79 – Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows:
Ah, Pottermania. There was never anything else like it. I can remember far back to well before it was a thing. I remember one of my classmates in my first primary school – back when I was still living in England – saying the books were really good. I didn’t get into them until I was about ten years old. I actually read the third one first, mostly because its cover looked nicer than the other two. But by the time the fifth book came out, I was hooked. Each time the new one came out, I would practically sit in my room all day and do nothing but read. I read the fifth one in three days and the last two in one apiece. I got to have the audio books done by Stephen Fry, and there was a time when I couldn’t sleep without them in the background. But Pottermania was a cultural phenomenon, like how Star Wars swept the public back in the 70s. The films were an enormous gamble and could have been a huge disaster. But we got all eight films and a whole lot to talk about. I strongly considered not bothering including a HP film on my list – mostly because it’d be a nightmare to sort through them all. But ultimately I couldn’t ignore them. And I decided to bend the rules a little (the ones I so ardently set down when it came to franchises) and count the final two movies as one entry.
Before I get into the review, I have to outline just what an astonishing success story the Harry Potter films were. Aside from the various slasher film sequels, there had never been a film franchise with so many entries before. The fact that these films would have to be released semi-yearly was one of the biggest arguments against it. JK Rowling faced several directors suggesting combining several books into one or making the whole thing animated. Another thing you wouldn’t expect being an obstacle was the fact that it was British. JK Rowling fought tooth and nail against the story being relocated to America or having American child stars cast in the lead roles. Ultimately, the gamble paid off and we got our eight films – all live action, all exactly as they were supposed to be, and with an entirely British cast. The series was overall a huge boost for Britain’s film industry and business has been booming ever since.
Right off the bat, I’m going to be a bit controversial and say that the Harry Potter film adaptations are far from perfect. It’s not a knock on the actors, directors, effects or anyone else in the filmmaking department. The main problem with them is that the books don’t lend themselves very well to a film’s format. A Harry Potter book doesn’t really have a classic three or five act structure – where the plot begins with an inciting incident and it ends when things get resolved. Each book begins as Harry’s summer holidays come to a close, and covers the entire school year at Hogwarts. As such the books are a little episodic. They’re structured a lot like a TV series, with an arc that builds to a finale. I won’t be surprised if they do adapt the books for television somewhere down the line – and I’ll expect the adaptations to flow much smoother. If you compare the Harry Potter films to something like say Lord of the Rings or The Hunger Games, there really is no comparison. The latter two are the superior adaptations. I can get everything I want and need from the films, without having to go near the books if I don’t want to. Harry Potter on the other hand…the films are more for the fans. You’d need to have read the books to really get what’s going on. We Potter fans like the films because it’s fun to see the events play out on the big screen. Part of the reason I chose Deathly Hallows was because that book has a different flow than the others – since Harry’s not at Hogwarts for most of it. The fact that it’s two movies also helps with the pacing.
To recap the story so far – Harry Potter was nearly murdered by a dark wizard known as Lord Voldemort when he was just a baby. Harry survived and reduced Voldemort to a fate worse than death. Fourteen years later, Voldemort managed to resurrect himself to a corporeal body – and basically become the wizard version of Adolf Hitler. Harry later discovered that the reason Voldemort tried to kill him in the first place was because he was prophesised to be the dark lord’s downfall. So now that his most powerful mentor and confidant – Albus Dumbledore – has been killed, Harry is now prepared to set out on a mission. His aim is to destroy Voldemort’s objects known as ‘Horcruxes’ – items that contain fragments of his soul, preventing him from dying completely if he is killed.
The movie opens pretty epically with Bill Nighy making his debut as the Minister for Magic Rufus Scrimgeour – addressing the press about the impending wizard war. We then get a scene that I remember really hoping the film would put in before it was released: Hermione erases her parents’ memories of her to protect them from Voldemort’s Death Eater followers. The book also explains that she makes them move to Australia under false identities. As the books are from Harry’s perspective, we only hear about this later. In the film we get to see it happen. This is also intercut with Ron standing outside his home, knowing he’ll have to leave it soon – and Harry watching his aunt, uncle and cousin likewise leaving their house to go into hiding. They did film a variation of the book’s goodbye, where Dudley thanks Harry for saving his life and creating a more meaningful goodbye between Harry and Aunt Petunia. But those scenes would have bogged down the good pacing of this opening, so it’s understandable that they were cut. It’s nice to have those scenes as a fun bonus, but they’re not really needed here. Overall this opening is pretty great and sets the tone nicely for what’s in store. One of the reasons I’ve always preferred the four David Yates directed films is the fact that they are able to match the book while also conveying the right amount of feeling – as opposed to just recapping the book’s events or going for style over substance.
We now visit Malfoy Manor, which acts as the base for the Death Eaters. Voldemort gets information that Harry will be moved from his aunt and uncle’s house before he turns seventeen. For those not in the know, he’s magically protected in that house while he’s underage. The enchantment is nullified when he becomes an adult. But what this scene really accomplishes is to show just how dark the story has become. Namely the rich and haughty Malfoy family are really brought down to size here. They spent the entire series being synonymous with elite blue blood snobbery in the wizarding world – and here they are knocked off their pedestals. Lucius Malfoy in particular no longer has his elegant finery, and now looks grubby. The film has a nice little addition where Voldemort breaks off the expensive silver handle he has on his wand. Further underlining how shit’s about to go down, Voldemort murders the former Muggle Studies Professor Charity Burbage and leaves her body on the table for his snake Nagini to eat. There’s even a shot of Draco looking like a frightened child as she’s killed.
