Friday, July 15, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 2 Review

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 2

I was in the AMC Theatre before 6 last night, though my movie didn’t start until 9.  When I got to the theatre, one of the workers was dressed as Bellatrix Lestrange, I knew at that moment that the evening would be eventful and that the Harry Potter series was truly coming to the end.  As with Return of the King, the final chapter in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, I found myself growing more and more apprehensive as July 15th came closer.  I knew the expectations I had couldn’t be met, nothing I’d seen from director David Yates had ever been top-notch, so why would that change now, at the end of an era?  It wouldn’t, and it didn’t, but it didn’t have to, I think I changed, or at least changed my perspective.

I don’t think I have to tell any of you what happens in this movie.  If you haven’t read the books, you’ve certainly heard the pop-culture references or heard bits and pieces to know that Harry, the protagonist, finally confronts Voldemort, the antagonist, and they fight each other to the death, while bystanders get in the way.  In some sense, this story isn’t new, good vs. evil, good triumphs, but at a cost, always at a cost.  That was no different here.

What I see differently now is due to an article I read on the Washington Post.  In the article, the reviewer doesn’t highlight the specific movie, despite giving it three out of four stars, but talks about the Potter series starting, on film, in 2001, the same year of the 9/11 tragedy.  And it dawned on me, ten years, I’ve been following, actively or not, this series, books and these actors for 10 years, almost three times what I did with the Lord of the Rings series.  And in all that time, we didn’t have any Lindsay Lohan moments; any prima-Donna moments; we didn’t have any of the core cast leave mid-way through.  What we saw from Warner Brothers is something you really only see on select TV shows anymore, a series and a story that was bigger than the players in it, and the players knew it.

Harry Potter is a story about a boy who goes through a major transformation after already being short-handed in life.  We watch as he makes mistakes, some costly, and learns from them and realises that he isn’t alone, but takes responsibility for what he needs to do.  In many ways, he is Frodo.  He takes on this great task, sacrifices himself in the end, for the betterment of all.  And the story pulls it off with great flourish.

I won’t presume to tell any of you how great this film is, as a stand-alone, it is good at best.  This story can’t be told in one go, but required two films, so you cant just pick up this movie off-the-cuff.  I had the luxury of seeing both Deathly Hallows movies back-to-back and recommend it, if you have that option.  The story is jarring at times, the characters change from the book, ever so slightly, as do many mainstay scenes.  Why the directors and producers moved and changed things, we’ll never know?  I don’t want to spoil the movie for those that are off to see it, but towards the end, you’ll wonder why some characters are paired together, when you know JK Rowling never intended that.  Some of the death sequences were so detached they took away from the effect they had in the book.  But where the movie erred, it also succeeded, the sequence with Harry going into the Forbidden Forest brought tears to my eyes, not an uncommon practice, but I cried more for what I remembered than what I was seeing at the time.

The Harry Potter movies are great, on the whole, but they will never be the books.  JK Rowling wrote something that is indelible and will be irreplaceable in our minds, and it must stay that way.  When I look back at the Potter movies, I’ll remember the midnight releases, the costumes, the friends I made, the friendships that grew stronger, these are the things Potter should be remembered for, not 2 hours of celluloid that will always pale in comparison to the source material.  If you get the chance to see the movie this weekend, take a moment to notice the people there, and what the Potter world brought into your world.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Harry Potter Top Ten List Part 9 & 10

I run out of time, I think, leaving for the movie soon, just need to find my wand...I've merged the final two spots on each list - enjoy!!

#2 Least Favourite Character: Lucious Malfoy

He really was the epitome of bad parenting and a bad person. Lucious put his family in danger, himself in danger and all for what? So he could then betray the person he was betraying everyone else to? I would give him half points if he didn't waffle so much, but the fact of the matter is, Lucious Malfoy is a selfish cad and deserved his time in prison. My only regret is that JK Rowling let him live.

Draco deserved a better father, and if Lucious had seen beyond his own petty needs, he might have been able to do that. Too much of his time was spent trying to do some mischief that seemed to go awry, like the second book with Tom Riddle's diary. He was hardly a competent malcontent at that. Overall, Lucious Malfoy deserved worse than what he got, but was still just plain awful.

#1 Least Favourite Character: Ron Weasley

This one might seem surprising, but it shouldn't be. Let's go back to the third book, Prisoner of Azkaban, to site our first backslide by this worthless character. Ron gets into a major fight with Hermione over Crookshanks purportedly eating Scabbers. Now, we later find out that this never occurred, and granted an apology gets lost in the shuffle, but what is more bothersome is the divisive nature with which Ron conducts himself.

