I haven’t seen Deathly Hallows PT1 yet. I’ll be seeing it Wednesday night.
The corresponding book has been sitting on my desk for about two weeks, but I think I’ve decided to not reread it before I see the movie, as has been my habit. I’ve only read Deathly Hallows twice, most recently last summer, and listened to it on audiobook once, sometime in January, I think. It won’t be as sharp as if I had reread it yesterday, but I probably still have a good recollection of all the specific events in the 759-page book. So I will probably still spend most of the two and a half hours hissing complaints and disappointments under my breath like an asshole. Yes, I will be That Guy. I don’t really don’t want to be, but Half-Blood Prince proved that I can’t bloody help myself. It was during the last twenty minutes of that movie that, for the first time, someone turned around and told me to shut up.
I hope it doesn’t happen again. I will try to hiss more quietly this time. :(
(This post contains spoilers for the Deathly Hallows book and the movies up to the sixth.)
It isn’t like I expect the book the translate word-for-word into film. That would be ridiculous and unreasonable, especially for something as vast and complicated as Harry Potter. But a movie can be faithful to its source without replicating every last detail. Good adaptations exist by preserving the spirit of the original, by keeping important events in tact, and by not adding extraneous pieces that contribute nothing. The first two Harry Potter films managed well enough because they portrayed simpler times. As soon as things started getting “darker” though, they started to fall apart. I have not liked a Harry Potter movie since Chamber of Secrets, and it isn’t for lack of trying. I want desperately to like these movies. It’s why I keep watching them, year after year, disappointment after disappointment.
Okay, well. At this point, part of it is also because there is masochistic glee to be had in tearing them apart.
But hey, the Deathly Hallows trailer actually looked pretty good! I was excited when I first saw it. Those thestrals looked fuckin’ sweet. And Lovegood’s house collapsing looked fantastic as well. Hurray! But these are only visual elements. Storywise, the trailer did not tell much at all. As usual, it was a random string of scenes and events accompanied by one-liners that revealed nothing. Can’t have spoilers in the trailer, but shouldn’t we at least know some of what Harry is faced with? What he’s supposed to be doing in this movie? Yes, yes, “defeat Voldemort,” but can we be a little more specific?
Half-Blood Prince was supposed to prepare Harry. It was supposed to teach Harry about his enemy and to provide him with the tools necessary to defeat him. I hated the sixth movie because it completely failed to do either of these things, and that failure is an awful way to start this seventh movie. Did movie-only fans walk out of the theatre last summer even remembering what a horcrux was? Or were they too preoccupied with the epic shipping battle of H/Hr VS R/Hr that David Yates put in for no reason? The first half of Deathly Hallows is Harry (and company) trying to find horcruxes, but you’d never know this watching the trailer. It isn’t even as if the horcruxes are particularly complicated or even very spoilery. A trailer is not too short a space to convey the idea that Harry needs to find a bunch of tangentially-related items before he can go to his final showdown with Voldy.
The movies have also done a pretty shoddy job of portraying the supposed horrors of Voldemort’s reign of terror. The themes of fear, government corruption, censorship, prejudice, and racism, are very hard to discern from the trailer if you don’t know what you’re looking for already. Maybe they are too heavy for a trailer, unnecessary in getting an audience excited. But a hero is only as good as his villain. These final two installments should show the fullest extent of why Voldemort is the bad guy. Aside from the obvious (immediate threats on Harry’s life, historical murder of his parents), what is it about Voldemort that is oh so terrible?
To be concise, these are the things that I feel need to be in Deathly Hallows, in order of importance:
- A clear explanation as to what Harry is trying to do (find & destroy horcruxes before final confrontation)
- Introduction and summary of Deathly Hallows
- An overview of Dumbledore’s past (friends with Grindlewald, Ariana’s death)
- Scenes depicting government-enforced prejudice, racism, and classism
These first two are the most critical by far, but the latter two are still Very Important. Somehow, I feel like we’re going to be shortchanged on at least one of them, probably Dumbledore’s past. Understanding Dumbledore is needed for full appreciation of all his actions up to his death and to follow Harry through his thought processes in these last installments. Given that referencing previous installments doesn’t seem to happen frequently in the films, and given that character development and non-romantic inter-character relationships have always been unimportant to these adaptations, I’m expecting to be disappointed.
