Rebecca Boyd

Exploring the universe, one frame at a time.

Saying Goodbye To The Boy Potter

Posted Sunday, July 17th, 2011
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Before I begin, let me assure you, Dear Reader, that I’ve done my best not to include any significant spoilers in this post.  The most spoiler-y mentions you’ll find below are things like “[character name here]‘s big moment with [character name here].” I suspect that only those who have neither read the Deathly Hallows book nor seen the movies, and are interested in preserving their Deathly Hallows virginity until the last possible moment, will want to turn away.  I invite others to read on. 



One of my less popular, but nonetheless strongly held, beliefs about media is that in the case of a story that has been told in both book and movie form, you should see the movie first. I realize that this is heresy to a lot of people; probably to a lot of people I greatly respect. But my reasoning is that movie adaptations are almost always at least a little bit of a disappointment relative to their literary counterparts, and that by choosing to read the book first, you are very likely cheating yourself out of full enjoyment of the movie.  (Exception: Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings.)

There are at least two reasons that movies are usually somewhat less awesome than the books they come from:

1.)  Authors who don’t anticipate that their books will eventually be made into movies often don’t write books that are well suited to adaptation. (Case in point, oddly, JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, which makes Jackson’s films all the more of a triumph.)

2.)  People who enjoy reading often have excellent imaginations.  Not only does that make it likely that a film rendering, which is constrained by physical, technological, budgetary, and temporal limitations, will be less awesome than one unconstrained by anything but the depth of a person’s imagination, but it also makes it likely that any two readers of the same source material will go off on wildly different tangents in their separate imaginations.  So, a devoted book fan can find him/herself sitting in a theater and thinking, indignantly, “That’s not how it happened!”, even if s/he has just witnessed a marvel of modern filmmaking.

Now, the boy Potter.

For the Harry Potter series, I broke my own rule.  I did see the first two movies before reading any of the books, but from that point I read ahead.  Waiting for the movies would have meant waiting years, and I just couldn’t do it.  But, indeed, I was disappointed with the third movie, which, until the arrival of Deathly Hallows Part 2, was widely believed to be the best of the series.  I was indignant about a wide variety of omissions, but most especially the identities of Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs.  I could, of course, still see that it was a good movie, but I greatly missed things that were left out.  Likewise, I was so looking forward to the fifth movie, and the Weasley twins’ triumphant moment in it, but when it came and went, I was underwhelmed.  “That’s not how it happened,” I thought.  And since I adore Weasleys the most of all, that moment was a particular let down.

(On the other hand, the end of the fifth movie was outstanding and cemented forever my fanhood of David Yates and Slawomir Idziak. I just wish that Fred and George’s moment had been grander.)

While there were a few moments in the Deathly Hallows Part 2 that left me slightly underwhelmed, overall I think it comes the closest any of the movies have come to matching the greatness of the books.  I would say that it’s nearly as good as the book.  In fact, I’d say that about both Deathly Hallows movies.  And this is as it should be.  Together, DH1 and DH2 are a fitting and beautiful end to the Harry Potter movie series.

There were really only two moments in DH2 when I found myself thinking “That’s not how it happened.”  The first was Molly’s moment.  I’ll refrain from saying anything more.  If you’ve read the book, you know.  If you haven’t, I won’t spoil it.  The second was the final confrontation between Harry and Voldemort.  Where were the people?  I found it a strange departure from the book that Harry and Voldemort were alone in that moment.  It was beautiful and cinematic, but… Where were the people?  I mean, it works, I guess, but… where were the people?

Really, though, that’s it in terms of my list of personal qualms with the movie.  And there was a lot about the film to celebrate.  When DH1 came out, I joked that they ought to have called it Harry Potter and the Mystical British Landscapes, and DH2 is just as beautiful.  It’s also a great film for everyone’s favorite ‘swirl of tartan’, Professor McGonagall.  And for the kids.  The kids have never acted better.  I thought every one of them was really fantastic, from Harry’s penultimate moments with Voldemort, to Neville’s big moment, to Seamus giddily taking on the mantle of demolitions expert.  Every one of them, brilliant.  And I’d be remiss if I used the word brilliant in this post without also tying it to Alan Rickman.  Although I’ve always appreciated his performances, I’ve never been a particular Snape fangirl, in either the books or the movies.  But, oh man.  Somebody give this man an Oscar.

And if you haven’t seen the movie yet, go today.  Because the mischief has been managed.