Monday, July 25, 2011

The End of an Era: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

"So, yall seen the new Harry Potter yet?" asked an older gentleman at the table next to us as we sat in our comfortable dining area, eating our breakfast and reading our books.

He looks like his brother
in this picture
"Nope, not yet," I said for the fourth time since Friday morning. Fortunately the gentleman didn't elaborate on any particular details, and since I'd read the book, it was nothing new to me anyway. However, I was no less peeved. Here I was, sitting in the last possible nerdy place (a bed and breakfast in Rockport, Texas) enjoying breakfast before hitting the beach, reading a novel I hadn't had time for in two weeks and not seeing Harry Potter. Despite all of the un-nerdiness going on around me--the sun, the serf, the gorgeous wedding we attended on the biggest opening day in cinema history--I was in fact keenly aware that I had missed my first Harry Potter opening day for the first time since Prisoner of Azkaban, where we all dressed up in our house colors and paraded down to the end of the line at the movie theater in true nerdy fashion. Also, I am no less forgiving of myself for missing the first night of the beginning of the end of an era: not just a Harry Potter, the last Harry Potter. 

My Harry Potter history is somewhat piece-meal. I did not at first latch onto the bespectacled boy wonder. I was not a child when the first novel appeared in 2001. I was sixteen, and to my reckoning, already well-read enough to know an over-hyped mainstream feeding frenzy when I saw it. I was reading Salvatore, Peake, Atwater-Rhodes, Austen and Saberhagen at a time when people started leaping for joy at the name J.K. Rowling. "What other fantasy novels had she written?" I asked, "Oh so this is her first one? Well then it can't be that good."

How wrong I turned out to be. My ex-boyfriend decided that we should sit down and watch The Sorcerer's Stone. I was hooked from the first moment my outraged eyes fell on poor little Harry, locked in a stair case, treated in ways that should have gotten his aunt and uncle arrested and poor Harry placed in foster care had anyone dared to do anything about it. I was so pleased to see Hagrid and Dumbledore prepare Harry for the wonderful school he was about to attend. For days afterward I made up little stories in  my head about my first trip to Hogwarts. I was a fanatic from then on, but still refused to read the books. Then a little diddy called The Order of the Phoenix hit theaters, and its ending so riled my sense of self-righteous (some might even say spoiled rotten) need for fulfillment, that I grandiosely declared an end to my Harry Potter boycott after my boyfriend, now husband, said, "Why don't you just read the books?"

Well, all of this fell in the category of What Not To Do When You Should Be Reading Shakespeare. Thanks to Harry's adventures, I made a C in my Shakespeare class...or maybe that was my own fault...oh well. The Half-Blood Prince, despite being number six, was my first foray into Rowling's written words. The point is that by the time The Deathly Hollows came out I was in full Potter swing, if a little belatedly. As I said, we went to every single opening night for the movies since Prisoner of Azkaban. News about The Half Blood Prince was like a song to my ears. I don't think a movie franchise has ever drawn as many tears out of me as Harry Potter. I am proud to say that I am a Potter fan.

And now, my real treatise begins...

The End of The World...of Harry Potter 

The Deathly Hallows part 2 is the end of an era. For the people of my generation, and several after it, and a bunch before it, Harry Potter isn't a character, even a legend, but a household name. I'm not sure there isn't anyone alive who has not at least heard of Harry Potter and his friends, perhaps sampled some of his adventures on cable television. My Young Adult Fiction class was proof of this world-wide fanaticism, especially when my professor had to remind us to stick to the story we were working on for the benefit of the few people in the class who were not familiar enough with it to keep up with our deep speculation. I have discussed Harry Potter in more than one college survey course and at the age of 26 feel as though my college education would have been grossly lacking if we had not had a few Harry Potter popular culture projects in my professor/boss's American Literature class.

Will There Ever Be Another Harry Potter?

