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13 July 2011 @ 11:57 pm
Harry Potter 7, in two parts  
The review is in two parts, that is, er, as well as the film ... Part 1 unspoilery! Part 2, under a cut!

We both managed to miss 7.1 at the cinema, I was in England and Italy, Mr B was moping. So we saw that last night and then the second half at lunch today. Goodness, gracious me!

The short version is that I loved all of the first half and most of the second half. Also, Maggie Smith and Helen McRory can do with a tiny inflection what many actors spend their whole careers trying to achieve. Brilliant, brilliant work from both of them!

I have always thought of the films as being secondary artefacts in the Potter tale, illustrations that are about the same story, but often not telling it properly, in much the same way as book covers often have only a tangential relationship with the book inside them. For most of part seven, though, I felt that it was very truthful storytelling, not always exactly telling the exact story of the books, but being very faithful to the spirit of it.

And it was beautiful. From the sets, to the costumes, to the love that each actor brought to their character, it was emotional and as real as possible, and just lovely (especially the little Hufflepuffs).

We thought the first film was particularly good. Although a lot of things had to be snipped for length, it all made logical sense and worked as a coherent plot in itself, though I had to laugh at Bill's little exposition scene -- 'Oh, yeah, I was attacked by a werewolf, which you would have known about if the film-makers hadn't made a bad choice two films ago ...'

Even the camping made sense and showed very well the frustration and furious impotency they felt. The passing of time was nicely conveyed, as was the anger. Ron's disillusionment worked, even without the context JKR gives it in the book, and his leaving was harrowing. Mr B thought that Dan was a comic genius in the dancing scene and was genuinely surprised when I mentioned that there had been speculation it was meant to show a romantic tension between Harry and Hermione.

'That's ridiculous,' he said. 'Clearly they're just genuinely great friends and he's trying to cheer her up. They made a big point of him taking the locket off her for a moment and everything. It's the act of a decent friend! And besides, she's miserable because she's missing Ron.'

Good old Mr B!

There was a small amount of shrieking when Bathilda's head flipped open to reveal Nagini, but it was mostly people who were not me. All of the Godric's Hollow sequence was beautifully made and the Silver Doe sequence was both tension-filled and a wonderful relief.

The Snatchers were scary! Though not quite as scary as the crew at Malfoy Manor. It was impossible not to feel sympathy for Draco, surrounded by crazy people, and for his mother, related to half of them. And the second-last sequence was lovely, as the beauty of the cottage by the sea contrasted with the sorrow of loss and torture.  

As we walked home last night, we agreed that this might very well have been the best Potter film ever (something that was very easy to think when we were seeing the conclusion of it 13 hours later, we may have thought differently were it eight months, as it did leave off sharply), and not just because we had enjoyed being part of such a keen crowd. It kept so closely to the feeling of the book that it felt as though it had built on the experience of reading, rather than trying to just show scenes from the story.

Today it was back for the second film, and I loved almost all of it. In fact, I'm going to keep the complaints to the end, so that you can feel free to ignore them.

The breaking into Gringotts was edge-of-the-seat stuff. Helena Bonham-Carter made a terrific Hermione and the physical reconstruction of the bank was marvellous. I cheered when Hermione loosed the dragon, and felt a genuine stab of horror when Voldemort strode through the corpse-strewn wreckage afterwards. His casual vengeful slaughter here conveyed his evil more thoroughly than anything that had come previously.

Mr B laughed when Hermione drew the blanket from her bag to change under -- of course she was prepared! And then to Hogsmeade and the school, at which point we clutched hands and prepared to worry.

Aberforth was splendid! Wholly believable as someone who was bitter and angry, and yet still prepared to do the right thing. One of my favourite parts of the book was the fact that he clearly stated what we had only muttered quietly until then, that Dumbledore had asked outrageous things of Harry again and again. The film caught his disgust with his brother's Machiavellianism, and Daniel Radcliffe did a great job of showing that Harry already knew, and had decided to continue trusting anyway.

I do think that they made a small error here in not giving us a bit more detail of the Dumbledores' life. There was time used later in the film that could have been spent here with advantage, because if you do not know the books (and a surprising number don't), then you are left believing that Dumbledore's father is a cold-blooded killer and wondering where on Earth Grindelwald fits into the story. At the time you may not notice the gap, because things are picking up so much in terms of pace, but later it is apparent.