We now return to Harry’s perspective, where he’s in his room looking at a mirror fragment. In the book, this mirror was a gift from his godfather – acting as a two-way communicator to whoever had the other mirror. It broke two books earlier. The film doesn’t actually explain where it came from, which is rather lazy if you ask me. But Harry walks through his empty house, even taking the time to solemnly look at the cupboard he used to sleep in. Friends soon arrive however. What’s funny to see now is that Bill Weasley makes his film debut, played by a just-starting-out Domhnall Gleeson. At the time he was announced, fans only knew him as the son of Brendan Gleeson – who plays Mad-Eye Moody – and wondered whether he would be good at all. And now he has Anna Karenina, Brooklyn, The Force Awakens and The Revenant under his belt. I was surprised to see that the film also brought back Clemence Poesy as Fleur Delacour. Other arrivals at the house include: Harry’s best friends Ron and Hermione, Aurors Mad-Eye Moody, Remus Lupin, Nympadora Tonks, Kingsley Shackelbolt, Ron’s dad Arthur, his twin brothers Fred & Geroge and the unwilling Mundungus Fletcher.
The plan is to have six of the others take Polyjuice Potion to disguise themselves as Harry. So that when they go off to a bunch of different safe houses, the inevitable Death Eater followers won’t know which one is the real Harry. I really do have to compliment the special effects for this sequence. Remember how cool The Parent Trap thought it was when it convinced us that Lindsay Lohan had a twin sister? Well this movie just pissed all over that achievement. I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one naïve viewer left thinking Daniel Radcliffe was part of a family of septuplets. Just before they leave, Harry lets his beloved pet owl Hedwig go free. Fans breathed a sigh of relief that the film was going to spare her the messy death she had in the book.
At once it’s clear that the Death Eaters are onto them. They all have to scatter, Harry with Hagrid in a flying motorbike. In the book this chase scene happened entirely in the air. In the film they try to dodge their attackers on the motorway. Presumably because a) an air chase would be hard to render, and b) why pass on an excuse to have a flying motorbike do a loop-de-loop inside a busy tunnel? Hedwig unfortunately gives the game away by flying in front of Harry to protect him from a killing curse. This is actually a great change from the book; there Harry is outed as the real one when he uses a spell only he would. I quite like the idea of Hedwig trying to protect him. Voldemort is soon on their tail, but Harry’s wand does something strange; it acts of its own accord and blasts Voldemort not to kingdom come, but quite close. Thus Harry and Hagrid are able to get away.
They arrive at the Burrow, where Molly and Ginny Weasley are waiting. Slowly the party arrives, though George got hit with a bad curse that left him without an ear. Bill also drops the bombshell that Mad-Eye has been killed. Mundungus abandoned him and fled. This marks significant death number one. As this is the finale story, you can expect a lot of those. Harry also gets the idea to flee, out of some rather narrow minded nobleness. A big part of Harry’s character is that he likes to play the hero and martyr a lot, without really considering the ramifications. Ron rightfully calls him out on this and convinces him to stay. The next morning, while preparing for Bill and Fleur’s wedding, we get a ‘moment’ between Harry and Ginny.
Moment is killed when George walks into the kitchen. This is doubly sad because that’s the only big bit of dialogue that Bonnie Wright gets in this first film. It is a bit of a shame, after impressing in the sixth, but it’s very hard to fit everyone in as it is. Especially when you also have to accommodate Rufus Scrimgeour turning up unannounced. He asks to see Harry, Ron and Hermione because Albus Dumbledore left them several things in his will. Ron gets an item that sucks all the light out of a room. Hermione gets a book full of wizard folk tales. Harry gets both the snitch he caught in his very first Quidditch match, and the Sword of Gryffindor. But he doesn’t get the second one, as it’s recently been stolen. Never mind that, as there’s a wedding to enjoy. As an aside note, do any Potter fans remember ‘dress-gate’ from the fourth film?
Hermione’s dress was changed from blue to pink and a portion of the fans had a collective fit over it. Here the dress was again changed from purple to red, and this time there weren’t as many complaints. You may draw your own conclusions. But anyway, Harry bumps into his school friend Luna Lovegood and her father Xenophilius. He’s played by Rhys Ifans, doing a very good Irish accent. Lest you think this meeting is random, it does have plot significance. Harry then talks to a friend of Dumbledore’s Elfias Doge and Ron’s great aunt Muriel. In this conversation, Harry learns that a) Dumbledore actually has a brother called Aberforth, b) they used to live in Godric’s Hollow (where Harry’s parents lived too), and c) a magical historian Bathilda Bagshot – who knew him in his youth – still lives there. Before he can learn any more plot-relevant information, the wedding is interrupted.
