Rewind Reviews: Harry Potter 6-8 – THE CONCLUSION!
Today is our coming of age! Well, it’s Harry’s, at least, as we conclude his epic tale.
The final three movies rescue the series from their dog days and for the most part surpass even The Early Years. Splitting Deathly Hallows into two parts was as necessary as it was cash-grabbing, a decision that seems to have started a new trend in book-to-movie finales. Deathly Hallows would not have been good as a single movie, and it prolonged the lifespan of the series by another year, so I’m glad it happened.
Half-Blood Prince is about as normal a school year as Harry was ever blessed with. “Ignoring the fact that Dumbledore has asked me to search for objects containing fragments of Voldemort’s soul and that Draco has tried to kill a bunch of people, it’s been terrific!” he grins. As the Death Eaters tighten their grip on the wizarding and muggle worlds alike, Harry and Dumbledore find the crux in Voldemort’s plan while Harry receives help in his Potions class from a mysterious textbook persona. Meanwhile, he must deal with managing the Quidditch team with clumsy Ron as a new addition, a dangerously jealous Hermione, Luna Lovegood in a dress, and sudden uncontrollable hormone spikes.
Half-Blood Prince is easily my least favorite of the books, so kudos to director David Yates for making it one of the most solid films. The film is more upbeat and clear-headed than its two predecessors. Yates realizes that you don’t have to be dark and depressing to show maturity. A perfect balance is found between the magic of Hogwarts and the ordinary social interactions between the characters, something the previous films never perfected. Also, I love that the movie gave Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch) a bigger part than she had in the book. She’s just so looney, lovable, and good. We need more of her and less bad puns.
Vastly altered from the book version, the end was far and away the best part of the film. This is the only Harry Potter movie to not culminate to a climactic spell-clashing battle. Starting with Harry’s return to the astronomy tower, the movie takes on a serene, surreal mood, broken only by Harry’s rage as he chases after Snape and the Death Eaters in their escape to the Forbidden Forest. The book’s huge action is gone, presumably to avoid repetition with the finale. Who needs the action anyway, when we have Bellatrix’s epic prance through the Great Hall, kicking over cups and smashing glass in demented glee? At the same time it’s kind of like, where’s McGonagall?, but all is quickly forgiven. Once again, the film’s final quote steals the show.
Harry: I never noticed how beautiful this place is.
Knowing he won’t be returning to Hogwarts next year (he never does officially graduate, does he?), this is Harry’s farewell to the castle. You never realize what you have until it’s gone.
Harry, Ron and Hermione decide they don’t need school and kickstart their careers as professional Horcrux hunters in Deathly Hallows Part 1. Ladies and gentlemen, this is what we have been waiting for. What Yates began in Half-Blood Prince and perfected in the final two movies is establishing a magical universe while establishing a human universe, and then showing what would happen if the two interacted and combined. Yates gets Harry Potter. He paid as much attention to the books as Columbus did with Stone and Chamber, and gave it his own twist that no other directors achieved.
Horcruxes are objects one can hide a fragment of their soul in. As long as the Horcrux exists in whole, that person can not die, no matter what happens to their body. Voldemort, the sly dog, has created six Horcruxes for Harry, Ron, and Hermione to track down and destroy, all while being hunted by various do-badders. Oh, yeah, he also controls the government now too. As their journey continues, they learn the tale of the Deathly Hallows, three objects that can supposedly master death when under the ownership of the same wizard. Harry is just like, what the heck, which objects do we go after?!
Unlike Half-Blood Prince, the movie does not skimp on the action, as splitting the book in half gave it extra room to flourish. Every scene is tackled fully and thoroughly. The movie is like a window directly to Rowling’s imagination. The Ministry of Magic invasion scene in particular is a standout, bizarre and memorable for its sudden cast switch (Harry Ron and Hermione possessed three adults via Polyjuice). Other standouts include Harry verses Nagini in a child nursery, the flight scene in the beginning complete with Harry and Hagrid swerving through highway traffic (more muggle interaction!), and the triumphant return of Dobby in the Malfoy manor. In fact, it’s all awesome. Writing this makes me want to watch it again. Too bad Netflix sucks.
That being said, the movie’s strongest point is its emotion. Like I said earlier, the best part of the film is Yates’ attention to detail. Once again, one of the film’s standout scenes is a change that Yates made from the book. I’m talking about the dance between Harry and Hermione, when both are experiencing pretty much the worst moment of their lives (which is saying a lot for cupboard-dweller Harry) and they have no one to turn to except for each other (Ron briefly stepped out to get some nachos). This scene shows something that Rowling masterfully demonstrated but no director could accomplish; they may be wizards, but they are people too. At its heart Harry Potter is about growing up and the challenges you face along the way. Yates recognizes the necessity in putting aside the magic and battles for a while and focusing on the human aspect of the series.
And all too soon we arrive at the series’ conclusion, Deathly Hallows Part 2. Having collected and destroyed a number of Horcruxes, Harry decides to return to Hogwarts to finish the hunt. The final battle between Harry and Voldemort is imminent, but knowing Rowling, there will be another twist or two before we get there. There’s not much to be said about Part 2 that wasn’t addressed in Part 1, except that it quite simply tops all of its predecessors. It’s the best. It’s the end of an era. It’s emotional. It’s satisfying. It’s glorious.
The best part is that if you didn’t care about a character before the movie started, you probably were in love with them by the end. It gives each major character a moment to shine, highlighting their strength, courage, and devotion to Harry and a better world. Each character works as a vital piece contributing to Harry’s struggle and the movie’s epic conclusion.
Harry and Radcliffe have grown up in front of our very eyes, and the fact that he delivered his final performance as Harry is both sad and exciting. Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson are heroes and idols. Their performances grew along with their characters each installment, which was one of the best parts of the series. I can’t wait to see how the three further their careers, and they can expect me and legions of other fans to follow them each step of the way. They’re already off to excellent starts.
When Harry Potter is inevitably remade somewhere in the future, there are some notes it should take from this series:
- DO cast a trio of kids who are capable of growing up in front of the world’s eyes and can somehow live up to Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson
- DO focus on the human side of Harry as much as the wizard side
- DO market the crap out of the franchise. The majority of my favorite childhood toys are Potter themed
- DO split Deathly Hallows in two
- DO consider doing the same for Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix
- DON’T change directors each film
- DON’T show the story and not the maturity
- DON’T even think about excluding Dobby from the middle films
- DON’T disappoint me
I think I’ve made my passion about the series clear, but in case I haven’t, it’s the best series I have ever experienced, and probably ever will. What’s your all time favorite series? Did the final three movies conclude the saga as well as I think they did? Thank you for reliving this epic journey with me!