It was as wonderful to return to the school in the film as it was in the book. And the visual clues given to show the change in regime were spectacular shorthand. The regimented marching was scary, and so perfectly shot as a counterpoint to the chaotic personal excitement of previous arrivals at the school or Great Hall.

Harry's revelation of himself in the Hall was unexpected, but I thought it was a successful choice. This section of the book was really effective as prose, but could have been too discursive on film. And Snape and Minerva ... One of my friends who does not like HP still watches the films because they bring all the best of British film acting onto the one screen. Never more true than here. More about them in a minute. The changed sequence of Ron and Hermione in the Chamber of Secrets worked similarly well, though I did miss Ron's snog for justice.

Maggie Smith was a genuine hero while filming, and her Minerva lives up to her. The scene where she calls the stone soldiers to life was thrilling, and then the casting of the protective shield about the school thoroughly beautiful. That was the moment in which I cried, all those people, doing everything they could to save a place and the people within it, while knowing that they were all that stood between the world and genuine horror, and that they may not be enough.

That whole first part of the battle was hand-gripping stuff. I was afraid for everyone and found the tension very well constructed. When the Death Eaters broke off to allow the school time to think, the slow revelation of the carnage was more affecting and effective than I was expecting, all the more so for its contrast with the action at the boathouse.

Snape was magnificent. Alan Rickman's tightly controlled portrayal of Snape's interior life has always been impressive, but here with his whole story, even edited down ... Mr B declared that he had said all along that Snape was the true hero of Book 7 (this is not true, he actually said Neville was, but he did say that it radically changed his thinking about Snape and confirmed other things he had thought). I shook my head at the casting in the first film – Snape is younger than me when he dies in the book's timeframe – but I was wrong. (Actually, maybe that's why all the Marauders were far too old. I am dim, that's only just occurred to me!) From childhood to death, he was every inch the tragic hero.

Harry's walk through the forest was exactly as I had imagined when I read the book (though in my imagination, everyone looked different, but that's fine). His use of the Resurrection Stone was a lovely touch to show his fear, but also his determination not to falter, even as he sought comfort and strength to go on. This is one of my favourite scenes of both book and film, and it went on equally well, up to and including Narcissa Malfoy's declaration that Harry was dead.

I loved every single choice to do with the Malfoys. Lucius's continued disintegration was masterful and I cannot talk about it in a fashion more cogent than Jason Isaacs has already managed, so I will just applaud him. Tom Felton captured Draco's lack of certainty about the whole situation very convincingly. In the Room of Requirement, he had no response to Harry when asked why he had not turned him over, and yet moments later, he trusted Harry with his life.

The penultimate Malfoy Moment, with Draco being embraced by Voldemort was perfectly judged, I thought. He was there because his mother told him to come, and he submitted to the embrace as willingly as one does to the Christmas hug of a Great-Uncle with halitosis.

But then Narcissa's Right, Lads, Fuck This, We're Off was GENIUS! A perfect note. Bugger the lot of you, we choose ourselves!

And then nearly at the end, Harry's snapping of the wand was very nearly cliched, except that here was a character whose entire life had been blighted by the sort of ambition that wand created, and so it seemed both logical and sensible. Though he should have fixed his own wand first!

There were some things I was less thrilled with.

The 3D effects were wonderful for showing the Dementors, but not spectacularly useful elsewhere. I think that it was something that could have been done without, though I may just be bitter that my cinema did not have fabbo round Harry Potter 3D glasses.

But the second half of the battle was something I did not like much at all. Every choice seemed wrong to me. It had started to go astray when the Trio ran about through the first half rather than joining the battle lines as they do in the book. Not only did it give an annoying 'drama through choppiness' aspect to the cinematography and editing, but we missed seeing Fred die beside his brothers, which distanced us from the pain of his death.

Once Voldemort returned to the school, it grew worse for me.  Neville's great Hero Moment was shifted about into a speech that was half Braveheart, half bastardised St Crispin's Day, with delayed snake chopping. Neville Longbottom did not step forward from the crowd at Hogwart's School to deliver a bloody speech, he ran forward to kill Voldemort! And then when he was disarmed and Voldemort sought to kill him by turning the Sorting Hat into a weapon, Neville and Hogwarts both turned the tables and killed Nagini instead.