The trio manage to flee and apparate into Shaftesbury Avenue. Hermione luckily has a magic purse that would make Mary Poppins proud – with all their essentials packed. But unluckily, they’re attacked by two Death Eaters. After subduing them, there’s an understated but very well done scene where Hermione has to wipe their memories – just like she did to her parents. As Voldemort has now taken over the Ministry, the best choice is to go underground. So the trio head to Harry’s godfather’s disused house at Number 12, Grimmauld Place – which Harry legally owns now. It’s empty, but Ron finds something interesting on a bedroom door.
Sirius’s brother Regulus is the RAB that stole one of Voldemort’s Horcruxes. Not to brag or anything but I was one of the people who guessed that before the book came out. My brother never read the book but had already guessed it by the end of the sixth film. They question the Black family’s house elf Kreacher about it – and he confirms that the second locket was in the house. But it was stolen, along with many heirlooms, by Mundungus Fletcher. As Kreacher apparates out to find him, we now see the Hogwarts Express on its way to school. The Death Eaters search the train for Harry, but Neville Longbottom gets the first of many moments of awesome in these finale films:
After being shown that the Ministry of Magic is now taken over by the Death Eaters, we return to Grimmauld Place. Harry is examining the snitch he was given by Dumbledore. Hermione tells him they have flesh memories; meaning they remember who the first person to touch them was – making it ideal for hiding something inside. Before she can elaborate, Kreacher arrives with Mundungus. He also got help from the other house elf Dobby – who had been making regular appearances since book four, but this is his first reappearance since the second film. Mundungus confesses that he did take the locket but he had to give it away to a Ministry official. One Dolores Jane Umbridge.
Even though she doesn’t feature as much as she did in Order of the Phoenix, I feel as if I need to sing the praises of Imelda Staunton. It might be surprising for fans to realise that she doesn’t really match the book’s description of the sugary tyrant. But she so captures the essence of the character that she’s a perfect fit. Some fans have also said that the change in appearance improves the character – the dissonance between her sweet, grandmotherly appearance and her cruel behaviour making it even creepier. Anyway, the trio sneak into the Ministry using Polyjuice Potion to disguise themselves as three employees. The Ministry is clearly less appealing than it was when Harry last visited.
Ron unfortunately gets side-tracked by a Death Eater called Yaxley, who has a problem in his office. They do bump into Umbridge however, and Hermione goes down to the courtroom with her – while Harry searches her office. He finds that Umbridge is now the head of the ‘Muggle Born Registration Commission’ – which is their way of rounding up Muggle-Born wizards and ‘taking care’ of them. He doesn’t find the locket and heads down to the courtrooms, hooking up with Ron along the way. The wife of the man Ron is impersonating is on trial now, giving them a good excuse for getting inside. Umbridge is wearing the locket, so Harry pulls a pretty awesome stunt to get it off her. In the book he stuns her from under his invisibility cloak. But here calls her out and lets her know exactly who’s about to stun her.
As the trio flee with Mary Cattermole, they run into a snag when she decides to passionately kiss the man she thinks is her husband – only for the real one to walk into the Ministry! Yaxley now hurries after them and they only barely disapparate into some forest. Ron’s in a bad way because he accidentally splinched himself (leaving part of himself behind). Even worse: Yaxley knows they were at Grimmauld Place, so now they can’t go back there. Nonetheless, Hermione has a tent and all the essentials in her bag. The film adds a scene where the trio try to destroy the locket with all sorts of spells, but to no avail. Harry once again has visions of Voldemort hunting something – something he wants “as if his life depended on it”. They also decide to take turns wearing the locket just to be safe.
The movie puts in another effective little scene where Hermione sees a group of bandits known as Snatchers on the other side of her protective enchantments. They don’t come into the book until much later, so this acts as a nice visual way of foreshadowing them. The trio decide to travel around on foot now. It’s at this point that the pace slows down. In the book, this could drag a little (some fans mockingly calling the book ‘Harry Potter and the Very Long Camping Trip’) but it flows much better in the film. After the very plot-heavy first segment, this allows us to calm down and spend some time with the characters. That’s something that happens a lot more in the David Yates films than the earlier ones. It’s shown that Ron doesn’t think Harry knows what he’s doing.
Hermione has a eureka moment one night, where she remembers the Sword of Gryffindor. It’s goblin-made which, according to her, means it only “imbibes that which makes it stronger” – and Harry used it to kill a Basilisk way back in film number two. So the sword now has very powerful venom…which could feasibly destroy a Horcrux (Harry having destroyed another Horcrux by using a Basilisk fang). Ron has to put a damper on this good news by letting loose all his seething frustrations. You see, he doesn’t know the structure of the story he’s in. He doesn’t realise that it’s going to be at least spring before they come to their climax. And he’s pretty much had enough. He gives Hermione an ultimatum but she chooses to stay. Ron assumes it’s because she loves Harry, and so leaves before they can stop him.
I remember having a eureka moment of my own back when I first read the book, wondering exactly why Hermione chose to stay. Of course the most obvious reason is the bigger picture – since Harry is the one who has to stop Voldemort. On a deeper level, it has something to do with the bond between the two. They have never been in love with each other; Harry has only ever seen her as a surrogate sister. Way back in the third book/film, Hermione has a huge falling out with the boys and breaks off her friendship with them for months. Although she and Ron fall out again in the sixth, she doesn’t break it off with Harry. Part of it has to do with her having no friends before the two of them came along; she was hated and snubbed by everyone for being an insufferable know-it-all. Getting a taste of that again in her third year reminded her why she hates being alone. She knows first-hand how hard it is – and so she won’t subject Harry to that. In that way, she and Harry know what it’s like to be alone while Ron doesn’t (both of them only children and outcasts before Hogwarts).
