It’s the week leading up to my birthday and Perfect Husband has lined up a series of treats for me, the first of which was last night: a movie! We went to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (part the first). I’ve been wanting to see it since it came out. People told me it was way better than Half Blood Prince.
I suppose they were right. Then again, a rusty half-penny nail up the nose would be better than watching Half Blood Prince.
It was still bloody awful.
Don’t get me wrong, I had a good time. I like going to the movies. The movie doesn’t have to be good in order for me to enjoy the experience. The movie was terrible just the same.
Let’s go through the good stuff first:
1. The opening scenes were good, setting the tone and following the book quite well.
2. There were only a couple of severe infractions against the plot.
3. They left in one of my favourite lines – the Weasley twins looking at each other after they’ve both had polyjuice potion and saying “wow, we’re identical!”T
4. The destruction of the horcrux was pretty decent.
5. The animated tale of the three brothers was excellent, if a little out of place.
Now, the worst of it:
1. Due to the fact that Half Blood Prince was such a cinematic abortion, there was a lot of “fixing” to be done, mostly involving the hasty introduction of several characters and key plot points which were left out of Half Blood Prince (“Oh, hi, I’m Bill, Ron’s brother. I got attacked by a werewolf and I’m marrying Fleur in the next scene. Did I mention that the Burrow looks fine, despite the fact that it was burned down in the last movie?” and “Hi, I’m Mundungus Fletcher. You’ve known me for years but movie directors kept editing me out because I didn’t seem important. But actually, the fact that I stole a bunch of your things from Sirius’s house is about to become extremely important to the plot.” )
2. They introduced sexual tension between Harry and Hermione, and made it look like poor Ron was going to be the third wheel forever. Ron gets no sexually tense moments with Hermione, presumably because Rupert Grint isn’t as good looking as Daniel Radcliffe and it violates Hollywood’s sensibilities that the funny-looking one might actually get the girl.
3. They entirely cut Kreacher’s back-story, including the details of how he knows anything about the locket, which would have made an action packed and heart wrenching flash-back. They also cut out his emotions. He creaks out his knowledge of the locket’s fate in a dramatic yet detached voice. People who haven’t read the book must be very confused. He is not given Regulus’s locket as his own possession, and he is never even thanks for his help. In other words, the director, like Voldemort, doesn’t think that the experiences of House Elves are important.
4. Perhaps this is why Dobby is given the credit of finding Mundungus Fletcher, and why Dobby maintains an obsequious and neglected image as if he were still enslaved to his hated former masters. The fact that he should be a well-cared for and cheerful elf with several woollen hats on his head is dismissed. He is free and he will look miserable about it! I was always put off by the way they portrayed him anyway. He reminds me vaguely of Jar-Jar Binks, and that’s just wrong.
5. They never explain that a Taboo has been placed on Voldemort’s name, so the mysterious ability of Death Eaters and Snatchers to find Harry in unlikely places must be purely due to Deus Ex Machina.
6. They never explain why Harry is carrying around a shard of glass and looking at it wistfully all the time.
7. Instead of Worm Tail’s heavily-foreshadowed and deeply-symbolic death, he gets blasted from behind by Dobby and Harry just steps over his body.
8. They don’t talk about wand allegiances which is kind of a big deal.
9. We don’t see the indivisibility cloak even once. That’s right. The director cut one of the Hallows out of Deathly Hallows.
10. They cut the portrait of Phinneaus Nigellus, so how are they going to explain the doe appearing in the right place?
I know, I know, people always say “Oh, but the books are so long, you have to cut some stuff out.” This is true. I don’t want you to think I’m this terrible pedant who is impossible to please. There are movie adaptations of books that I like. The movie version of Watership Down is excellent, and that must have been every bit as hard to condense into an hour and a half as any Harry Potter book. The first Bridget Jones’s Diary movie is also acceptable (we won’t talk about the second one). I don’t mind when screen writers and directors cut certain things and alter time lines a bit in order to distill the essence of the book into a two hour movie. I just have a problem with them cutting through the book slap-dash without any sense or reason.
Stuff that is cuttable:
- They could have cut a lot of the aimless wandering done by the trio as they try to avoid being caught and wonder what to do next.
- They did cut a lot of the details of Dumbledore’s life as revealed by Rita Skeeter. I don’t like that, but I admit that it isn’t vital.
- There is a lot of teenage angst that is really unnecessary.
What I don’t understand is why they took up time with this stuff:
- Multiple slow pans through dramatic landscapes while Harry/Hermione/Ron looks away from the camera melodramatically.
- Hermione cutting Harry’s hair.
- Harry and Hermione dancing together and hugging after Ron buggers off.
- A five minute scene where a snatcher stands around sniffing Hermione. This scene was invented to replace the highly instructive scene where the trio overhear Griphook, Dean, and Ted Tonks talking about what is going on in the wizarding world.
Then there are the directing decisions which simply made no sense:
1. The wizards in the Ministry of Magic are mostly wearing muggle clothes – suits, ties, skirts and pants. Because, you know, Voldemort’s regime, entirely dedicated to persecuting muggles and mudbloods, would encourage the wearing of MUGGLE CLOTHES instead of wizarding robes. Sure. Makes total sense.
2. The new evil regime of the fallen ministry is paralleled visually to Nazi Germany. It got so obvious that PH leaned over to me and whispered “They went a little heavy-handed on the Gestapo imagery, didn’t they? Even the type face they use in their brochures is the same.” I nodded. It was a little lacking in subtlety, I agreed. Then two Nazis walked by. Seriously. Suddenly the Ministry of Magic is overrun by people in grey SS uniforms, from the red arm bands and the 1945 style military caps, down to the shiny boots.
Check it out for yourself: 0:49-0:51 on the trailer – “wizards” standing around looking like Rolf from The Sound of Music:
Subtle, Mr. Director. Subtle like a train wreck.
So, they are a wizarding regime dedicated to persecuting all things non-magical, and they just happen to devise a uniform that is identical to a muggle military uniform of 60 years ago, abandoning their own traditional robe dress. Oh, and abandoning their wands in favour of weapon belts containing something that looks suspiciously like a handgun.
Here’s an idea, Mr. Director – how about you let Voldemort’s evilness stand on his own merit, without needing to compare him to Hitler? If you had ever read J.K. Rowling, you’d know that Grindelwald was the wizarding world’s Hitler. Voldemort is new.
I will fully explain why Voldemort is evil enough without SS uniforms in another post.
tl;dr – I could write better screenplays than the clowns up in Hollywood, who have no appreciation for the subtleties of literature.