Let's move on to the next book, Goblet of Fire, there are so many things to point to in this one, like, Ron being jealous of Harry being entered in the tournament; Ron making Hermione be the go-between for him and Harry; Hermione having to sneak around to help Harry in the tournament; the list goes on and on. Ron gets so involved in his own simple little existence that he too often puts his own feelings before anyone else's.
Oh, I have more, we can skip the fifth book, that one Harry was a jerk in and go on to Half-Blood Prince, where Ron makes a fool of himself with Lavender, and does so deliberately to hurt Hermione in some respects, thus creating yet another scenario where he acts to divide the group instead of uniting it.
In the final book, who can forget Ron leaving Hermione and Harry in the forest because he didn't like how the search was going? That was just childish. In almost any sequence, I can think of more harm than good that Ron does in the series. I don't know that I will ever forgive JK Rowling for letting him live. If anything, he should have kep the Weasley twins alive and killed this idiot off.

My final parting shot on Ron is this: he doesn't deserve Hermione. She deserves someone better, smarter and more selfless, and I can't understand why JK Rowling would so conveniently pair these two together, it doesn't make sense. It's like watching the King of Queens and wondering how Kevin James could ever get a woman to marry him.

#2 Favourite Character Hermione Granger

This selection may surprise some of you that know me, but I give Hermione my second favourite slot because while I love her, and she saved Harry with her smarts, her decision to be with Ron is just inexcusable. I realise that we see someone we love, and no longer see their flaws. I could digress over this, but I won't.

She was an amazing driving force in this series. It was Hermione who figured out puzzles and riddles in every book, helping Harry succeed. Without her, he would have died in his first year. If not for her, they would never have gotten past the Basalisk in the second book, or been able to save Sirius in the third book, she was the one who taught him how to win in at least one Tri-wizard challenge. If Harry had listened to her, in the fifth book, Sirius would never have died. In the sixth book, she was not as enlightening as in the previous five, but in the final book, if not for her, Harry and Ron would have died in the woods. She saved them, in every way possible, and saved Ron from himself time and time again.

I understand that the story is about Harry, but a lot can be said about Hermione, she was the best of all three of them, and deserved better than a marriage to that worthless waste Ron.

#1 Favourite Character: Draco Malfoy

This might be another confounding choice, and it isn't because I like the bad boys, I just saw in Draco, what I think JK Rowling wanted readers to see. He was the dark half of Harry. He was the end product of someone who had all the things Harry had, and still he ended up in poor shape. What makes Draco my favourite character is that he realises, before the end, that he was wrong. That he had been wrong all along. He never should have gone down the path of darkness, and if not for that admission, Harry would not be touted as highly as he is.

I think Draco turned around for me in Half-Blood Prince, when he tried to kill Harry, and instead Harry almost killed him. At that moment, I think you could see that he knew what he was doing was wrong, that he was horrified by it all, but was too afraid to stand up. I feel like he proved something when he refused to name Harry as the Harry when they were brought to Malfoy Manor. I know these are small things, but isn't that one defines each of us, the little things? In this I won't short-change Draco, he did a ton of things wrong, but he was able to be redeemed, perhaps not as much as we would all like, but he ran the gamut and realised he was wrong.

It isn't a small thing to admit fault, so I give Draco my number one spot for it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Harry Potter Top Ten List Part 8

Tomorrow is the big day, going to see Order of the Phoenix tonight, will be skipping Half-Blood Prince though.  You can reference the rest of the list using the tags at the bottom for ‘harry potter.’

#3 Least Favourite Character: Cornelius Fudge

I suppose I should feel sorry for Fudge, he ended up getting the short end of the stick, being killed by Voldemort, but his role reversal from Prisoner of Azkaban to Order of the Phoenix was intolerable.  In the third book, he acts kindly too Harry, worrying after his safety with Sirius Black on the loose, then by the end of Goblet of Fire, he’s accusing Harry, and Dumbledore of being traitors and God knows what else.

He is such a fizzle.  He is a spineless bureaucrat and has no moral compass at all.  When you pair Umbridge with him, to some degree, you get some really hateful characters.  I also look at Fudge and think, if he had listened to Dumbledore and Harry, instead of fighting against them, perhaps Voldemort wouldn’t have gotten the strangle-hold he did on the Wizarding World after Dumbledore’s death.