The Harry/Hermione friendship is reaffirmed in a beautiful scene added by the film – that’s actually one of my favourites in the series. It’s simple but effective. Harry gets Hermione to dance to a song on the radio just to cheer the both of them up. Such a little scene but beautiful nonetheless. And of course you can bet that countless Harry/Hermione shippers used clips of it in their fan vids.
Harry suddenly remembers something about the snitch he was given. In his first Quidditch match, he caught it in his mouth. So when he presses the snitch to his mouth, the message “I open at the close” appears on it. Meanwhile, Hermione has been reading the book Dumbledore left her. She’s noticed a curious symbol drawn on the page, which Harry recognises as something Luna’s father wore at the wedding.
Hermione and Harry decide to visit Godric’s Hollow on the off chance that there’s either a Horcrux hidden there, or that the Sword of Gryffindor is there. They coincidentally arrive on Christmas Eve, and we get a very bittersweet scene with the two of them at the graves of Harry’s parents. Someone’s watching them though, and Harry guesses who it is: Bathilda Bagshot, the woman who knew Dumbledore in his youth. She might have the sword, at least that’s what Harry thinks. That’s why he follows her upstairs. But there’s something odd about her when she speaks. The odd hissing noises…like…
Bathilda is actually Voldemort’s snake Nagini, lying in wait for them. The book never clarifies whether or not Nagini was physically in her body, or she was just transfigured to look like Bathilda. Either way, she attacks, and Harry and Hermione just barely get away. Harry regains consciousness in the Forest of Dean, where Hermione has next transported them. The movie has an additional little bit from Hermione, masterfully done, where she sadly says the two of them should stay there forever and just grow old. It’s a short scene but it conveys the sense of hopelessness wonderfully. Hermione also sadly reveals that she accidentally smashed Harry’s wand trying to escape from Nagini. That night, Harry is keeping watch when a Patronus in the form of a silver doe appears before him. It leads him to a frozen pool – with the Sword of Gryffindor inside! Harry strips off…
Lest you think this was the filmmakers being gratuitous, that was in the book. One can only assume JK Rowling imagining how good a now-legal Daniel Radcliffe would look shirtless in a film. He forgets to take the locket off, and it tries to strangle him as he goes for the sword. But he’s pulled out by a returning Ron! If this was WWE, this would have been proceeded by some really triumphant entrance music. Harry now knows how to open the locket: speak to it in Parseltongue (snake language). Once he does, it unleashes a freaky thing that would make HP Lovecraft proud. It conjures up apparitions of Harry and Hermione making out…
Yep, the nudity was in the book too. Guess what got the most press when the film was released. These hallucinations don’t break Ron however and he destroys the locket with the sword. He’s not quite as successful when Hermione learns he’s returned however. This scene is even more hilarious on screen than it was reading it in the novel. Needless to say, he’s not in her good books. If you’re wondering how he managed to find them, apparently the thingy Dumbledore gave him helped. I never did understand how it worked, so here’s a better explanation.
Ron has a spare wand for Harry to use – though he makes the bad decision to claim that ten inches is “nothing special”, making one wonder how well-endowed the Weasley clan are. Hermione meanwhile wants to go and see Xenophilius Lovegood – to find out the meaning of the symbol she keeps seeing in her books. As they have no other leads, they go to the house. Luna’s not in but her father is happy to tell her that it’s the symbol of the Deathly Hallows. It comes from a fairy tale known as ‘The Tale of the Three Brothers’ – the original version of which is in Hermione’s book. It’s about three wizard brothers who cheated death.
Death appeared before the brothers and granted them a single gift each. The first brother wanted an unbeatable wand – and he got one made from an elder tree. Things didn’t end well for him when he used it to win a very public duel, and someone else killed him to take the wand for themselves. The second brother wanted the power to call others from death – and was granted a stone to do just that. But when he tried to summon his deceased fiancée, he found that she did not belong in the mortal world anymore – and so killed himself to join her. The third brother asked to hide from Death, and was given Death’s own invisibility cloak. As a result, Death searched for the brother for many years but could not find him. Once the third brother had grown old, he revealed himself and greeted Death like an old friend – departing into the afterlife with him. This entire sequence is rendered in a beautiful form of animation. It’s just exquisite to look at.
Xenophilius explains that those three objects are the fabled Deathly Hallows – the Elder Wand, the Resurrection Stone, and the Invisibility Cloak. And the symbol is actually a drawing of them. But although he’s told them everything they know, Xenophilius won’t let them leave. You see, the Death Eaters kidnapped Luna. They didn’t like what Xenophilius was writing in his magazine, and took her to keep him quiet. He thinks that handing over Harry will get him his daughter back. He says Voldemort’s name to bring the Death Eaters upon them in a scene that would have been super-badass except…
There’s a Deleted Scene explaining that there’s now a taboo on Voldemort’s name. If anyone says it, protective enchantments break and the Death Eaters are alerted. As such, it doesn’t make a lot of sense when they suddenly arrive. But there is a shot of Xenophilius looking out of the window before he tells the story, implying he might have summoned them that way. The trio manage to disapparate – but they run straight into a gang of Snatchers. Kudos to the filmmakers for making a sweet chase sequence out of this (in the book the Snatchers appear outside the tent and force them out). Ron is quickly taken and, before they get the other two, Hermione hits Harry with a stinging jinx – to disfigure his face and hopefully hide his identity.