The movie is probably going to end shortly after the Hallows are properly revealed because that’s the only logical place I can think of. Right after Malfoy Manor and Dobby’s death maybe? Really though, the seventh book doesn’t split neatly in my head, and I’m still disappointed Yates decided to partition it this way. Regardless, it would be pretty lame if a movie entitled “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” ended without ever telling you what the hell the Deathly Hallows are. To appreciate what Harry is fighting for, we should know what he’s fighting against. I do hope Deathly Hallows doesn’t only show the bad guys sitting around the table poking at the Muggle Studies professor. Give us some of that good ol’ torture and students getting abused at school and Muggle-borns and halfbloods begging in the streets
Some other Important, But Not As Important things I think should be in the movie include:
- The silver doe
- Closure with the Dursleys
- Wormtail’s redemption
I’m not worried about the silver doe being included because it’s a chance for eye candy, if nothing else, but I really hope they don’t make it exceedingly obvious who it belongs to and where it came from. Give the movie-only fans a few months to mull over that one. Meanwhile, R.A.B. is crucial to the plot! It is an example of a thing you shouldn’t leave out because it is Kind of Important! It leads to some not-as-necessary things, such as Kreacher’s storytime and eventual redemption, but if we don’t get a clear path from R.A.B. to the Slytherin locket, I am going to be mad.
Closure with the Dursleys was something I felt the book did a bad job with, and it’s definitely something the movie might be able to do better because it would take much less time in the movie than it would in the book. It may not be as critical as a lot of other things, but after six other movies flanked with these characters, it would be disappointing to not give them their last hurrah. Wormtail’s redemption is also not really that important, but it is good for closure, continuity, and letting things come full circle, even if I thought this played out pretty disappointingly in the book. Given that, I wouldn’t be shocked if it were left out either.
But really, there aren’t that many things I feel absolutely need to be in this movie. I am not expecting four hundred pages of the Endless Camping Trip plus a dozen references to previous installments to fit here. There are plenty of things that could be left out, including (but not limited to):
- A lengthy wedding
- Potter Watch
- Kreacher’s story/redemption
- Lupin/Harry drama re: Teddy
The trailer showed a wedding, but the only thing that happens at the wedding of lasting importance is meeting Xenophilius Lovegood. Everything else can be chopped out, especially considering Bill and Fleur were completely absent in the previous movie. I hope they don’t linger too long on the Harry’s disguise. Potter Watch was great in the books as something to break up the endless pages of wandering, but the movie will feel more fast-paced by nature, and it isn’t as necessary. I don’t think any important facts are ever learned via Potter Watch. Kreacher’s story explains R.A.B., but the hows and whys of Regulus Black can be skipped over as long as we are clear that that locket is the right locket. And as fun as it was, it isn’t important that we hang around Grimmauld Place and let Kreacher make soup and whack Mundungus. Neither Lupin, Tonks, nor Teddy are of any consequence to anything, but I get the feeling they’ll be shoved in there anyway because it’s ~*~drama~*~!
So, see. I’m not that big of a purist. There are things that I actually want to be left out! Hell, I’ll be angry if they’re included because chances are, something more important will be sacrificed for it. I want to watch a movie that makes sense, that flows without jumping around to random things in a way that feels disjointed, that is self-contained to an extent while still being very connected to the others in the series. I want all the core events of the first half of Deathly Hallows to be there. I want these characters to actually grow a little after nine years. If the movie manages to hit all the key points and builds up properly for the grand finale, then I really don’t care if Yates tries to canonize H/Hr instead of R/Hr. :P
But man, I should have written this last week. Please keep movie-spoilers, especially movie-only scene descriptions, out of the comments. I’ll write another post/a review after I see the movie and we can continue this discussion there, yes? It may or may not be pleasant.