As I’ve said before, I’m a Harry Potter fanatic. I just saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (the movie), Part 1 two nights ago, and I couldn’t help reflecting a bit on how the movie compares to the book. This is not really a movie review, per se, but it is definitely more movie review than book review.
If you are interested in my thoughts on the book (i.e., Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7)), or the Harry Potter books in general, see my review of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, my review of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and my three-article series entitled, “Harry Potter: Christian Allegory or Occultist Children’s Books,” where I explore the Christian controversy over the books and movies.
Finally, be forewarned that I will divulge elements of the plot that you may not want to spoil if you have not yet read the book or seen Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (the movie), Part 1, and plan to do so.
Regrets of the Cutting Room Floor
I fear that this discussion is going to end up pretty negative—mostly a list of things about the movie that bugged me—so I feel like I should start by mentioning that my love of Harry and company is strong enough to bear even these impertinences (yes, I know, you were worried…), and that I did, in fact, like the movie. The cinematography was wonderful, the landscapes incredible, and I have grown so attached to the characters (of the book and the movie, to the extent that they are different) that seeing them on the screen is just plain comforting (do I need to get some help for this fanaticism? I’m not usually like this…really). With that said, here is my list.
First, while the fast, lean pace of the movie is necessary (it is already two-and-a-half hours long!), I lament the loss of a lot of the subtle richness of the world Rowling created in the books. I suppose this is nothing new for the Potter movies, but the loss seems more acute for this book since there are so many themes and sub-plots to wrap up, and since the book is so long and detailed.
While this may be idiosyncratic, one scene that was glaringly thin, for me, was the scene where Kreacher (Harry’s house elf at 12 Grimmauld Place) tells the story of Regulus Black and the locket (ch. 10 of the book). The movie’s version leaves out all of the moving story, all of Kreacher’s emotion, and all of the tender, conciliatory aspects of his interaction with Harry, Ron, and Hermione. I think this is one of the most beautiful and touching moments in the book (along with Dobby’s sacrifice), and the movie basically gutted it.
Other elements that were (regrettably in my view) left on the cutting room floor (or not shot at all) include Harry’s touching yet hilarious parting from the Dursleys (Dudley to Harry: “I don’t think you’re a waste of space”), and most of Harry’s struggle with the flawed posthumous picture of Dumbledore that emerges throughout the book. This portrait of Dumbledore is only hinted at occasionally in the movie, and to little effect in my view.
Liberties and Limitations
In general, the necessarily fast pace of the movie left me lacking a strong connection with the characters: at times it felt like they were just 2-dimensional figures being pushed from event to event. I did okay with it because I love the characters so much (did I mention that I love the characters?), but it felt like it lacked some depth throughout. Some of the Death Eaters’ characters were exceptions to this point, however: I thought Lucius Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange were excellent in the movie. (Of course, my expectations for the development of the bad-guy characters are lower, so that may have something to do with it.)
I also squirmed at one liberty the filmmakers took, namely the portrayal of Harry’s relationship with Hermione as romantically ambiguous at times; this is just not part of the book. Now, I can understand why they might want to show us that Ron saw their relationship as romantically ambiguous: that sets up the tense scene where Voldemort (inside the locket horcrux) tempts Ron with the thought that Hermione really loves Harry and not him (that is where we get the much ballyhooed kiss between Harry and Hermione, an illusion created by Voldemort). However, there is also a scene during the time when Ron has left where the movie portrays Harry and Hermione dancing together. This clearly has no influence on Ron’s view of things, since he is not there. Ostensibly, the scene could be interpreted as Harry trying to cheer up his sad friend Hermione (it seems to begin that way). However, Harry seemed to have some fleeting romantic inclinations too, and these seemed very out of character to me. It seems to tarnish his otherwise loyal (albeit turbulent) friendship with Ron. Didn’t like it.
Finally, at times the movie did a bit too much “telling” and not enough “showing” for my liking. Again, I think some of this is an endemic limitation to the kind of movie it is: part of a complicated multi-movie story that must remain intelligible to those boarding the Potter bus for the first time. Nevertheless, the story lost some of its shine, for me, when, for example, Ron is chatting with Harry about their upcoming mission to destroy horcruxes and he conveniently explains what a horcrux is in a slightly forced way that his character never would in the book.
Similarly, I cringed when immediately after Dobby dies his beautiful sacrificial death, Harry blurts, “I want to bury him, properly, without magic!” This artificial line sullied, for me, the beautiful scene in the book where Harry silently digs Dobby’s grave, showing rather than telling his feelings toward the elf and his sacrifice. Granted, this scene would be hard to do properly, without a narrator, but there’s got to be a better way…Maybe they should just make the book required reading for admission to the movie?
Okay, there are my cranky comments.
Have you seen the movie? What did you think? Leave me a comment: let’s discuss! Also, if you found these comments helpful or interesting, why not “like” this post (button at the top of the post), or share them on Facebook or Twitter? The “Share/Save” button below makes it easy. Thanks!