Harry goes on a bit of an acid trip into Voldemort’s mind again – where he’s now visited an elderly dark wizard known as Gellert Grindelwald. This man was the former owner of the Elder Wand, until Dumbledore took it from him. So the legendary Elder Wand is buried in Dumbledore’s tomb. For further ‘uh-oh’, Hermione’s spell didn’t hide Harry’s scar. The Snatchers take the three of them to Malfoy Manor. Bellatrix goes absolutely apeshit – well, more than usual – when she sees the Sword of Gryffindor in their belongings. Hermione is kept for questioning, while Ron and Harry are tossed in the cellar. Luna is down there too, along with Ollivander the wandmaker and a Gringotts goblin called Griphook. Hermione is getting the most horrific torture a PG-13 movie will allow.
This is another addition by the filmmakers that I think works much better visually than seeing Bellatrix using the Cruciatus Curse. From Bella’s perspective, Hermione is the lowest thing in existence: a Muggle born witch. And it is incredibly in character for her to do something like this: to scar her or brand her for possibly life that she is something to be reviled. I don’t think Emma Watson gets enough credit for this scene. Her screams are actually very painful to listen to. Help arrives in the form of Dobby the house elf though. He’s able to apparate in and out of his old masters’ house because he’s an elf – and therefore follows different laws of magic than wizards.
Ron suggests Bill and Fleur’s house as a safe house – and Dobby takes Ollivander and Luna ahead of time. Ron and Harry meanwhile take out Wormtail (who’s guarding) and sparing him his rather grisly death from the book. Bellatrix is angrily asking Griphook if they could have broken into her vault at Gringotts to steal the sword – implying that’s where it’s supposed to be. Ron and Harry burst into the room to give the wizard version of a Mexican Standoff but Bellatrix still has Hermione. I should tell you that this room has a chandelier…
Oh that Dobby. Harry takes the wands from Draco – remember that. Dobby also gets to disarm Narcissa – which is a bit of an ‘eff yeah’ moment if you remember how cruel the Malfoys were to him, and he gets to one-up them properly. After giving Bellatrix a nice verbal putdown, he disapparates. But Bellatrix throws a dagger at them before they do – and when they materialise outside Bill and Fleur’s cottage, it’s landed in Dobby’s chest. The elf dies there on the beach. Things also get very grim as we see Voldemort breaking into Dumbledore’s tomb – and finally getting his hands on the Elder Wand. Part one ends here.
Part two begins replaying Voldemort getting the Elder Wand before briefly showing Hogwarts. Headmaster Snape watches Death Eaters marching through the courtyard, while Dementors hover outside the perimeter. Clearly the school is not the same as it used to be. We now move to Bill and Fleur’s cottage, where Harry, Ron, Hermione, Luna, Griphook and Ollivander are staying. Speaking of the goblin, the trio sit down and talk to him. Warwick Davis doubles up to play him, as well as Professor Flitwick. He didn’t play the character back in the first movie but he did dub the voice, so there’s that. Griphook clarifies just why Bellatrix went crazier than usual when she saw the Sword of Gryffindor: it’s supposed to be in her vault at Gringotts bank, but the one there is actually a replica. The replica was put there by Snape, of all people. Griphook phrases things in a way to suggest that there might be something even more unusual in there. He agrees to help them break in – if they give him the sword.
They drop in on Ollivander next, and he provides some exposition about wands. In the scuffle at the manor, they got away with Draco and Bellatrix’s wands. Ollivander says that Draco’s wand now belongs to Harry, since he won it from him successfully. Remember that. When asked about the Deathly Hallows, he replies that he’s heard that possessing all three makes one “master of death”. Voldemort was most interested in the wand, which is why he tortured the old man for months over where it could possibly be. Ollivander says that things are looking grim if he has found it after all.
Hermione uses Polyjuice Potion to disguise herself as Bellatrix, while Ron just opts for a fake beard. Themselves, Harry and Griphook then sneak into Gringotts. I have to say that Helena Bonham Carter is shockingly convincing as Hermione pretending to be Bellatrix. It’s almost uncanny. The Gringotts goblins are suspicious when ‘Bellatrix’ wants to enter her vault. The film doesn’t explain it but it’s because the goblins would have known that Bellatrix’s wand has been stolen – and them having it would incriminate them. Harry saves them by casting the Imperius Curse on the desk goblin. Sadly, they come across defences when they’re inside – removing Ron and Hermione’s disguises and setting off an alarm. They also find a dragon guarding the vault, remember that. Once they get to Bellatrix’s, the door locks them inside. It should be noted that in the book, Harry knew vaguely what he was looking for – having been shown possible Horcruxes in the previous book. The film dropped that, so they cover for that by giving Harry a sort of spider-sense that helps him detect when other Horcruxes are nearby.
