Friday, May 24, 2024

The Harry Potter Film Rewatch Project: #7 Harry Potter and the Long Battle

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Spoiler Warning for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Welp, welcome to the Harry Potter Film Rewatch Project one last time! Here we are, at the eighth and final film of the series. And, arguably, the most important of the bunch as it not only brought the series to a close but also made it clear that the whole “split the finale in half” gimmick could indeed work out and be profitable. Without the success of The Deathly Hallows, it’s arguable that Marvel would have had the idea/nerve to split Infinity War and Endgame. Back in the brief novel boom we certainly wouldn’t have gotten Breaking DawnMockingjay, or The Hobbit, in the formats that we did were it not for this little duo. There are better films in the series, and worse ones, but arguably not even the first is as important.

So, with that in mind, let’s dive right in!

Watching Now

We open where the first film left off, with Voldemort seizing the Elder Wand from Dumbledore’s tomb and lashing out with it. This is then followed by a shot of Snape looking over the Hogwarts grounds as students file in, silent and in tight formation, the castle surrounded by Dementors. It’s honestly a well shot and scored scene, with no dialogue, just Alan Rickman looking conflicted. I will continue to have problems with Yates, but I will also continue to praise him for his skill at the art of ‘show-don’t-tell’. I know I bring it up a lot, but it’s honestly his biggest strength and his main redeeming quality as a director.

We then move to Shell Cottage, the home of Bill and Fleur and the final resting place of Dobby. Harry is sitting in front of his friend’s grave, mourning the loss of the elf before returning to the cottage. He’s informed that the two adults they rescued from Malfoy Manor in the previous film, Ollivander the wand maker and Griphook the goblin, are ready to talk to Harry. Being the one with the more immediately useful and necessary information, they go to Griphook first.

They talk a little, about their need to break into Gringotts to get a Horcrux…how Harry knows there’s one in Gringotts isn’t really made clear. Of all the Horcruxes, the Cup got the least explanation in the films. Maybe I just missed a scene where they discussed it, but I’m fairly certain this is the filmmakers relying on the audience’s book knowledge to fill in the gaps. It certainly worked on me, the first time I saw this movie. They do at least try to justify him recognizing it by having him be able to sense when he’s near to one, as well as having him and Voldemort both feel it when one is destroyed. They likewise use the connection between Harry and Voldemort to patch up the lack of explanation from the sixth movie, letting Harry have suspiciously convenient visions to inform him that Nagini and the Diadem are Horcruxes and, in the latter case, exists.

Well, regardless, Griphook is reluctant to aid them, since the security of Gringotts is a matter of national pride for him and his people. He is, however, eventually persuaded under the promise that he’ll get the Sword of Gryffindor. Goblins have a belief about the inheritance of Goblin made items you see. That it was never given to the person who had it made, only loaned. And thus, when they die, it should go back to the Goblins. A…not entirely unreasonable system, but different enough from human beliefs to cause friction.

They briefly speak to Ollivander, primarily to offer up foreshadowing for the rather convoluted reason Harry will prevail at the end of the movie. Specifically, he explains that if you beat a wizard or witch in a fight and take their wand, their wand will shift allegiances and become yours. This raises some interesting questions about wands, similar to the ones I have about the toys in Toy Story, but honestly, my main takeaway from it is that John Hurt is wasted in this franchise, much like Mickey Rourke was in Iron Man 2, except with even fewer scenes. But, to someone without book knowledge, this scene probably helped. The fact that it’s in the book, and thus satisfies the checklist, is probably important too.

With that settled, they grab some Polyjuice and use it to turn Hermione into Bellatrix. They magic up an outfit for her, and fortunately, they grabbed Bellatrix’s wand as well at the end of the last movie, so the disguise is complete. What follows is some amusing shenanigans of Hermione trying and failing to act like a haughty, cruel racist to get into her vault at Gringotts (I like how much Voldemort’s level of caution with his Horcruxes fluctuates by the way. Some, like the Ring and Locket, he builds elaborate defenses for. Others, like the Diary and Cup, he just sort of shoves at one of his minions and tells them to figure something out.) followed by Harry casting the Imperious Curse on a high ranking Goblin to get the group into the vaults (he’s under the invisibility cloak by the way…which I just realized that they never actually establish as the Cloak of the Hallow Trio…I’d complain, but I hate the inclusion of the Hallows in the book and it’s questionable if anything ever came of said cloak being said Hallow, so let’s just move on).