Though I am hardly one of them, I feel certain that the close of the Potter franchise is like closing the final page in the book of childhood, especially for those who picked up the books as kids. Looking back on the rest of the movies would only remind me of what it is we're going to lack in the coming summer movie blow-outs. For seven years, we've had a Harry Potter to look forward to every summer (sometimes winter depending on the mood of the industry). What do we have now? Spiderman? Okay, my bad. Spiderman rocks. What else then? Who else will take the lead as the first name in blockbuster franchises? After The Dark Knight Rises, even Christopher Nolan will be backing out. I speculated last week that my generation may never know a franchise as earth-shaking as the Potter films. The generation before ours had Star Wars, something no one thought they would ever see again (the first three "prequel" films we don't speak of here). Even Lord of the Rings, fabulous though that franchise was, still has The Hobbit to look forward to, even if it still is only in the casting stages. In light of what we have lost in Harry Potter, I feel like this is a great time to start looking at other amazing novel series in the world. If I had to have my top picks for Hollywood to choose from, I'd probably start with The Chronicles of Prydain, Disney's old territory that could be reclaimed for the future. I also think the Hyperion series from Dan Simmons would liven things up. Raymond E. Feist is another great fantasy author. If anything, people would turn out in the masses for an Elric  movie. My only worry is finding someone who could do it right. Mmmmm, Elric movie...

The Best of Deathly Hallows part 2

Everyone has seen the film and read the reviews. Another stuffy movie review does no one any good, so we'll just take The Deathly Hallows parte segundo apart in order of things that I found incredibly cool.

Gary, if you're reading this, I'm your biggest fan!
Okay, done being a fangirl.
1) I loved seeing Gary Oldman again. Oldman is one of my favorite actors of all time. He is versatile and talented. I think that the Fantasy and Horror genre films suit him very well. I've seen Oldman's characters in the forms of unthanked kindness and unabashed cruelty. Serius Black was fabulously wrought. I always imagined that's what Francis Ford Coppola really had in mind for the appearance of his Dracula, or at least for Saberhagen's Dracula. We probably owe Rowling a bit of credit for writing him in the first place, but Oldman brought him to life, and I think my favorite part of the movie was seeing all of Harry's loved ones united, even in death. Gary Oldman had two whole lines (which is more than Harry's father got, really), but he made those two lines mean so very much. Props to Gary Oldman again! Can't wait to see you in The Dark Knight Rises!

2) Voldemort's make-up went under a serious transformation, or at least I thought it did. Remember when we saw Goblet of Fire, and we all saw Ralph Feines for the first time as Voldemort? It was not pretty, but he was recognizable.
Pretty snakey, but recognizable. And you could hear him pretty well too.

As the movies progressed, I felt as though Voldemort's make-up went the way of Batman's suit, more of a hindrance to the actor than any kind of help. In the scene in Deathly Hallows where he begins his attack, auspiciousness with the word, "Begin" (doing some kind of cool thing with his tongue), that one word giving the order for the real fight to begin is almost lost in the nasily way he sounded, as if he were pinching his nose. Of course, he had no nose to speak of. Hard to be understandable, but I don't think it should have been that bad. How could the man breath?
Not pretty.

Several people I worked with had no idea until they looked it up that Voldemort was Ralph Feines. Poor Ralph. Still, he was bad-ass in that hideous make-up, and I had no idea Voldemort had such a sense of least a little.
For good measure. Back when the make-up was good. Voldemort was seriously gross and seriously bad.
3) Its amazing how quickly the second movie seemed to progress compared to the first. Of course the book was like that as well. The search for the first Horcrux took two months, while the rest of the story took place over the course of a few days. The second movie was, therefore, slightly less irritating than the first, though I think seeing that pudge on Ron at the end of the film was hilarious. He looked just like his father...

Snape in Deathly Hallows. Youth is fleeting
when you're a double agent.
Allan, if you're reading this, I'm one
of your biggest fans! Okay,
done now.
4) I think Allan Rickman is not that pasty and pudgy. To be sure he has become fat on his own power by the second Deathly Hallows, but you can also see, by the end of the film, how his youth has been robbed from him, no less than Harry's. If what we see in his memories are true, then I have reason to believe that not only did Rickman put on weight for his current Snape but also lost it in order to give the impression that he was younger in some of the scenes. Age seems irrelevant to the character of Snape. I was unhappy, once again, at the fate he recieved. Had he betrayed the Dark Lord, had he been a less faithful servant, at the cost of his own soul and the blood on his hands, I think Voldemort might have had more reason to kill him. As it was, the  Elder wand never belonged to Snape, and his death, like so many others laid at the Dark Lord's door, was undeserved. No one will dispute that.