His Harry-Sense leads him to believe that an antique golden cup is the candidate. But they’ve got bigger things to worry about: the rest of the treasure in the vault is booby-trapped to multiply whenever it’s touched. Even worse, Griphook double crosses them and leaves with the sword. But remember that there’s a dragon outside? Well let’s just say when Hermione Granger has to make a getaway, she goes for the spectacle.
As the dragon drops them in a faraway lake, Harry has more visions. He sees Horcruxes and then images of Hogwarts and a lady he knows is connected to Ravenclaw House. This is again a work-around from the books – where Harry was told by Dumbledore that Voldemort wanted to make his Horcruxes from objects that belonged to the four founders of Hogwarts. In the book, Harry only guesses that the Hogwarts Horcrux could be something to do with Ravenclaw, so this makes that a little less coincidental. But Harry also has visions that tell him Voldemort now knows they’re hunting Horcruxes. We switch to the scene at Malfoy Manor, where Voldemort has just slaughtered the people who brought him this news. He says something interesting to Nagini – “the boy has discovered our secret” – which suggests that the snake herself appears to be a Horcrux. Among the dead is Griphook, whose fate is left open in the books. The sword in his hands suddenly vanishes. Special attention is drawn to Narcissa Malfoy and her reaction to the bloodshed around her.
The trio apparate into Hogsmeade and immediately set off some kind of alarm. They’re saved by a man with a strange resemblance to Dumbledore – his brother Aberforth! He doesn’t quite have Albus’s idealism, claiming that Voldemort has already won and there’s little point trying to do anything. Since we’re only half an hour into the movie, the trio do indeed convince him otherwise. And he has a way into Hogwarts! None other than Neville Longbottom arrives to lead them inside. There’s a whole gathering of students rebelling against the Death Eaters in Hogwarts, hidden in the Room of Requirement. Luna’s made her way back there – and she has an idea of what the Horcrux might be. The founder of Ravenclaw House – Rowena Ravenclaw – had an artefact known as ‘The Lost Diadem’ (which is like a tiara). Harry gets momentarily stunned out of his plans by the arrival of…
But Ginny has news: Snape knows they’re here. And the students are all called for an assembly in the Great Hall. This is a change from the books, where Dumbledore’s Army were hiding out permanently in the Room of Requirement. Here they appear to be meeting in secret there and still attending classes. For those wondering why Cho Chang is in uniform, in the films’ continuity she’s in the same year as Harry and co (from a line in the fifth film where Hermione says she’s “worried about failing her OWLS” – which puts her in the fifth year). The film puts in a pretty epic scene where Harry walks into the assembly, bringing the adult members of the rebellion with him, and publicly defies Snape. But don’t worry, Professor McGonagall still gets to have her duel with Snape. JK Rowling apparently had to make sure it was kept in, the filmmakers apparently being squeamish about having the females being too involved in the fighting.
Voldemort interrupts the triumphant feeling by announcing that he’s giving them an hour to hand Harry over – or else Hogwarts goes boom. The following sequence of the castle preparing for battle gave me full blown chills when I saw it in the cinema, and it still does so. In the book, we only follow Harry’s POV, so we don’t really see too much of the preparations. The film allows us to see much more – including McGonagall bringing the suits of armour to life and giddily saying to Molly Weasley…
Harry runs off in search of Ravenclaw Tower, but Luna is happy to lend a helping hand. She directs him to the Grey Lady – the ghost of Ravenclaw Tower. In her life, she was Helena Ravenclaw – daughter of the Hogwarts founder. When Harry asks her about the diadem, she replies that he’s not the first to search for it. She knows of another boy who she told, and he used dark magic on it. After Harry assures her he’ll destroy it, she says he’ll find it in “the room where everything is hidden”. I really want to praise Kelly Macdonald for such a great one-scene performance as Helena. Even on my first watch of the film, she was very memorable with her Ophelia-esque interpretation of the ghost. But you’ll not believe who she’s also the voice of.
Hermione and Ron meanwhile have gone down to the Chamber of Secrets in search of basilisk fangs to destroy Horcruxes – Ron getting past the door by imitating Parseltongue he’s heard Harry speaking before. Hermione stabs the cup, and the fragment of soul inside takes the form of a giant shrieking wall of water before dying. Ron and Hermione then share their first kiss ever. Someone on the film’s TV Tropes page pointed out the sheer awesomeness of a Muggle-born and a blood traitor making out in the Chamber of Secrets – a shrine to pure blood elitism. Whether this was intentional by the filmmakers or not, kudos all around.
But things are less rosy above ground, as the Death Eaters have now disabled the protective spells around the castle. Neville and a few of the other students set a trap by rigging a bridge to go off, sending a few Death Eaters plummeting to their deaths. Neville’s feeling even more hardcore and announces that he’s off to find Luna because “I’m mad for her!” and Harry and Ginny decide to share their big damn kiss too. Unfortunately, that’s all Ginny gets to do in the final battle. Harry goes up to the Room of Requirement, which reforms itself into the room where “everything is hidden”, as Helena had said. The result is a room full of all sorts of junk. Harry’s spider sense leads him to the diadem, but he has another obstacle in the form of Draco Malfoy and his friends Goyle and Blaise. If you’re wondering where Crabbe is, let’s just say he decided to smoke a joint before the battle. Ron and Hermione quickly arrive to even the odds, but Draco seems a bit reluctant to fight. Goyle is more than happy to pick up the slack – trying a friggin killing curse on Hermione. She lives, don’t worry, and looks very pleased when Ron chases after them screaming “that’s my girlfriend!”
