Critic Vs. Critic: Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows (2010 & 2011) [2/2]
Since the start of The Critic’s Word, we have prided ourselves with the notion that we present to our readers with critiques built on high standards with quality writing, presenting only honesty and an unbiased moral high ground. Though because we support freedom of speech among our writers, there’s always going to be a spin zone due to difference of opinions, and from time to time one or more critics here will voice their opinion in a completely different direction of the others. So in the sprite of outspoken voices we at The Critic’s Word would like to present a new exciting edition of Critic Vs. Critic!
Tonight The Critic’s Word Editor in Chief and Chief Film critic Clifford Kiyabu sits down with fellow film critic, columnist and colleague Kelsey Zukowski. In this edition of Critic Vs. Critic: we talk about Warner Bros. Pictures’ final installment to the Harry Potter series Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I & II Written by Steve Kloves (screenplay), and J.K. Rowling (novel). And Directed by David Yates.
Kelsey: I just got back from re-watching The Deathly Hallows Part II again. It was a different experience, but if anything it was even more interesting, knowing these characters better and going back to watch everything they did prior to the revelations. I feel like I really know them now and it’s refreshing and tremendous to hold these truths and to realize their full meaning. Upon writing this review, I decided to put in The Prisoner of Azkaban to continue that magical, uplifting high that Harry Potter gives you no matter how dark the particular film is. Once again, I have to disagree with you on the transition from the first two films to this one. It pushes the films forward, hinting at the darker material that the series is headed for, but I don’t think it is too big of a switch. It’s so quirky, colorful, and full of character, much like the first two.
Watching The Prisoner of Azkaban as I type this I can’t help but thinking how reflective it is on the Potter series as a whole, quite possibly more than any other film. Once again I am with you on Gambon not living up to Harris’ calm, patient, and wise performance as Dumbledore. It took me a film or two to get used to Gambon, but honestly now I don’t even think about the difference. In time he became Dumbledore. More importantly in Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry really defines himself, Ron and Hermione’s strengths and personalities we quickly fell in love with are even more dynamic. So much character is given to not just Hogwarts, but the entire magical world just aside of the Muggle’s world reach, with such celebration. There are darker things at work, but compared to those that follow it’s actually somewhat tame. As you said Sirius ends up being family rather than the threat he is thought to be. The death eaters are the biggest threat rather than Voldemort himself for once. Let’s not forget how the dementors are beaten and Harry is saved in the end.
Sirius Black and Severus Snape are two of the series’ most compelling characters. Neither are at all what they seem to be, carrying so many heavy secrets that truly define them to those that know their true nature. Thinking about their relationship to Harry, makes their characters all the more interesting. Both Gary Oldman and Alan Rickman to an astounding job of bringing such truth to their characters, all of the very complicated dynamics. The best and worst in them are equally convincing, making us question the true nature of them, and finally once it is uncovered, what we see of them is actually quite moving. Draco Malfoy is another very interesting character. Even between Prisoner of Azkaban and Deathly Hallows he has changed so much, he’s barely the same character. He used to be hateful and antagonistic, and even now feels a need to keep up appearances, but even in the last few films the difference was clear. He was wavering from what was expected. So to say his “allegiance has changed”. The growth is remarkable and Tom Felton is another who was able to show how dynamic his character is over time.
I do agree that Harry Potter is the Star Wars of our generation. Science-fiction movies aren’t my favorite films, so I never got in to the series, but I can view the similarities in the epic nature, complex relationships, and just how mind blowing it is to audiences experiencing it for the first time. Harry Potter is the same way. Every film, but especially The Deathly Hallows Part II, is such an amazing theater experience; uplifting, powerful, and really feels like something out of this world. It takes us out of our daily lives and takes us to the magical world where hope, belief, and persistence in fighting evil is the most powerful weapon; a better place than we live in. We grew up with these films, but there’s so much more there than just nostalgia.
I really liked the ending of Deathly Hallows Part II. It was the perfect ending and we were given even further closure on the series being tied up with seeing the characters 19 years later. Honestly, I think they would have been better off using actors that resembled the main cast rather than having them portray the older versions of themselves. A few of them looked like they had aged a little, but none of them were really that believable in the age they were meant to be. Ginny still looked like she was about 14, not much older than her children were supposed to be. It was easy enough to look past though and enjoy the cycle of Potters, Weasleys, and Malfoys continuing their journey through Hogwarts. It seemed fitting for it to end in a full circle from when we first joined the characters upon their acceptance to Hogwarts, their lives never being the same again once they met.
Clifford: I couldn’t agree more with you on the notion of a second viewing being inaudibly different. I myself have yet to view it for a second time, but feel as you do about it in a manner of speaking. Any fan that’s seen the final film for the first time will no doubt feel a heavy sense of sadness; surrealism will rain over them, because knowing that once the curtain is called it will be for the last time. There simply won’t be another epic journey like it in the world of Harry Potter. As the poster reads; “It All Ends”. Which, I think only draws more anxiety within the fans as they know the end truly is nigh. And well, that’s precisely what happens, so for anyone who’s stuck by the series as loyally as you have, I and the hordes of fans have, there will no doubt be a great deal of conflicting emotions running through us that only a fan of the series could possibly comprehend. I also can understand and respect your love for the third film, Prisoner of Azkaban, because it is as you’ve said a nudge in the right direction in terms of tone. Though I still retain my stance about the film despite this debate. Though I will say this, I have only ever seen the theatrical cut to all the films, and have yet to dive into the extended cuts that were recently released, and even though I own all but the ultimate editions of The Deathly Hallows Part I and II, I’ve vowed to not watch any of them until I’ve completed my collection, so I feel obligated to retain myself from any further talk of Prisoner of Azkaban until I’ve had a better understanding with the film by watching the extended cut. So until then our little conversation on the matter will no doubt be put on hold for a later date. And who knows how I’ll feel towards that film after my viewing of it, perhaps even a slight chance of coming out with a slightly more positive view towards the film.