This was vital stuff. Not only because it set the scene for Harry's escape and victory, but because it clearly showed that while Tom Riddle had never moved past the boy he was at school, the School had chosen against him, pitting it as an institution against the corruptible might of the Ministry.

I could live with Harry not having the Invisibility Cloak, but his duck and cover and run away bit was daft, and I think it was a really stupid choice on the part of the film-makers. The action sequence through there as written in the book is superior. Not only is everyone kept to the one space, so you can see everything happen in real time, the splitting of the battle into two robbed both parts of their strength. We flicked back to see Molly Weasley strike some poses and then smugly dispatch Bellatrix, rather than desperately round on her daughter's would-be killer in the nick of time. We watch Harry and Voldemort be Supermen against each other, but no one else can see them, and at the moment of Harry's final victory, when there should be a great silence followed by the cheers of hundreds who are finally free of decades of fear, there is only silence.

AND we lost the best Voldemort line in any of the books: 'Is it love again?'

This section makes me sad, and when I buy the video, I will fast-forward through it then pause, and take the time to read the book instead and play out that battle in my head. Because up until here, I had loved this film, and through here I became aware that I no longer did, and that all the choices had been made because that is what one 'does' in an action sequence, rather than trusting to the story. As I said before, there were many choices that differed from the book that I adored. I do not need the book to be slavishly followed. But I do need story, rather than spectacle, and through this section, it was spectacle that won out.



At the very end, the words 19 Years Later scrolled up, and a little voice from the front of the cinema said, 'What?!'

Mr B leaned down and whispered, 'Someone hasn't read the book.' I like to think the kid was just EWE.

But it was a wonderful epilogue. The Boy Who Lived went on to have a life, what more could we wish for?
 
 
 
E McGeemelusinahp on July 13th, 2011 02:57 pm (UTC)
I may not read anyone else's review, because that one was perfect. :)
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 13th, 2011 03:07 pm (UTC)
Cheers, dear! Did you find the Epilogue strangely touching? I was a bit lump in the throat, I have to confess!
E McGeemelusinahp on July 13th, 2011 03:09 pm (UTC)
I did enjoy the epilogue! I'm not wholly against it in the books either, but after the main part of the film ended, I felt like it perfectly rounded everything off. I needed that moment of happiness for Harry, Ron and Hermione after everything he'd been through, especially as it's the final film ever.

And I agree completely about the second half of the battle.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 13th, 2011 03:30 pm (UTC)
I liked it in the film more than in the book, oddly enough. Little Albus was so perfectly cast! And yes, a moment of happiness is exactly it.

We should do something about that second half of the battle. We'll need cardboard, paint, HP Lego figures, a camera, and about 8000 person hours ...
Geneva2010geneva2010 on August 14th, 2011 07:49 pm (UTC)
I totally agree with you. In the book the epilogue seemed stilted and unnecessary, giving us a weird glimpse of everyone and naming all the kids. In the movie, the moments between Harry and Albus were truly beautiful and fulfilling. I cried two times during the movie - once when Ron wept over Fred's body (nice moment for actor Rupert) and during the Epilogue the tears fell.

Thanks for your great review.
Loyaulte Me Lieshocolate on July 13th, 2011 03:08 pm (UTC)
and just lovely (especially the little Hufflepuffs)

You are adorable!

The students marching across the courtyard were Hufflepuffs, btw - she filmed until midnight!
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 13th, 2011 03:30 pm (UTC)
I was looking carefully at each Hufflepuff!

And they were very good at marching :-)
down the hills and round the bends: H/D magicnorton_gale on July 14th, 2011 04:11 am (UTC)
Can you please tell me about Harry and Draco's broomstick ride (aka My Favorite Part of the Entire Book)?
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 14th, 2011 11:12 am (UTC)
Short but fab. Draco reaches out to him in full belief that Harry can and will save him. You will love it!
down the hills and round the bendsnorton_gale on July 14th, 2011 06:11 pm (UTC)
Hooray! When the DVD comes out I'll be sure to grab a screencap of that for an icon.