They don’t get very far into Gringotts before they’re tossed out of the cart though, removed by a protection ward which removes any deceptive spells. Like the Polyjuice potion, or the Imperious. The latter is quickly recast though, so mainly it just means that they have to walk. This leads them face to face with a dragon. An angry, blind, abused dragon that has been trained to fear certain specific noises, something they manage to exploit to get around the poor thing. Once they get past it, they get into the vault itself. They quickly find the Cup…but also quickly trigger the defenses. Specifically, everything that they touch starts to multiply, filling up the vault and threatening to crush them.

To make matters worse, Griphook betrays them, pointing out that while he did promise to get them into the vault, he never promised to get them out. So he takes the other goblin and the Sword of Gryffindor and leaves. A result of this action is that not only are the gang short the Sword, but the other goblin gets killed…and the only reaction we get from our trio of heroes is Ron calling it “unfortunate”.

Unfortunate? I’m all for dark comedy, but our three heroes used an illegal mind controlling curse on an innocent bystander, leading to his death and the only reaction we get is “that’s unfortunate”? Really? What the heck? That’s just…aaagh!

To make matters worse, when the three escape by climbing onto the back of the dragon and freeing it to climb up out of Gringotts and eventually take flight, we see a lot more people die, some security but others just innocent tellers when they get into the lobby of the bank.  This is a drastic change from the book which, while a bit needlessly dark in a lot of places, never described anyone dying during the breakout, meaning that it was entirely possible that our three heroes didn’t get a ton of people killed in their escape. And if you’re wondering if all this obvious death, of innocents, not even necessarily Death Eaters, will ever be reacted to, let alone addressed…nope! They do not care!

Sorry, I just…that really upsets me. It’s bad enough to see heroes who went out of their way not to kill in the source material killing in the adaptation; it’s worse to see it done casually for the sake of…I don’t know really. We’re not seeing established characters or even villains die, and like I’ve said none of our heroes react to the deaths, so I’m genuinely not sure what my emotional takeaway is supposed to be here. It’s just killing people because…they thought it’d wreck the audience’s immersion if there were no casualties?

Well, since I’ve already dwelt on this more than the movie did, let’s just move along I guess. The trio escapes atop the dragon and eventually jump off of its back into a random lake, shortly after which Harry gets a vision of Voldemort slaughtering more innocents at Gringotts, including, notably, Griphook. Which, once again, was not in the book, and was not necessary to the plot, though at least this time I know that I’m supposed to feel vindictive gratification upon seeing his corpse. That’s something I guess.

Well, Harry now knows that Voldemort knows he’s after the Horcruxes, so they need to book it to Hogwarts. Though of course, they can’t apparate directly into Hogwarts, so instead they wind up going to Hogsmeade instead. Doing so activates an alarm, however, sending a group of Death Eaters after them. They evade capture though, first just by hiding, but then by being let into the Hog’s Head Inn, which is owned and operated by Dumbledore’s brother Aberforth.

This is when they attempt to address the whole ‘Harry asks a mirror shard for help’ from the previous movie, by showing the mirror in question, complete with the missing shard, and having Aberforth explain that he got it from Mundungus after the thief stole it from Grimmauld Place. And that…helps a little, but it doesn’t explain where Harry got the shard, or why Aberforth bought a broken mirror in the first place. Actually a lot goes unexplained Aberforth, as the movie also chooses to gloss over the whole backstory and why he and Albus didn’t get along, instead settling more for Aberforth just generally not caring for his brother and thinking of him as a bit of a tool.

On the one hand, I kind of get that. Films are paced differently from books, and particularly towards the climax (which we kind of are, breaking this film into acts is tricky), you need to keep the pace up. But on the other hand, this is the shortest film in the series. You could have taken three minutes to discuss the whole thing, give some more development and pathos. It was the last film of the series, after all, you were absolutely going to make your money back, you had to know that! Three minutes of extra dialogue explaining the tragic backstory of one of your heroes wouldn’t have driven the crowd away.