#3 Favourite Character: Ginny Weasley

It’s interesting, my love for Ginny didn’t really materialise until Order of the Phoenix.  But when I look back at the series, I can’t imagine any of the books without Ginny.  However superficial it may seem, Harry needed someone like Ginny in his life, as much as he needed Ron or Hermione, though we’ll get back to Ron another day.  Ginny was always around, but as we finally saw in the fifth book, she cared about Harry and was willing to risk a great deal to help him get what he wanted.

Of course, once the romance between the two began, it wasn’t any wonder that her status as a ‘side’ character evaporated and she became a main character and a driving force for Harry to defeat Voldemort.  Who can forget the lines at the end of Half-Blood Prince where he tells her that he has to break up with her and she responds to the effect that it was probably for something noble and that was why she liked him so much.  It is a sweet thing to say and it is also an honest thing to say.  And in a much more simplistic way, her saying that is also a noble thing, because she recognises that he has bigger things to deal with than his feelings for her.

I feel like Ginny brought out the best in Harry, and there are countless scenes in the end of Deathly Hallows that support that, like the decision Harry makes to go to Voldemort in the forest.  He passes Ginny on his way out, and almost stops to talk to her, but doesn’t, because he knows what he has to do.

In a story that is filled with such peril, it was endearing and encouraging to see something so sweet emerge from it.  It is the silver lining to a harrowing tale.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Harry Potter Top Ten List Part 7

Four days to go, I’m seeing Prisoner of Azkaban tonight, can’t wait!!  You can reference the rest of the list using the tags at the bottom for ‘harry potter.’

#4 Least Favourite Character: Vernon Dursley

I don’t think this one is much of a stretch for any fans of the Harry Potter series, JK Rowling paints Vernon, Harry’s uncle, as the most unlikeable of characters.  He hates everything about Harry you could hate, seeing only the burden Harry has put on him.  He treats Harry badly, so of course is treated badly in return.

We never know if Vernon truly knew the extent of what happened to his sister-in-law, but I can’t only assume that his wife would have told him something.  I think Vernon represents the epitome of hateful and narrow-minded people, but in some ways is benign as well.  If JK Rowling really wanted to make him evil, she could have, but Vernon is just a mean person, but not an evil one.  However, he had ample chances to help Harry, but for the sake of literature, he was painted as mean.  I think JK Rowling short-changed Vernon in many ways, but we can only wonder what it would have been like if his uncle hadn’t been such a jerk.

#4 Favourite Character: Albus Dumbledore

God, what can you say about Dumbledore?  I mean, he was the picture of goodness in this series, though we saw his flaws in public for all to see in the final book, after his death in the sixth book.  In many ways, Dumbledore played the role of parent to Harry, but in many ways did not.  In the fourth and fifth books, we see Dumbledore step back from his over-involvement in Harry’s life, and to quite a detriment, a major character dies in each book, which also promotes the belief that JR Rowling is a murderer.

In the novels, Dumbledore is the only person that seems unafraid of Voldemort, and it is only he, other than Harry, that Voldemort actually seems fearful of.  Dumbledore shows Harry that he has the power to be better than Voldemort, and for all the reasons that make Harry different and good.  In many ways, you could argue that Draco and Harry are a lot related in this respect.  If Draco had Dumbledore, instead of Snape, advising him, perhaps he would have gone down the path of light, instead of a path of darkness.

The reason I set Dumbledore in the middle of this list, almost, is because while he leads Harry to where he needs to be early in life, he seems to abandon him before the task is complete, not unlike Harry’s parents.  If Dumbledore had been more consistent, perhaps the endings in Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix could have been different.  Dumbledore does redeem himself somewhat in Half Blood Prince, but at that point it is indeed too late.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Harry Potter Top Ten List Part 6

With about 5 days to go, let’s get to the top five!  You can reference the rest of the list using the tags at the bottom for ‘harry potter.’

# 5 Least Favourite Character: Cho Chang

Cho Chang, I feel bad hating her, but much like Dean Thomas, she was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  I also didn’t care for how they changed her in the movie.  In the book, she is not the one that betrays Dumbledore’s Army to Umbridge, but her friend.

In many ways, Cho was the girl Harry could never have, and ultimately wouldn’t be happy with.  I wonder if this wasn’t a commentary by JK Rowling about men going after things they think they want, and then realising that it isn’t what they thought it would be, perhaps I’m reading too much into it.

Cho is just a faceless character.  There is no meat to her, no drive to her, she’s 2-dimensional, at best.  Her purpose in the books were practically non-existent. She was just there to distract Harry?  And at that she was mediocre.  I could have done with less or no Cho Chang in the entire series.