I can't wait to see it, though unfortunately I will have to wait a few weeks until The In-Laws are in town for complicated reasons relating to babysitting. Thanks for the preview!
george pushdragonpushdragon on July 14th, 2011 04:56 am (UTC)
Yes to so much of this!

Sometimes the direction and editing spectacularly nailed 100% of the dramatic potential in a scene - like you, I lost it at the putting up of Hogwarts' defences, and had to hold my breath when Harry was saying his last goodbye to Hermione. But then, other moments they just wandered from scene to scene without any sense of building tension. You're right, Neville vs Snake is a pivotal moment that should never have been messed with. Can't help comparing it with LotR, where really beloved moments like Eowyn vs Nazgul were kept whole. And his speech! Poor kid, it was such awful cheese that only David Tennant could ever have saved it.

I can't believe they paid Emma Thompson to say "She's gone" in one scene, and Miriam Margolyes (sp?) to say nothing at all! I really missed all the contributions of all those wonderful adult actors.

They could have messed up so much more, though. We're lucky that they kept the story solidly about the three-way friendship and not about the romance. And that Harry and Draco still got their one moment on the broom. So yeah, nicely dissected, both the good and the bad.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 14th, 2011 11:11 am (UTC)
I KNOW! I was convinced that was an extra in a Sprout wig, you know, until she turned around. But hurrah for giving them more cash! (I wonder what Zoe Wanamaker did to never be invited back?)

And I agree entirely that when they got it right, they got it so very right indeed. But I can't help wishing that Peter Jackson had been available and keen, for exactly the reasons you point out.

I have a mental image of David giving that speech now, he makes it sound as though he is being cynical and a bit ironic at the start, and then he does that little face thing, and his tone shifts, and suddenly you realise that nothing could be truer than what he is saying. (That said, he was SUCH a good bad guy, too!)
Anwynanthraxia on July 15th, 2011 03:05 am (UTC)
"I wonder what Zoe Wanamaker did to never be invited back?"

Talked like a trade unionist and implied that people with talent and experience who make a film that becomes an ENORMOUS hit deserve to have a little more of the cash flow in their direction; at the very least, bump up the pay check on the second movie and pay them for the use of their scanned digital images used in computer games. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2001/nov/12/harrypotter.news)
Warner Bros did not approve of this British lefty rubbish, it seems.
(Deleted comment)
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 14th, 2011 12:54 pm (UTC)
Maggie is AMAZING!

And yeah, I have an up and down relationship with the films. Did not like the first two, DID like the third, was a bit half-and-half with the next two and then thought the sixth was just silly (though I did see it on a plane). But these two were mostly fab. I think all the love the cast brought to them really came through.
jeknijekni on July 14th, 2011 11:50 am (UTC)
One of these days I must read those books - and watch those movies, too. I guess there's a hole in my internal pop-culture reference library.
joan_waterhousejoan_waterhouse on July 14th, 2011 12:01 pm (UTC)
I couldn't agree more!

Setting up the wards around Hogwarts was exactly the point where I started to cry, as well. It's this that got to me in the book too; it's not just an abstract idea of a conflict anymore, this is the real stuff where kids will die and they are all in it, and suddenly they realise this. It's so very heartbreaking I could cry again right now.

And I completely agree with what you said about the splitting of the final battle and Neville. This is exactly what my brother and I said when we got out of the cinema.

We flicked back to see Molly Weasley strike some poses and then smugly dispatch Bellatrix
And yet I found it more emotionally gripping than Harry's final fight with Voldemort, which was just a very static kind of arm-wrestling with wands. I think they could have done a lot more with images and slow mo and I-don't-know-what movie-magic tricks to relay to the audience what was going on in the minds of the Wizards as well as inside of the wands.

I said it in another comment somewhere else on LJ already, and it might be a petty thing to be miffed at, but I felt really let down by the end titles. I expected something more epic, more touching, more "thank you" than just very, very ordinary titles with a part of the score that spoke more of the battle than of the relief of survival.

