Mischief Managed, by Rudie Obias
It’s over! The Harry Potter series of books and movies has captured the imagination of young adults from around the world for more than a decade. The last film in the series was split into two parts in order to- in my opinion- milk more money from this cash cow and to placate the many fans of the series. I feel that this last film could have been one long 3 and a half hour movie, but the fans were happy. For some context, I was deeply opposed to this practice, stating Part 1 generally doesn’t work as a movie. It ends like there should be another scene after the ending. There was no payoff or catharsis for the characters or as a movie. In Part 2, it suffers from the same thing, but only in the beginning.
My main problem with all the Harry Potter movies is that they are never elevated to a truly cinematic experience. What works perfectly well in a book doesn’t always translate to the big screen. Most of the time viewers feel like they are being told a story rather than being shown a story. In a book, a reader uses their imagination to guide them through the unknown. In a movie, the viewer must be shown this and should leave with wonder. It’s a hard line to walk; should a filmmaker elevate the material to a cinematic level and risk alienating the core fans by straying away or should they just follow the books? Many of the Harry Potter movies follow the latter.
This lack of the cinematic language can be felt when a certain character’s redemption and payoff falls flat, because it is told entirely as a flashback or a glimpse into the past. We see this character’s life, motivations, and reasoning in a long segment that really bridges acts two and three. During this sequence, an audience is told why this character was doing what they’re doing over the course of eight movies rather than shown. But then when it is shown, it’s shown in flashback, robbing the audience of the emotional consequences. Overall, looking at Part 2 as a whole, this sequence doesn’t payoff in a satisfactory way. A sequence like this is decidedly literary, not cinematic.
But where the film really finds its cinematic footing is in the third act battle sequence. We get the final showdown between good and evil, Harry Potter vs. Lord Voldemort; a scene built up over the last eight movies. We got a small taste in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, but here we get the payoff. Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort is magnificent, sneering and snarling his way through the movie. You get a sense of the joy Fiennes feels as he plays this most evil character. But at the end of the day, most of the action is surprisingly anticlimactic. Again, this is the symptom of most of the bigger problems with the Harry Potter series of movies, the payoff is not satisfying. At least, not as satisfying as it should be. It seems as though the only way to truly be fulfilled by this film series is to read the books, which serve as a sort of Cliff’s Notes for the films. This is great for fans, but it is frustrating for general audiences and the uninitiated.
The Harry Potter series started in 2001 with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and has been running for 10 years. In that time, we’ve seen Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint grow up before our eyes. There are moments in this movie that call back the first film. Looking back on the career of these three is completely satisfying. We have seen them hone their craft to become really solid actors and I’m sure the Harry Potter series will be a small part of their careers to come. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is not a perfect movie. In relation to the series, I’m sure hardcore and casual fans will enjoy it but, ultimately, the real magic is in the books and our imaginations.