Well, either way, Aberforth sends them up into the castle, using the same method as the books (right down to the same portrait too, weirdly enough), a long secret tunnel. Neville even shows up to guide them up it, leading them to the small resistance movement within Hogwarts, a continuation of the group from the fifth movie. One of them hurries off to tell ‘Remus and the others’ that Harry has arrived at Hogwarts, using code over a radio. We see the group which includes Cho Chang for some reason. Okay, yes, Cho did participate in the battle at the end of the seventh book, but she arrived with the other non-students. Here she’s already present, apparently a student at Hogwarts, despite being a year ahead of Harry in school.

I know, I know, it’s a minor nitpick but, well, pretty soon I’m not going to have much to say, so I might as well get stuff in where I can. The gist of it is that they’ve arrived at Hogwarts because Harry is pretty sure they’re looking for something belonging to Rowena Ravenclaw and that it’s small and hidden in the castle, but that’s all he knows. Luna offers up the suggestion of Ravenclaw, though as Cho points out, it’s been lost for centuries. Before more can be discussed though, Ginny shows up. She reveals that Snape knows Harry is in the castle and so Harry, for the first time in a while puts on Hogwarts robes and sneaks off into the castle, heading to confront Snape in the main hall.

As one might imagine, Snape isn’t happy to see him. Before he can attack Harry, however, McGonagall steps in, defending our hero and driving Snape from the castle. McGonagall then takes control, rallying the majority of the community to defend the castle, though she does send the Slytherins to the dungeons after one of them suggest that they hand Harry over. We get a particularly fun scene of her awakening the statues of Hogwarts and sending them into military formation. Luna then shows up to make Harry speak to the Ravenclaw ghost, the Grey Lady, aka Helena Ravenclaw. It turns out that Helena does know about the Horcrux, namely that Voldemort did indeed perform ‘dark magic’ on the Diadem and that it’s hidden in the Room of Requirement.

While Harry is learning all this, we cut to a nearby cliff, where the Death Eaters have gathered in mass. There are a lot of them, and they all begin to open fire on Hogwarts with spells, firing against the magical dome that is protecting the school. We also cut to the Chamber of Secrets, where Ron and Hermione use a Basilisk fang to destroy the Cup and kiss. But after that brief moment, we cut back to the cliff, where Voldemort opens fire with the Elder Wand. He manages to bring down the dome, but the wand resists him, the camera showing us that it’s starting to crack even as he continues to use it. Again, a nice bit of show-don’t-tell on Yates’ part, and further foreshadowing for the ending.

With the shield down, a group of Death Eaters attempt to break into Hogwarts via the large wooden bridge introduced in the third movie. They’re stopped by Neville and Seamus however, who blow up the bridge, killing all of them. On the one hand, this is a rather unnecessary scene that only really serves to pad things out. On the other hand, though, it’s a fun callback to the running gag of Seamus blowing stuff up in the first, second, and sixth films. It also likely serves to emphasize Neville’s courage and growth, since the previous films more or less used him as a replacement whenever the plot required a House Elf to do something in Hogwarts, lessening, if not negating, his growth.

Harry goes to the Room of Requirement but is confronted by Draco, Goyle, and Blaise Zabini of all people (the actor who played Crabbe got in legal trouble and wasn’t able to be in the movie) who try and capture him. Ron and Hermione show up in the nick of time, helping him, but Goyle retaliates by unleashing Fiendfyre-magical, ludicrously powerful fire that takes on animal shapes, but is difficult to control. This is proven when it kills Goyle, though Harry and friends manage to save Draco and Zabini. They get the Diadem out and stab it with a fang Ron and Hermione brought along, but Ron kicks it into the flames for good measure.

This hurts Voldemort a good deal, letting his guard down and allowing Harry to learn that Nagini, Voldemort’s snake, is the final Horcrux (I think I’ve said this before, but we’re not discussing the can of worms Crimes of Grindelwald opened with regards to that little fact. That movie came out seven years after this one, and none of this was written with that retcon in mind. For the purposes of this rewatch project, Nagini is just an unusually intelligent snake). And, of special importance, Harry learns that Voldemort has Nagini in a boathouse on the Hogwarts lake.

The trio heads off to said boathouse to kill Nagini, fighting their way through the Battle of Hogwarts as it rages around them. They have to fend off Death Eaters, giants, and giant spiders, and Hermione possibly probably kills Greyback when they come across him feeding on Lavender Brown’s corpse, but they manage to make it to their destination. Once there they find that not only is Voldemort there but so is Snape. Voldemort directly addresses the problems the Elder Wand have been giving him, concludes that it’s because Snape killed Dumbledore and is thus the true master of the Elder Wand, and slits his throat before having Nagini attack him. After Voldemort and Nagini leave, Harry goes to see Snape.