But all in all I really liked the film. Draco's hesitation was perfect. And Lucius! Oh my god, how brilliant. The moment where he is so relieved that Draco came over to their side that he almost wants to hug him, but he can't because he needs to keep his face in front of all the Death Eaters so he raises his head with as much mock arrogance he can muster. So, so brilliant.
AutumnHearti_autumnheart on July 14th, 2011 12:01 pm (UTC)
I have not seen it yet, and have succumbed to spoilers only because it ws you! Thanks for giving me hope without giving too much away... back for proper discussion after Saturday.
lyraslyras on July 15th, 2011 12:36 am (UTC)
I completely agree with you about the second half of the battle. (And also got St Crispin's Day vibes from Neville's speech!) It's the one part of the movie I really would like to change. I can see why they wanted to give Ron & Hermione more to do at that point, but yeah, I think they could have done away with several minutes there and given the time to other things.

But then Narcissa's Right, Lads, Fuck This, We're Off was GENIUS!

It really was! I didn't even realise 'til afterward that that was why she'd coaxed Draco over to their side. I loved everything about the Malfoys in this film.

And yes, Maggie Smith was wonderful, and the moment when she brought the castle to life was spine-chilling.
mrsquizzical: potter memoriespenseivemrsquizzical on July 15th, 2011 10:23 pm (UTC)
<3
pir8fancier on July 19th, 2011 02:47 pm (UTC)
Once Voldemort returned to the school, it grew worse for me. Neville's great Hero Moment was shifted about into a speech that was half Braveheart, half bastardised St Crispin's Day, with delayed snake chopping. Neville Longbottom did not step forward from the crowd at Hogwart's School to deliver a bloody speech, he ran forward to kill Voldemort! And then when he was disarmed and Voldemort sought to kill him by turning the Sorting Hat into a weapon, Neville and Hogwarts both turned the tables and killed Nagini instead.

This was vital stuff. Not only because it set the scene for Harry's escape and victory, but because it clearly showed that while Tom Riddle had never moved past the boy he was at school, the School had chosen against him, pitting it as an institution against the corruptible might of the Ministry.

I could live with Harry not having the Invisibility Cloak, but his duck and cover and run away bit was daft, and I think it was a really stupid choice on the part of the film-makers. The action sequence through there as written in the book is superior. Not only is everyone kept to the one space, so you can see everything happen in real time, the splitting of the battle into two robbed both parts of their strength. We flicked back to see Molly Weasley strike some poses and then smugly dispatch Bellatrix, rather than desperately round on her daughter's would-be killer in the nick of time. We watch Harry and Voldemort be Supermen against each other, but no one else can see them, and at the moment of Harry's final victory, when there should be a great silence followed by the cheers of hundreds who are finally free of decades of fear, there is only silence.


So yes to all of this. You articulated perfectly my dissatisfaction with Neville (he looked sort of barmy when he did it, yeah?), and how well the battle scene was written, and how the director diluted it horribly by segmenting the action off into separate scenes.



Sivaroobini: Marauderssirius_luva on August 6th, 2011 02:50 pm (UTC)
Your review was lovely, and I completely agree. I wept so much the first time I saw it (on July 14th, which was also my birthday), and I cried again the second time I saw it, and then I obtained the soundtrack and the first time I heard the theme they play when panning over the battle and the dead bodies I teared up again. >_> But I did think the final battle could have been handled much better. I have no idea what was with the whole Apparating-from-cliff bit, and I wished they'd been surrounded by everyone like in the book, so that this victory could be witnessed. And I wasn't a huge fan of the book's epilogue, but somehow I liked the movie's version.

Also, when Draco reaches up to Harry and later clings to him on the broom, I was like DRACO/HARRY FTW!!! >_>

Lovely review!
Cearesceares on August 8th, 2011 11:09 am (UTC)
great reviews! I loved what they did with the Malfoys in these last two movies...I've always thought the filmmakers more of Malfoy fans than JKR. The acting was terrific throughout.

I was also disappointed in the way the battle scenes were handled but I actually liked Neville's speech(cheesily motivational though it was)and that Harry and Voldemort's battle was unobserved. I thought those two things, along with the scene after when he walks through the hall and barely gets acknowledged where meant to show that it wasn't just Harry's war and Harry's sacrifice and not just Harry that was a hero and for a brief moment he got to be free of that burden.

Considering everything resting on these films I think they did a wonderful job. Like you I saw the 1st part only a shortw hile before the 2nd and then I saw the 2nd twice in 2 days. I'd definitely like to see it a couple more times though without the layer of anticipation/expectation on top of it.