I believe, also, that despite all that Harry suffered at Snape's hand, he was there with him in the end, the way Snape could not have been for his mother. Despite all that Harry knew about him, what he learned about him prompted Harry to see Snape in a different light, as the father he always might have wanted--though Snape seemed always to be in favor of Draco (and Harry's relationship to Serius was so short lived)--and even give his youngest son the middle name of Severus. Conversley, I believe that though Snape always seemed to be Draco Malfoy's protector, his mentor, Draco never needed another father figure. Harry, however it might have left a bad taste in Severus's mouth, was the son he never had. The line he uttered at his death, "You have your mother's eyes," sums it up pretty well. Though he was always connected to the Malfoy family, his real love was always Harry's mother. His hatred for Harry stemmed from the love and friendship he shared with Lilly Evans (later Lilly Potter). His hatred for James Potter was passed onto the son, but no matter what Harry did, Snape could never hate him enough to kill him, nor blame him for what happened to his mother. Always was the Dark Lord to blame. Deep down, I believe Severus knew that, and at his death, he and Harry were both able to accept that they were connected on a deeper level than Harry suspected.

Severus Snape has been one of my favorite characters for a long time. He was always a villain, even if it could never be proven, and he was always a hero, even if it never showed. Every day of his life, Severus Snape walked that gray line between good and evil, and I think we owe J.K. Rowling a big huge "thank you" for writing one of the most loved and hated characters of popular fiction.

The End is the End

Thus ends my treatise on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2. I'm going to miss seeing a Potter film every year. I'm going to miss watching those guys growing up (though I think they've been rather grown up for some time now). As we move on through life searching for the next thing to look forward to, what were your favorite memories of Harry Potter days gone by and which characters are you going to miss?


  1. "I'm not sure there isn't anyone alive who has not at least heard of Harry Potter and his friends..."

    There have to be some people sufficiently detached from the Western cultural machine and milieu out there somewhere. I'd hate to think we've managed to become that pervasive.

    "In light of what we have lost in Harry Potter, I feel like this is a great time to start looking at other amazing novel series in the world."

    I live in hope that the current trend in which (almost) all good films are adaptations from other media and (most) film-original narratives are dreck might actually end at some point in my lifetime. Film has always been an adaptive medium but I feel it's always been at its best when it isn't.

  2. Hmm, you bring up an excellent point. Sometimes the medium is too heavy. I was reading after this post what a disaster an Elric movie would be. My imagination, however, enjoys the film media especially when the means to create exciting sequences that were heretofore unfeasible are now available. I think such movies as Star Wars and televisions shows as Star Trek were ahead of their time, which is why we're seeing so many reboots with better graphics.

    I share your view of the medium when it refers to novels being made into films. I suppose a game I play with myself involves who might play who in the cast of characters from my favorite novels. Like I kind of always imagined Heath Ledger would play Hawkmoon (but I guess that's out). However, when all we have left to make films from are other people's ideas, we definitely have a problem. Films like Inception are fabulous examples of what the film industry is capable of without leaning on novels for content. If the current film trend toward comic book films is any indication of what we have left to look forward to, though, I'm really worried, since Thor was an absolute bust, as well as the original Spiderman and the last three X-Men movies. I could go on, too (Green Lantern), but won't.

    But with something like Harry Potter, I do make an exception. I truly do feel like the industry will never be the same again. Perhaps that is part of my self-fulfilling fantasy, that one day we may enjoy our childhood heroes in the flesh. I just hope we don't come to use novels as a crutch in place of real creativity within the medium.

  3. Oh, and to address the idea that every single living organism on Earth has not heard of Harry Potter, perhaps that is a little arrogant to think that western culture is so pervasive that the Potter name is on the lips and in the hearts of all human beings. However, I think we might be a little deceived if we ignore the draw western culture has to other cultures (except the Japanese; they don't need us). I was having a conversation with a friend of mine from Mexico who enjoys listening to a Brazilian station on XM raido, but is tired of hearing the exact same music on their radio stations as we do here. I suggested he take a less...popular approach, like listening to NPR (National Public Radio) for regional music that is closer to the traditional styles of the culture in question (in this case Brazil, in my case usually Japan).

    The point is that western culture is pervasive, but perhaps not so much that we, like our imperial ancestors, are assimilating other cultures into ours. That, indeed, would be the saddest day in history.