Liquid is leaking from the man’s eyes, and at first, Harry thinks they’re tears, but Snape insists that he take them, indicating that they’re actually memories. He then makes Harry look him in the eyes, telling him that he has his mother eyes, then dies. Voldemort proceeds to interject himself into the solemn moment, telling the defenders of Hogwarts to bury their dead and then taunting Harry for letting so many people die to protect him. The trio takes this ceasefire to return to the ruined Great Hall, looking over the bodies of the fallen, among which include Fred, Lupin, and Tonks.

This understandably upsets Harry a great deal, particularly given his guilt complex, and he heads off to the Headmaster’s office to go get a look at Snape’s memories. Said memories contain some of Snape’s history, particularly his early friendship with Harry’s mother, his continued love of her, the fact that he was working for Dumbledore all along, even when he killed the man, and that there is a Horcrux inside of Harry. It was accidentally placed there the night his parents were killed, Voldemort having destabilized his soul so much that a piece flew off when his killing curse backfired, and Harry must die in order for it to be destroyed. So he goes and finds Ron and Hermione, bidding them one final farewell. They try to come with him, but he tells them they can’t that they need to stay and kill Nagini and then Voldemort.

That done, he heads off into the Forbidden Forest, opening up the Snitch he was given in the previous film to reveal the Resurrection Stone which is…entirely intact. Not a blemish. And in the sixth film when it was part of the Ring, the band of said Ring was completely intact, and it moved when Harry and Dumbledore talked about it after Dumbledore claimed to have destroyed it. So if the stone and the band are both perfectly intact are we certain that that particular Horcrux was destroyed?

Well weird oversights that make me overthink this movie aside, the main focus is that Harry uses the Stone to bring back ghosts of his parents, Sirius, and Lupin. He asks them about dying, if it’s painful (depends on the method of execution I suppose) then apologizes to Lupin about his son who Lupin says will grow up knowing why his parents died.

Okay, no. No. Movie, you do not get to pull this. Okay, yes, this is from the books. But once again, this is a case of the movies quoting and adapting from the books, when their own previous adaptation choices have rendered the book quotes nonsensical for the world of the movies.

Yes, Tonks and Lupin did get married in the movie universe. This was very briefly established in the last movie. So briefly in fact that I had friends who hadn’t read the books who were very confused by why Tonks and Lupin were holding hands before the battle started and why they were placed next to each other in death. But it was established. What wasn’t established was that Tonks had a kid! Tonks being pregnant never came up! They cut all the references to it in this and the previous movie! This is the first time it’s ever been mentioned! As far as the movies have shown us, Harry didn’t speak to Lupin between Bill and Fleur’s wedding and now! How did he know Lupin and Tonks had a kid?

Sometimes adapting the source material exactly is impossible or ill-advised. This is one of those moments. Yes, both of these films went over the two-hour mark, but they didn’t get anywhere near the three-hour mark! They could have fit a mention of this somewhere. And if they decided that they couldn’t, then they shouldn’t have included it at all! I know that this is meant as a viewer punch, but Harry could not possibly know that Lupin had a son, and thus it just causes a plot hole and my current frustration.

Well, regardless of all that, Harry heads off to find the Death Eaters and Hagrid, who’s suddenly in this movie, and was captured by the Death Eaters. He yells at Harry to run, but Harry simply closes his eyes and lets Voldemort kill him (with some amazingly strange delivery from Ralph Fiennes I might add). This, of course, does not end the film, with Harry opening his eyes to find himself in an ethereal King’s Cross Station. There he finds a bloody, infant-sized thing that looks like Voldemort curled up under a bench, and, more importantly, the spirit of Albus Dumbledore, who explains some things to him.

Of those things, the most important one is that Harry is not technically dead. The Killing Curse destroyed the Horcrux inside of him (I’m not entirely clear on why Voldemort needed to be the one to do that, it seems like Dumbledore or someone friendly could have done it in a controlled and safe environment, but I guess it’s symbolic) and that he can choose to either move on to the afterlife or return to life. Harry attempts to ask Dumbledore what to do, but the old man simply walks away into some fog, leaving Harry alone to decide on his course of action.

