Horcrux!? What Did You Just Call Me? By Richard Crouse

Harry-Potter-and-the-Deathly-Hallows-Part-2-Early-ReviewsWhen Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One opened last year I said the movies, “are a closed club, really for fans only.” I have always felt the films worked best as an addendum to the books; a big screen visualization of J.K. Rowling’s words for Potterphiles who already understood why Harry would have to collect all the Horcruxes before doing battle with “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.”

The movies have been extraordinarily successful—to date, not counting the Deathly Hallows Part 2, or 7B as Potterheads call it, the franchise has raked in more than six billion dollars—and have inspired many spinoff products including video games, replicas of Harry’s wand (complete with light and sound!) and even bootleg books with names like Harry Potter and the Leopard Walk-Up-To Dragon. You know you’ve hit it big when the Chinese are writing unauthorized versions of your books.

But for all their popularity the movies have frequently left me feeling like a Quidditch player with no balls. In other words, an outsider. They are big handsome pictures that leave the faithful swooning but for the uninitiated viewer who plunks down their admission they could be an occasionally frustrating experience. If there is such a thing as being too faithful, I think Potter’s producers are guilty of it.

Generally Hollywood’s inclination is to treat books and movies as two completely separate things with only a passing resemblance to one another.

For instance, The Secret Garden, starring Potter actor Maggie Smith, changed so many details from the Frances Hodgson Burnett novel—among other things the main character loses her parents to an earth-quake instead of cholera and the secret garden was hardly a secret—that the only thing the two had in common was the title.

Some accuse Hollywood of ruining books, but authors like Raymond Chandler are philosophical about it. When asked if he worried about the movies sullying his books, The Big Sleep author replied, “They’re not ruined. They’re right there on the shelf.”

No one will accuse the Potter filmmakers of being disrespectful to the books, but I would suggest that perhaps they may have been a bit too precious with them. The determination to cram as many of the details from the books into the films led to some uneven moments and while the movies kept most of the British Equity actors employed for the better part of ten years, it was occasionally puzzling as to why an actor of Alan Rickman’s stature would bother with the dye job to show up and utter two lines.

Having said all that the latest film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two still contains enough Potter-parlance to boggle the muggle mind, but for the first time the insider chat doesn’t get in the way. This go around the Sword of Gryffindor and the like are McGuffins, things that propel the story but in the end aren’t as important as the underlying themes of friendship and good versus evil.

The movie deals with large questions of life and death, examines what goes on in the souls of men (and evil lords) all wrapped up in the comforting Potterverse. It has been a long strange journey with its own set of rules, internal logic and kooky creatures but the Potter cinema saga ends with dignity and without cutting corners or excluding muggles who haven’t read the books.


imagesThe opening line of “Harry Potter 7.5,” the second to last in the series, is “These are dark times we are living in.” Intoned with great gravitas by the Minister of Magic (Bill Nighy) it foreshadows the tone of the movie which includes a people eating snake, Ron going all “Death Wish” on some bad guys and the slithery presence of the one whose name we dare not speak.

This time out Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint), the ginger haired point of the Potter trident, continue their battle with Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and his evil band of minions, snatchers and Death Eaters. They must locate and destroy the Horcruxes which contains a fragment of a wizard’s soul, battle the fascistic Ministry of Magic and confirm the existence of the three most powerful artifacts of the wizarding world: the Deathly Hallows.

Like all the Potter movies, this one will appeal to the fans of the books but likely leave anyone who hasn’t read the books as unsatisfied as a Dementor in a soul to suck. If you haven’t been keeping up with the exploits of the boy wizard do yourself a favour and google “Horcrux” and “mudblood” before laying down your twelve bucks. Otherwise get ready for a head scratching experience. The movies are good linear adaptations of JK Rowling’s books, and are filled with moments that will resonate with Potter fans but they do not cater to non-Potterheads.

Like the other movies this one is a big handsome beast, almost 2 ½ hours long, with high production value—it echoes everything from Charles Dickens to Triumph of the Will to the Wizard of Oz—and good performances from every English actor currently employed by British Actors’ Equity. But as nice as the movies look—this one has a spectacular animated sequence telling the story of the Deathly Hallows—and as well intentioned as they are, they are a closed club, really for fans only. That’s OK, because there are millions of fans out there, but they leave me a little cold.

I get the appeal of the films. They’re a clever mix of the worldly—friendship, intrigue, good vs. evil—and the otherworldly—everything else—with some action and amiable characters thrown in, but for me the Potter magic wore off some time ago.