Goyle sets the room on fire but clearly doesn’t know how to control the magic – so he perishes in the flames (in place of Crabbe in the book). Harry and co reluctantly rescue the other two and Ron punts the diadem into the fire after Harry stabs it with the fang. That’s one Horcrux to go – and a look into Voldemort’s mind confirms it is indeed the snake. He’s also able to tell that the dark lord is hiding out in the castle boathouse. We also get a lengthy sequence with the trio trying to hurry through the courtyard while all hell is breaking loose around them. This is pretty much everything a fan could want from seeing the Battle of Hogwarts represented on screen.
Oh and another fun fact: the guy on the broom shouting “come on!” is Sean Biggerstaff, cameoing as Oliver Wood. There’s a slightly more uplifting moment where an army of students, led by Aberforth, conjure up Patronuses to save the trio from Dementors. They get to the boathouse just in time for some exposition. Voldemort is telling Snape that the Elder Wand is not working for him, or at least not as well as he’d like. The reason is because he didn’t defeat the wand’s last master in combat; Snape did. Snape killed Dumbledore. You can guess where he’s going with this. After Voldemort’s had Nagini mutilate Snape and left, the trio go to see him. Snape gives Harry some of his memories to be taken to Dumbledore’s Pensieve. He then dies just after curiously telling Harry “you have your mother’s eyes.”
Voldemort calls a temporary halt to the battle, giving the insurgence an hour to give their due to the dead. He announces that if Harry does not meet him in the Forbidden Forest before the hour is up, more blood will be spilled. The others go to the Great Hall where we confirm those who have died already: including Remus, Tonks, Lavender Brown and Fred Weasley. Rupert Grint doesn’t hold back and loses it over his brother’s body. Unable to take any more of this, Harry goes upstairs to Dumbledore’s office and watches Snape’s memories.
There’s our big twist. Snape was friends with Harry’s mother Lily in his childhood. More than friends actually; he had long loved her, but they grew apart and she fell for his nemesis James Potter. It’s a little more complicated than that in the book, but we’ve got the gist of it here. When Snape found out about the prophecy, he realised Voldemort would kill Lily and offered his services to Dumbledore to save her. So Snape has been a double agent this whole time. Dumbledore had suffered a fatal curse in a battle with a previous Horcrux and so would have died anyway – and his murder was planned between him and Snape as a way to spare Draco. Additional revelations include Snape’s Patronus being a doe – the one that led Harry to the sword. And the biggest one of all…
Harry is a Horcrux.
This was a theory that had been tossed around a lot before the book came out. I’ll hold my hands up and admit it’s one I didn’t buy into, but there it is. Harry must die at Voldemort’s hand. The film also adds in a memory where it reveals that Snape was the one who rescued Harry from the ruins of his parents’ house. There’s also an absolute tear jerker of a scene where we see Lily whispering words of love and comfort to Harry as she hears Voldemort approaching. This tear jerker is followed by one of even bigger degree, when Harry gives Ron and Hermione the news. In the book, he can’t bear to do it and just goes to the forest without seeing them. And if Rupert Grint brought it when he saw Fred’s body, Emma Watson brings it now. Her tearful delivery of “I’ll go with you” never fails to set me off.
As he enters the forest, Harry remembers the inscription on the snitch and now knows what it means. Inside the snitch is the Resurrection Stone – and he uses it to conjure up images of Remus, Sirius and his parents. It also conjures up knowledge that Remus now has a baby son, which had not been relayed to the audience before now. Nonetheless, they offer words of reassurance and stay with him as he walks before Voldemort. He doesn’t wait around this time and blasts Harry with the killing curse. But as there’s half an hour left in the movie – and there were about three chapters left after this in the book – it doesn’t end there.
Harry wakes up in a sort of way station to the afterlife, where Dumbledore is waiting for him. After giving him advice from beyond the grave, Dumbledore tells Harry that he of course has a choice about whether to go back or to go into the light. Realising that there’s still a battle to fight (and that he hasn’t seen what’s under Ginny’s top yet), Harry chooses the former. He’s also very lucky that Voldemort sends Narcissa to check if he’s really dead. She asks if Draco is alive and when Harry replies in the affirmative, she lies to say he’s dead. Now it’s time for Bonnie Wright to bring it as the Death Eaters march into Hogwarts with Harry’s ‘body’. The ‘Big No’ can look silly and clichéd, but it’s pulled off well here. The Malfoys call for Draco to join them, and he erm…
That was thrown in by Ralph Fiennes, and Tom Felton’s look of not having a clue is entirely genuine. But Neville is the one who wants to deliver a rousing speech, while holding the school Sorting Hat. That last part is important, because the Sword of Gryffindor appears inside it, and Harry now reveals himself. If you find yourself wondering why he suddenly has his wand back, it’s because the scene that showed Draco throwing it to him got cut. As it stands, the three Malfoys just walk out of the ensuing battle.