Hero that he is, he, of course, comes back to life, where he finds Narcissa Malfoy checking to see if he’s alive. She asks if Draco is alive, and when Harry confirms that he is, she lies, covering for him and telling the assembled Death Eaters that he’s dead. Triumphant, they hand Harry over to Hagrid and march on Hogwarts. Voldemort demands that it’s time for everyone to swear allegiance or die. Draco, rather reluctantly, heads to their side, receiving an amazingly, wonderfully awkward hug from Voldemort for doing so.

Neville steps forward, finding the Sorting Hat amidst the rubble as he does so, and gives a speech about the value and tenacity of liberty and justices. This is, of course, greeted with derision from the assembled villains, but then Neville draws the Sword of Gryffindor from the Hat. At the same time, Harry leaps from Hagrid’s arms and attacks Nagini. The attack fails, but the proof that Harry is still alive and very much ready to fight causes multiple Death Eaters to abandon their master, while the surviving defenders retreat to the Great Hall, Harry telling those around him to aim for the snake. Voldemort then seizes Harry, and the two proceed to apparate all over the place, battling all around the ruins of Hogwarts while the supporting characters duke it out inside.

Bellatrix is rather handily killed by Mrs. Weasley, a feat which causes me a lot of consternation and anger in the books, but which I’ll let slide here because, like with my issues with the Hallows, most of the reasons were left out of the films, so fine, whatever. It’s a dumb and weirdly comedic way to kill the most threatening character in the series, but otherwise, it’s over quick enough.

Up on the rooftops, Harry begins to call Voldemort “Tom,” lecturing him that the Elder Wand was never Snape’s in the first place before yanking him over the side. The two proceed to crash into buildings and wrestle in midair, eventually landing in the courtyard, neither able to kill the other. That is, at least, until Neville manages to get within sword swinging distance of Nagini, decapitating her, driving Voldemort to his knees. Harry and Voldemort exchange one last magical pushing battle, with Harry winning (leaving him 3-0 and making one wonder why Voldemort didn’t drop his wand and bolt the minute he saw their magic connect).

Voldemort proceeds to…crumble into ash for some reason. Given that he was killed by the Killing Curse rebounding onto him, I’m left confused why he didn’t leave a corpse behind. Unless of course the Ring wasn’t really destroyed, and this is what happened on the Halloween when Harry became the Boy Who Lived. I mean, the more likely reason is just that Yates thought this would look cooler, but in all honesty, I’d rather watch ‘Voldemort’s Return’ than ‘Crimes of Grindelwald.’

The battle won, Harry, Ron, and Hermione go to the outskirts of the grounds, where Harry explains what happened. Snape didn’t beat Dumbledore, since the two had planned on Snape killing Dumbledore. However, Draco did disarm Dumbledore, and that was against Dumbledore’s will, which meant that Draco became the master of the Elder Wand. Of course, Harry than defeated Draco, which got him not only Draco’s wand but also the Elder Wand. Harry wants nothing to do with that though, and so he breaks the Elder Wand in half, tossing it over the cliff. They then hold hands and the movie ends.

It totally ends there you guys. There’s not an overly sappy, kind of strange ending sequence where we see them seventeen years later and learn that Harry and Ginny are terrible at naming children. Of course not. Epilogue? What Epilogue?

Overall Thoughts

This movie is…on the low end of fine. It’s not terrible, but it’s clearly the last third of a story, and has even less of an arc than the previous part. If you have the time for it, I would recommend watching both parts of The Deathly Hallows over watching them separately. This is the only of the films to have been shot for 3-D though, and there are times when that really shows, so if that annoys you keep that in mind.

And that was the Harry Potter Film Rewatch guys! I’ll be honest, I kind of expected to be more positive throughout but I still found this an interesting and informative revisiting of these films from my childhood and teenage years. Overall the films were kind of super hurt by choosing to not wait until all the books had come out, and by being in live action instead of animation when the special effects were not ready for that, but still, I can’t say that I hate any of these films, not even Goblet of Fire. I think I learned a lot, and it was interesting to be able to revisit these films with as close to fresh eyes as I could muster.

Thank you all so much for sticking with me through this journey, I hope you had fun and found these pieces interesting! See you next time, with whatever I end up reviewing next month!

Image courtesy of Warner Bros

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