, well, that’s a thestral of a different color. I was actually shocked how many non-readers seemed to be in the theater, a statistic I judged by gasps of surprise at the jump to 19 years later. Since these really are just my initial impressions, let’s look at the Really Fantastic, the Questionable, and the Nifty Homage Theme.

The film contains some really fantastic touches. One of my favorites, at the very end of the film, was the deletion of the word “probably” from Harry’s statement that Snape was “probably the bravest man I ever knew.” People three theaters away probably heard Travis Prinzi whoop with joy, as I know that qualification has always bugged him. On another Snape note, lovely to add “You have your mother’s eyes” to Snape’s last words (though the young actress playing young Lily really doesn’t have eyes like Dan Radcliffe’s, we’ll let that go as a technicality) and, a big winner for me, the wonderfully accentuated echo of Snape’s “always” with one from Lily as she promises that she and Harry’s other guides will remain with him. Snape takes the cake, as usual, since Alan Rickman is amazing(I loved his “accidental” take-down of the Carrows as he beat a retreat) and the whole Prince’s Tale was done beautifully. I would like to have known the reactions to his death of audience members who did not already know that important tidbit. (I do think I heard a few folks wondering aloud why Harry cared that Snape was dead). Speaking of dead, there is plenty of death and dying in this installment, including a nice touch with Griphook, killed by the raving Voldemort, clutching the Sword of Gryffindor, which subsequently vanishes. The King’s Cross scene was done well, with a nice thought from Dumbledore about the magic of words and the desire to revise them; it’s not in the book, but it had the ring of Rowling’s touch upon it. I also loved McGonagall’s moment of animating the suits of armor, especially since I know more about her now, thanks to today’s Pottermore preview! (More below)

Even with my overall reaction a positive one (for the film as a trailer for the book, of course), there were some issues that had me scratching my pointy hat. It was dramatic, of course, to not see Hagrid until the Forest Again sequence, but we needed him sooner. No Grawp? And Professor Sprout (love her overalls under her robes) didn’t get her place with the other House Heads (Molly Weasley seems to be filling in her spot). Neville’s sudden attraction to Luna seems odd, as we know from Rowling’s notes that they have different romantic destinies. (The delightful Evanna Lynch actually addressed this issue today at Leaky-Con, stating that she thought their relationship was pleasant but short-lived, as Luna was just too way-out for Neville, who would be unlikely to enjoy traipsing after mythical creatures). It also seemed puzzling that Harry didn’t fix his wand (or ask Olivander about it); it just gets dropped entirely. There are some big logic leaps: Luna materializes from nowhere in the Room of Requirement, since the timeline is compressed to make it seem as though she should still be back at Shell Cottage; the whole Two-Way Mirror issue still seems confusing, and poor Teddy Lupin, really an important figure as he replaces Harry as the alchemical Philosophical Orphan, gets barely a mention. Fred’s death is not actually depicted; he’s just seen with the family mourning over him. I imagine that most of these issues were fine with readers who knew how the blanks were filled in, but non-readers may still be wondering which twin is dead. However, such “it made sense in the book” moments actually have a positive purpose: driving movie people to the book!

My favorite element in this film was a theme of homages to the other films (not the books, but the films). I will need several repeat viewings on DVD, remote in hand to pause, before I catch them all, but, a bit into the movie, I began to notice elements being used that were from the previous films. These moments, far from gratuitous, actually create a lovely sense of cohesion and connect to the books’ Ring Composition structure. They do not include material from the books, flashbacks, or other “obvious” scenes from the previous movies. Here’s what I have so far (help me out with more!):

From Sorcerer’s Stone: McGonagall’s animated soldiers are much like her chess pieces guarding the Stone. The nearly last scene, with the Potter and Weasley children on the train, has a Chocolate Frog jump onto the compartment window.

Chamber of Secrets: Ron and Hermione are actually shown going into the Chamber and destroying the Horcrux, with watery results; Lockhart’s Cornish Pixies dart around the Room of Requirement.

Prisoner of Azkaban: The Marauders’ Map is used by Ron and Hermione. The clock, used as a pivotal symbol in that film, is blown up (thank goodness, no more Whomping Willow cameos)

Goblet of Fire: The boats used in the third task (and in ferrying first years) are used in a crucial scene. Harry and Voldemort actually take the same flight path Harry took in his fight with the dragon in the first task. When Voldemort “goes to pieces,” the bits look like the burned scraps of paper coughed up by the Goblet.

Order of the Phoenix: The paper bird scorched by Umbridge and the mischevious spark that set off the Weasley fireworks both show up at the train station.

Half-Blood Prince: Rather than siccing Nagini on Snape immediately, Voldemort first uses the Sectumsempra curse, Snape’s own invention, from his Potions book, which Harry inadvertently had used on Draco.

I’m eager to hear others’ catches, as I clearly only started watching for this theme after a bit! Though I’ve certainly had mixed feelings about all the films, this one does its job of “trailering” well, and I was sad to wave goodbye to the crowd at the train station at the end (okay, I was sad anyway. I usually have a big cup of cocoa just to get me through reading about Snape, Fred, and Tonks and Lupin!)