# 5 Favourite Character: Remus Lupin

Who can’t look at David Thewlis and feel sympathy for Remus Lupin?  He is the perfect guy to garner sad looks and pity, and that is a lot of what Remus does.  But more than anything, he is the first real father-figure that Harry has, and one that knew Harry’s father well, to the very end.  Remus watches over Harry throughout Prisoner of Azkaban and supports him through the fifth book onwards, to his own death.

And it is Harry who, in some ways, makes Remus realise that he is being selfish when he wants to leave his child, making the kid the same as Harry.  Who knew that JK Rowling would end up making Teddy Lupin the same, an orphan almost as soon as he’s born?  I can’t say that I’m looking forward to seeing that this week, but I understand the importance of it.

Remus embodied the good that could be found for Harry, and he gave him hope and believed in him when most were looking at him as some sort of freak.  There are few people like Remus in the world, and for that, I give him my #5 slot on this list.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Harry Potter Top Ten List Part 5

We’re about to embark on the final five, but let’s take a moment to get to get caught up.  The top ten least favourite characters are as follows:

7. Pansy Parkinson
8. Dolores Jane Umbridge
9. Severus Snape
10. Tom Marvolo Riddle

The top ten most favourite characters are as follows:

7. Molly Weasley
8. Bellatrix Lestrange
9. Luna Lovegood
10. Harry Potter

The following are my most favourite and least favourite character, but we’re at six out of ten.  You can reference the rest of the list using the tags at the bottom for ‘harry potter.’ 

# 6 Least Favourite Character: Dean Thomas

I have purely selfish reasons for not liking Dean Thomas and it has nothing to do with him as a person, so much as his dating Ginny when Harry wasn’t totally sure he liked her or not.  I know, it is childish.  But he was never going to be good enough for her and we all knew it.

I have to give Dean credit for prompting Harry to make a move, if not for that, and Harry cursing Draco and getting banned from the last match, things might have gone on much more slowly.

I realise Dean is actually on the side of ‘good,’ but I will always see him as the one that almost messed with the Ginny/Harry ship that we’ve all come to love.

# 6 Favourite Character: Minerva McGonagall

You can’t say enough about Professor McGonagall.  As the head of Gryffindor house, she is the type of person you want to have to report to.  She was always fair in her punishment, despite what it might have felt like at the time.  She, like Mrs. Weasley, played a pivotal role in our hero’s life as well.

I think the things I remember most from McGonagall are her drafting Harry for the Quidditch team and for letting Peeves take her crutch to beat Umbridge with in Order of the Phoenix.  If not for Voldemort, I’d like to think that she would have taken over as head mistress of the school, as is so often seen in fan fiction placed after the battle.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Harry Potter Top Ten List Part 4

Ah, I need to get moving on this list, we’re running out of time!  We haven’t even made it to the halfway point!  I have too many blogs, that is part of the issue.

The following are my most favourite and least favourite character, but we’re at seven out of ten.  You can reference the rest of the list using the tags at the bottom for ‘harry potter.’

# 7 Least Favourite Character: Pansy Parkinson

I honestly think Ms. Rowling created this character for people to dislike her.  She is quite the opportunist and I’d like to think she gets hers in the end.  Her constant bickering with Hermione aside, she is just an unpleasant person.  She preys on other’s weaknesses, an atypical bully.  Yet she throws herself at Draco, who I believe would truly never give her the time of day.

While I realise the series would be incomplete without a ‘mean girl’ or two, she is just over-the-top worthless and I can only wish she had gotten offed in the final book.

# 7 Favourite Character: Molly Weasley

In many ways, this entry pairs up with the last favourite one, Bellatrix.  Who can forget that battle scene at the end of Deathly Hallows between Bellatrix and Mrs. Weasley?  No one – it was iconic.  I can’t wait to see it on the big screen.

I think the most endearing thing about Mrs. Weasley is that no matter what, she is a mom first and she takes this very seriously.  I could go off on a tangent about birth control with respect to witches and wizards, and maybe they did have too many kids, but ultimately, she took care of everyone including Harry and Hermione as if they were her own.  She is the storybook mother you hear about.  But at the same time, she has her flaws, lest we forget Half Blood Prince and Fleur staying with the family to hilarious results.

If not for Mrs. Weasley, I imagine Harry wouldn’t be in as great shape as he is in the series and none of the Weasleys would have the impact they do on Harry’s ultimate success.