Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Artistic License and the Disappointing Harry Potter Conclusion


Movies are rarely - or so rarely to mean never - better than the books. The only two major films that I recall being better than the book from which they are derived are Dances With Wolves and The Godfather. Thus, I had no great hope for a truly masterful final movie in the Harry Potter saga - one which honored and satisfactorily concluded the story. None of the previous films impressed me much - and some, like Goblet of Fire with a strangely aggressive and menacing Dumbledore, really disappointed me. Yet, I went to see the final installment of the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - and I felt somewhat flat afterward.

I just don't understand the artistic license that the screenwriter and directors of the Harry Potter films have taken with the story. Why do they change scenes for seemingly inexplicable reasons? Why do they think they can tell a better story? Why does Rowling agree to such changes. Why? Of course, I understand some of the justifications. Some scenes simply don't translate well onto the screen - some scenes are too expensive or not visual enough. Sometimes directors want just a little more action - and sometimes they just want to make the product their own (even though it isn't).

But what was up with that final battle? How disappointing. Why were Voldemort and Snape in the boathouse (?) instead of the Shrieking Shack? Why wasn't Nagini balled up and protected in the giant orb? What was up with Snape crying his memories into tears? These sort of minor changes just make no sense - and some come across as actually quite stupid.

Why was final battle during the day? And why were Harry and Voldemort fighting outside - and all around - Hogwarts? And what the heck was that flying dive off the tower? What did Harry say - something about "ending as it began?" Whatever. And when Harry and Voldemort both hit the ground, how does it make sense that they crawl and struggle for their wands. Accacio wand, anyone? Voldemort crawls for his wand? Really? What the ...? Ultimately, that final battle between Harry and Voldemort was epic in the book - and as bland as any Tom-Cruise-movie-fight in the film. Boring. Boring. Borrr .....

The final conversation between Harry and Dumbldore was so pivotal and emotional in the book - and it left me quite flat in the movie. Thus, I walked away from the saga feeling a bit let down. And, of course, I haven't watched most of the movies for all the same reason. Yet, I did have hope - and it wasn't terrible. Just not all that great.

I am, of course, a traditionalist and a purist, meaning I don't really like change that much. Especially change for change's sake. I guess it's the conservative in me.


Anonymous said...

i havent even read half of the books, and it seemed to me that the battle of howards was a convulated mess.

Anonymous said...

Ok, so my issue with the tete a tete in the finale between Harry and Voldemort, in the film, is that, by staging it outside and all around Hogwarts, yes there is movement and action, but in so doing, it strips the meaning of the conclusion...and (without getting too carried away) the point of the entire series to me. Hasn't Harry battled seven years of almost universal lack of acceptance from his peers, who disbelieve his stories and abilities, only to then witness (in the book) Harry calmly and bravely asking no one to help him rid the world of the embodiment of evil, in the Great
In the book, with Harry's victory in front of so many witnesses, not only does fear die in all those witnesses, but Harry is vindicated. Which to me, made J.K. Rowling's ending SO satisfying. The little guy finally wins and everyone sees it. And hadn't we waited 7 books for Harry to finally get his moment in the sun?
In the film, no one even gets to see Voldemorts body. So once again, they have to take Harry's word that it's all over. "Oh really, you killed Voldemort? Ah...nice work, I guess. Was it difficult? Oh and sorry about all the grief we've given you over the years."

As you say, why did J.K. agree to this screenplay rewrite? It's such a loss to the story.

Right, I'll move on with my life now.

mmazenko said...

Well said. That's additional insight I hadn't considered, and it makes a lot of sense.

From what I understand about authors these days, they do their work, make their money, take Hollywood's money, and consider it out of their hands.

Rowling's opinion is probably - "The book is my legacy. The movie belongs to someone else."