Leaky-Con

I’m sure we’ll continue to post our thoughts here about the conference going on now at Universal Studios in piping-hot Orlando, but I did want to mention that the presentations I was able to see today were super. I especially enjoyed David Martin’s hilarious speculations on the contents of that bestseller 12 Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches, David Gras’s wonderfully interactive roundtable on Rowling’s bridging of the pagan and Christian world, and the big Pottermore presentation. James Deeley and Melissa Anelli shared about the creative process and gave some sneak previews (including those McGonagall tidbits!) We were forbidden to take photos, but it does look like the site will be fun, but will also contain some great background and other information, including info from the fabulous notebooks! Hooray!

Of course, it’s always great to hobnob with the fantastic folks at such events. It was super to visit with Erin Sweeney, David and Toni Gras, and the many others with whom I spoke. The hardworking Leaky-con staff was wonderful, and the hotel staff as well (Thank you, hotel folks, who helped us schlep books inside!). I look forward to another fantastic day tomorrow, and full reports to come!

Comments

  1. It was interesting to see the movie a second time with the preparation of knowing what was going to be different from the book. I found the shortcomings less annoying and was more impressed by what was portrayed.

    Picking up on some comments above (at least I hope they were on this blog post!) and other thoughts:

    *Harry’s wand:
    Movie Harry was OK to continue with Draco’s wand – as stated above, broken pieces of his own wand had been discarded in a way that would be hard to put them back in Harry’s possession. They also went to the trouble of having Olivander confirm that the allegiance of the Draco’s wand had changed; it was now Harry’s wand, it has chosen him.

    *Harry’s resurrection:
    Timing was OK on second viewing considering movie length limitations. There was just enough time for the horror of losing Harry to dawn on them but show at least one person willing to fight on regardless.
    Still would have liked one more use of the invisibility cloak towards defeating Voldemort. Hard to squeeze into the resurrection scene though and at least it featured heavily in them finding another horcrux.

    *Why Harry lived:
    Still a weak point. Pity they didn’t make use of Lily’s blood sacrifice in Voldemort tying Harry to life, especially since they went to the trouble of showing movie Dumbledore being very interested in Voldy taking Harry’s blood in movie 4. But it could have been worse – the trailers had some dialogue like:
    Voldy: Why do you live?
    Harry: Because I have something worth living for.
    Urgh – how corny. Thank goodness it didn’t make the final cut.

    *Neville the hero:
    OK on second viewing. Would have preferred it to be a bit less buffoonish and that he actually knew the snake had to be killed to defeat Voldemort, but at least it was still Neville involved.

    *Absence of explanation over Deathly Hallows:
    I accept that for the movie drama they couldn’t round this off in the King’s Cross scene like in the book; here’s how I would have liked it to be added for the movie version:
    In the scene when Harry explains to Ron & Hermione that the Elder wand is his, there could be a brief contemplative interlude where Harry re-hears some of the discussion of the Deathly Hallows. (Can’t remember the exact wording used in the movies but use suitable quotes from Lovegood & Olivander & Voldy himself)
    “A cloak of invisibility”… “a stone that can bring back the dead” … “most powerful wand” … “It’s said that whoever unites these three would become the Master of Death” … “The boy who lived – come to die”
    Then, after giving a wry smile, Harry goes on to destroy the Elder wand; like a true hero he has used the Master of Death to defeat Voldemort only, then turns his back on it.

    The irony of the Master of Death defeating death by submitting to it will be noticed by the discerning viewer. Only Harry ever knows that he had all the objects and he’s not going to brag about it; a nice ‘quiet’ hero touch. Only the viewer and the hero know all about the part the Deathly Hallows played.

    *Final showdown:
    Still dislike the black smoke scene; a bit over the top as was the cat and mouse hunting around the castle. But the drama of the colliding spells wasn’t too bad on second viewing. Voldy’s spell couldn’t work because the wand fighting back was in the hands of the owner of the Elder wand and in fact all the Deathly Hallows; Harry’s spell couldn’t override Voldemort’s spell because there was still a horcrux tying Voldemort to life. As soon as that horcrux was gone, Expelliamus could now force Voldy’s spell to backfire.
    And there was ONE witness to the whole thing – someone (Neville?) was standing in an archway to the courtyard.

    So I will be happy to watch and enjoy the movie again when it comes out on DVD. I’ll just close my eyes for a few seconds in the black smoke scene. And maybe pause for a few seconds in the aftermath scene to add in my imagined additional voice over!

  2. Tinuvielas says:

    Just got back from the theatre watching DH2 for the first time (we were abroad due to summer holidays), and the first thing I did was read up on this conversation – so glad to have that! Amazing, the stuff and details you folks noticed – I’ll have to watch the movie a couple more times to catch up on half of what you’ve pointed out! It’s too late right now to properly add my 2cts, except for one tiny detail I really liked: Radcliff’s/Harry’s reaction to Snape’s memories and the realization (“finally the truth” are the first words in that chapter, and what a truth!) that he has to sacrifice himself (not even like a lamb, but like a pig, as Snape says) in order to vanquish Voldemort. In the book I think Harry lies on the floor, face pressed to the carpet, and it’s all interior monologue, so I was quite curious how they’d do this scene, and if they / Radcliffe would manage to convey any of the emotion, the fear and disappointment and anguish etc. Well, what he did was minimal, but – to me at least – extremely effective: When he came back up from the pensieve, he sort of started back slightly, just a tiny, tiny move, as if someone had suddenly moved a hand towards his eyes, as if to attack invisibly. Very neat. – More tomorrow, I hope – especially on the showdown which was such a disappointment after an otherwise above-average adaption… I mean, “come on Tom, let’s finish this”…!?!? (as opposed to “try for some remorse, Tom” in the book…).

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