And yes I agree, Draco Malfoy has probably gone through the biggest transformation over the course of the films than anyone else. When we first come across him in The Sorcerer’s Stone, he was a pack leader among the first year students in the house Slytherin and quickly becomes one of Harry’s adversaries. This is further developed into something much more around the time of Chamber of Secrets, it left us wanting to see these two lock heads in battle one day. But by the time Prisoner of Azkaban came around he became more of a simple bully trying to prove he was better. But over the course of the other films that followed we see him change so dramatically to someone we barely recognize. The biggest change in the character came around Half Blood Prince where he is noticeably conflicted emotionally to the point that we see it surface on his complexion, his character carried a dreary gloom on his shoulder that was clearly heavy. But this also goes for many of the other characters too, as much of them displayed a clear sign of feeling the drain the 7 years bestowed upon them, the misery, the loss of allies and friends, the tough decisions set before them and ultimately, the overbearing sense that hope was lost looming over them. And with Draco one could go a bit further and argue that this showed that he was indeed fighting a war within himself. The growth of this character is indeed quite remarkable and Tom Felton is mostly responsible for this fantastic transition through his delivery as Draco. Mark my words, Felton is going places after everything is said and done with this series.
All and all, looking back at all the Potter films as a whole, it really was the “perfect” series that came to an almost perfect end. In most cases, a film adaptation never truly lives up to the source material that it’s based off of, but in such a rare case as this, the films really did carry a unique flavor of it’s own that can’t really be compared to it’s literary counterpart. I think you and I will agree here that the book to any franchise will always rain superior over it’s inferior cinematic companion, but for the Potter series, the films and books will rain as equals in their own right as they each stand proudly on their own.
Kelsey: The “It All Ends” tagline on the poster really was completely fitting. The series is coming to an end, everything we have seen before leading to this last epic battle that will determine everything. Even more so though, Harry Potter’s life could very well be coming to an end; “the boy who lived” and the boy so many fans have lived through in experiencing every Harry Potter adventure. The magical and muggle worlds could be coming to an end if Potter’s blood is spilled. If this happens the muggle world would surely be shattered in the flick of a wand. If the magical world still existed it would exist in such a pitiful, domineering way full of slaughtering and cruelty. Either way it is all ending with this film, the only question is what kind of world we will be left remembering.
You make a good point about not only Draco but all of the characters in the series. They have all been touched by death, either nearly escaping it or losing loved ones to it. In this case it’s more than death, Voldemort and all he represents is more vindictive, torturous, and obliterating than death. We really can’t even comprehend what characters such as Neville are going through, looking in to the face of pure darkness, the coming of all hope lost, and essentially spitting in its face yet doing it with such dignity. He refuses to give up, as do nearly all of the characters. Their faith goes beyond Harry, proving this at the end. No matter what happens and no matter how grim their chances seem they have to fight against the darkness when light radiates through them.
The books are the original source material. They are what created everything we have come to love about Harry Potter. There is more detail, depth, and understanding in the books, but the films have achieved a rare feat in bringing such life to them, which is rarely done in adaptations. Films seldom get better with sequels, but Harry Potter only got deeper in to the things, more mature and dark, complex and thematically showing the line between the light and darkness. It ended up developing in to something so all-encompassing and astonishing that it’s completely beautiful and powerful. Seeing things that have been in the works for so long and only now truly understanding them makes the entire series seem much more important and awe inspiring. There are so many layers there and every single one of them is a little piece of the magic behind Harry Potter.
And that concludes this edition of Critic Vs. Critic with myself and Kelsey! While Kelsey and I generally had positive things to say about the series in general and greatly appreciated the final installment, we obviously had our differences on certain aspects of the series, most notably the third installment, Prisoner of Azkaban, which she adored as one of her favorite films in the series as where I did not. Like Yin and Yang, the past C vs. C’s have shown that we’ve rarely agreed on things in Co-reviews but still hold a respect for the other’s opinion, but on such a rare case as this one, Kelsey and myself stand almost completely in agreement that the final installment to the HP films was the best in the series and served as the perfect send off to one of the most important series’ of our generation.
However despite what you’ve read here between us it’s still up to you, the reader, to decide if you agree or disagree with any of the opinions laid out here, and if you’re still not sure then by all means I implore you to take the leap of faith and find out for yourself. I want to thanks Kelsey Zukowski for taking the time to sit down and have this little chit-chat about one of the most iconic franchises to come out of the film industry within the lat 10 years. We invite you to join Kelsey and I again as we debate it out like maniacs in the next edition of CRITIC VS. CRITIC! Coming Soon.