New Effects in the Final Chapter
A Review by Claire Ramsey
I think Peter Jackson and David Yates are secretly related. Long-lost cousins, or something. Based on my enthusiastic viewing of the final installments of the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings film series, I have to say that here are two directors who knows how to end movie series. And I think I enjoyed the last Harry Potter film – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two – even more than LoTR: Return of the King. Which is saying something.
To answer the necessary question of the few Harry Potter fans who have not already seen this most recent movie: is any story point or subtlety from the book cut in the making of HP7:2? Yes, and no. It depends what you are looking for. If you, as a diehard fan of the novels, were hoping for a lengthier and more literal version of book 7, you are probably hunched over your well-thumbed copy of said novel right now, slurping Butterbeer and muttering imprecations and vows to never buy the movie. If you, however, either as a fan of the books or any of the movies, were watching the final installment to see a workmanlike completion of the story line as presented, as well as possible considering different directors and interpretations, you are probably quite happy.
I fall into the latter camp. Upon rechecking the book to confirm a detail or two, I realized that the title concept of the Deathly Hallows themselves – one of the main points of interest in volume 7 – received only cursory treatment in the movie. However, that can be excused. As the movie plots developed (and, for the most part, the book plots also,) more and more attention became focused on Harry and Voldemort and their unexplained similarities. It fell to the final book and film to explain fully, and so other (albeit fascinating) plot points had to play second fiddle. More on that in the last paragraph…
Now, back to Peter Jackson. Not only did HP7:2 have to resolve and explain Harry’s and Voldemort’s odd connection, but we had to have the epic battle. In RoTK, it was the battle for Middle Earth, with an army of elves and men led by Aragorn versus the army of orcs, trolls, and Ringwraiths led nominally by the other ‘dark lord,’ Sauron. In today’s movie, it is the battle for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry with the new contenders being the witches and wizards of the Order of the Phoenix and Dumbledore’s Army led by (okay, wow, and about time!) Neville Longbottom – and Harry, Ron, and Hermione, of course – versus the Death Eaters led by Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange. Both battles were masterful, with great effects, and well worth the seeing. The prices paid by the good guys are appropriately heart-catching, and the final destruction of the evil ones satisfying.
One comment, or question, on the effects, though. I am devoted to David Yates-as-HP-director for he, as I have said, before, is the perfect combination of all the previous directors: he has the loyalty of Chris Columbus, the creativity of Alphonse Cuaron, and the not-afraid-to-be-dark quality of Mike Newell. However, I found myself confused by an essential effects choice in HP7:2. Either Yates or the design team decided that the effect of the Avada Kedavra killing curse was just not showy enough as presented in all the other films. Or perhaps they wanted to represent in visual terms when the curse does or does not work, or what it is like when used on Death Eaters instead of our heroes.
Let me specify. All footage up till now of the killing curse, primarily as shown in the killing of Lily Potter, displays the green energy bolt fired from Voldemort’s wand and Lily’s agonized silent scream as she falls to the floor. This footage was shown in HP7:2 also! Why then did Yates decide we suddenly needed the killing curse to blow the victim’s body to smithereens? Molly Weasley uses Avada Kedavra on Bellatrix Lestrange and she explodes into black fragments. Harry disarms Voldemort and Voldemort’s killing curse rebounds on himself with similar results. One might call it the zombie disintegration effect. Whatever reason there was behind it, I sadly think the curse effect took away from the story as presented and, more, had the potential to confuse the viewers so they missed more important parts. It was more distraction than successful effect because it was not what we had been led to expect.
A very minor peccadillo, however, in an otherwise terrific movie and experience. I think watching Rowling’s awesomely-imagined world come alive and evolve on the big screen – particularly through Chris Columbus’ and David Yates’ directions – has been an experience that will never be bested in a conventional movie format. My husband speaks for me and for all true fans, I am sure, when he told me the other night that the only way to ever improve the visual representations of these books would be to create all the little behind-the-epic-scene stories (from book 7 alone, the history of Rowena and Helena Ravenclaw and the Bloody Baron, the story and true history of the Peverell brothers, and the corresponding origins of the Elder Wand and other Deathly Hallows, and the full story of Dumbledore, the Hallows, and Grindelwald – to just name a few.)
These tales might not bring in the big bucks, but could make the many many fans deliriously happy. Myself included. So yes, let’s hear it for Daniel Radcliffe, David Yates… but also for Harry Potter the Miniseries!
Claire Vera Ramsey discovered storytelling by drawing stories in pictures when she was still too young to write. Claire’s storytelling upgraded from hobby to her business Stories With Claire after she took a university storytelling class. The “premier storyteller” of Wake Forest and ex officio president of the North Carolina Storytelling Guild, Claire Ramsey believes storytelling help people value education and learn from one another. And have fun – Claire certainly has fun when portraying costumed characters like the Pirate Captain at the Raleigh Road Drive In last weekend for the opening of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides!
More information about Stories With Claire: www.storieswithclaire.com