Readers of my blog will know that I have a deep, deep loathing for David Yates, director of the last 3 Harry Potter movies. Yates takes these books–full of wonderful, awesome, terrifying dialogue–and strips them down to pregnant pauses in the most bare, CGI-filled sets. In a sense, his Harry Potter movies are like still lifes–watch the actors and actresses, listen to their dumbed-down lines, and watch the absolutely fantastic CGI wizard fights! It’s magic as he strips out the writing of one of the most beloved fantasy books of our times.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 seemed promising because the first movie seemed to set nearly everything up perfectly. It had certain drawbacks it inherited from the sixth movie, but it seemed to do fairly well–some story elements were directly omitted or were exaggerated, but even then I started to have a sneaking suspicion that many elements were being skated over. Deep exposition on the Dumbledore family and their history, and Voldemort’s search for the Elder Wand, seemed more like montages than actual storytelling elements. It was almost like I could see Yates grinning and saying, “See fanboys? I mentioned Grindelwald, so there!” Sadly, Part 2 took this to an extreme–it seemed like Yates wanted to make a movie out of everything but the book.
Voldemort is reduced to a basic image of what an evil villain should be like. He’s straight out of a Disney story. The entire totalitarian regime and focus on racial purity? Skipped over, that’s too complex for most audiences, and it rings maybe a bit too close to home in a country that is facing increasing wealth gaps between whites, blacks and Hispanics? Voldemort is just scary, it’s not explained why he is scary or why he is essentially a sociopath. Dumbledore’s message at the end–pity those who live without love–instead becomes a line, and doesn’t become a message that the antagonist of the movie should be pitied for his flawed, reduced way of thinking.
Snape, though considered an antagonist, is really the anti-heroe of the book series, and really of this book in particular. But he’s reduced to being a simple symbol by Yates, and his murder, while actually filmed OK, still doesn’t capture the full betrayal, redemption and absolution of the most human and complex character in the series. Why doesn’t David Yates tell the story of why Lily chose James over him? Why don’t they clarify that in the past entire movie series, his actions have been guided by the loyalty of his love towards Lily and his complex feelings towards Harry?
Major story elements became little more than momentarily exposed plot points, so that when they occurred, many avid readers were left scratching their head. And it just seemed to get worse as the movie went on: Aberforth Dumbledore suddenly appearing and speaking only a few lines in regards to the major plot point of his brother’s secrecy; Grindelwald and Gregorovitch appearing and talking about the Elder Wand; the treasured first kiss between Ron and Hermione, suddenly over a big tidal wave of water and no thought of house-elfs in sight (no oppression is as good as invisible oppression). Were I the author, I’d be greatly disgusted–it seems like someone wanted to almost do a finger painting of Harry Potter, thought it cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
Let’s stop and think. What’s the reason for making these changes and modifications? Why make a movie that lacks a significant amount of its written dialogue or plot points? Why, that’s marketing, that is! Take the movie and turn it into the most profit-maximizing, broad-audience product you can create. But seriously, who at this point has not heard of Harry Potter? He’s become a household name, and even the Christians who once slandered him as being a pagan, wiccan demon are now singing his praises simply because they get kids to read! J.K. Rowling’s effect upon the reading habits of young people cannot be understated at this point–without Harry Potter, I think the last one to two generations (or more) would not have had a comparable book to pick up in the past few decades. Writing seven amazing books in rapid succession, though, apparently just turned into a silver screen marketing ploy.
In the final scenes of the movie, the greatly expanded and exaggerated duel between Harry and Voldemort seems just ridiculous. It’s made clear throughout the series that Voldemort was toe-to-toe in terms of magical ability with Dumbledore himself. The thought of Harry dueling Voldemort with normal spells is just silly, yet it goes on for nearly 20 minutes. When Harry finally defeats Voldemort and he goes up in smoke and small skin-flakes, I couldn’t help but groan. Another chance to show off some CGI chops! It truly was needed.
But the absolute last scene really riled me. Harry, walking about with the Elder Wand, exposing (almost as an afterthought) how he came to hold the most powerful wand in the world. When he snaps it in two (apparently it already was ‘damaged’ from earlier in the movie, again an addition from Yates) and throws it over the bridge, I couldn’t help but think Harry Potter should have said, “I shall cast three spells with the Elder Wand!”
He would take his broken phoenix tail feather and holly wand from its pouch and say, “Reparo!” It’s what happens in the books, and after all, what other wand would Harry use? Were I him I wouldn’t snap the most powerful wand in the world without at least fixing my original wand. It’s reasonable.
And then he would point the Elder Wand at Hogwarts, smashed and destroyed with little piles of artful rubble about it, and say “Reparo!” It’s a chance for the director to make a vast CGI scene as all of Hogwarts repairs itself, and it would have a nice symmetry to the opening scene of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, where Dumbledore repairs the living room that Horace Slughorn is staying in. And it just seemed to make sense, but the director just didn’t seem to think of this.
And then finally, Harry would point the wand at the screen, at the cameraman and the director, and say “Avada Kedavra!“, because let’s face it, the crimes of David Yates for his absolutely embarassing attempts at turning Harry Potter into world-class movies is worthy of the death penalty, if any crime is. Once I had annihilated that man and his marketing team, I’d feel that the world would be safe to snap the Elder Wand in two.