This is undoubtedly where the film improves on the book. What follows in the book is mostly an anti-climax where Harry explains to Voldemort exactly why he’s about to get trounced. The film instead gives a nice cinematic chase around the school. Interspersed with this is none other than Molly Weasley getting to make Bellatrix explode.
Julie Walters said that was her favourite line in the whole series. Anyway, Ron and Hermione try to kill Nagini – but it’s actually Neville who finishes her off by decapitating her with the sword. Harry and Voldemort have one last duel, before the latter’s wand rebounds on him again. The reason is that Draco was the one who became master of the Elder Wand when he disarmed Dumbledore in the last book. And when Harry defeated him at Malfoy Manor, he became master of whatever wands Draco owned. Thus the killing curse backfires on Voldemort for the second and last time in his life. He leaves a body in the book but the film has him completely dissolving.
We wrap things up with a denouement where Harry explains the above reasons for Voldemort’s death to his friends – and then snaps the Elder Wand in two. Nineteen years later, we see Harry and Ginny now married with three children. Ron and Hermione are also married with two. Both families are now seeing their kids off to Hogwarts for their first school years. This sort of thing was a tad corny in the book (and Harry should be tried for child abuse after naming his middle son ‘Albus Severus’) but it comes across a little better in the film. There’s a very sweet gag (literally) involving a chocolate frog that jumped off the train in the first film. I’m not going to end this review with ‘all was well’ because anyone with three teenagers knows that’s absolutely not true.
It’s really hard to describe the effect that the Harry Potter franchise had on modern popular culture. The same way that Star Trek captured fans of the 60s and Star Wars the 70s and 80s, Harry Potter was something that everyone knew about. I remember when the last book came out and even people who didn’t know the stories were asking about what happened. Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson were some of the most famous child stars of the day – and half the film industry was clamouring to star in the adaptations (among them included Robin Williams and Drew Barrymore). The final film is still the eighth highest grossing film of all time, and only the ninth film in history to gross $1 billion. It had even passed the $400 million mark on its opening weekend alone. Warner Brothers campaigned really hard for the films to get recognised at the Academy Awards – submitting both Radcliffe and Grint for Best Actor, Watson for Best Actress, David Yates for Best Film, Steve Kloves for Best Adapted Screenplay and a few others. But remember that this is a) a film franchise, b) that’s aimed at a young adult demographic, c) is in the fantasy genre and d) does not fall into the requirements films usually have to tick to get nominated (though there is the whole racism analogue). So the film only got three technical nominations and lost them all – the lowest point being losing Best Make-Up to The Iron Lady of all things. It just goes to show that even the highest grossing film franchise of all time isn’t immune to the occasional genre snobbery. Of course the films were insanely influential – and their success led to every Young Adult books getting put up for adaptation. Sometimes there were hits – Twilight, The Hunger Games, The Chronicles of Narnia, Divergent etc. But there were just as many misses. You can probably thank these films for showing Marvel that a multi-film franchise was definitely possible. Even these days, studios are always looking to create the next big franchise. But even as I enjoyed the conclusion of The Hunger Games and look forward to the same with Divergent, nothing can really quite capture that feeling I had when I knew I was sitting down in the cinema to watch a Harry Potter film for the last time.
Grades will always be given at this blog to those who ask for it…or those who deserve it.
*Story? I seem to be in the minority that actually loved the final book. Deathly Hallows was my third favourite of the books, behind Prisoner of Azkaban and Order of the Phoenix. The film’s pacing is hurt a little by trying to include as much as possible in Part 1, but I think this is one of the stronger film adaptations. B-
*Characters? We spend more time than ever with just the trio here. I will say that Harry’s character development from the book wasn’t translated 100% perfectly, but not enough to hurt the film. Ron and Hermione’s was still pretty much intact. I’m also amazed that they managed to get so many people back for the finale – even those who ended up with cameos like Madam Maxime, Professor Trelawney, Argus Filch, Professor Sprout etc. They did a great job of featuring most of them and making sure everyone at least got something. B
*Performances? We saw our three stars grow up on screen and they delivered their finest performances yet. With the stakes being upped considerably, Radcliffe, Grint and Watson were at their best. As everyone else was really jockeying for screen time, there were plenty of ‘one scene wonders’ like Bonnie Wright, Julie Walters, Brendan Gleeson, Imelda Staunton, John Hurt, Nick Moran and especially Kelly Macdonald. A+
*Visuals? I love the look of the David Yates films, with the eerie dark green tint to the image. The fact that Part 1 takes place outside Hogwarts means we get to see some lovely visuals of the countryside. I’d say this is probably one of the more visually striking films in the series, second only to Prisoner of Azkaban. A
*Special Effects? Hugo may have taken the Oscar for Best Visual Effects but it’s this film that’s getting the top marks from me (PS. Hugo is a beautiful film to look at two, no hard feelings). A+
*Anything Else? These two films are the ones that feature the most original scenes added onto the book’s – and by far the most scenes that improve on the book. The dance, the Death Eaters on the train, Harry challenging Snape and pretty much every addition to the battle were all great touches. The film is losing marks for several adaptation-related plot holes, mind you. B
Farewell, wholesome Hogwarts, as we head for darker pastures, with Neil Jordan’s Red Riding Hood mind screw The Company of Wolves next.