Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

PG-13 for strong fictional language, toothy goblins, palpable on-screen chemistry between actors who aren’t supposed to be romantically involved

 

When you add it all up – the critical acclaim, the box office records, the pop culture ubiquity – I think we can all agree that the Harry Potter film franchise has failed miserably. So here’s my fix, in four easy steps:

1. Cut the minor characters.

Try to imagine how the 8th film must look to someone who hasn’t read the books.

UNFAMILIAR ACTOR: Remember so-and-so, from back around the third movie?
HARRY POTTER: Uh… maybe.
UNFAMILIAR ACTOR: I don’t know how to tell you this, but… he’s dead.
HARRY POTTER: That’s… so sad?

The seven novels totaled thousands of pages, which left ample room for detours and sidekicks. Onscreen, though, these characters congeal into an amorphous crowd of interchangeable British people. Lupin may be dead, and in the book that’s tragic, but in the film I couldn’t pick him out of a lineup stacked with house elves. Don’t try to make me weep for a character you forgot to develop.

2. Make Ron funny.

While slavish text-loyalists may leap to the defense of this irredeemable character, I say cut the crap. Ron is worthless. He whines, he fumes, he acts out, and he’s bad at everything. Usually, you’d give a character like this a sense of humor, but unfortunately J.K. Rowling outsourced that function to Ron’s twin brothers. If you started with the archetypal “best friend” character, and sucked out all the good parts, the oozing residue would be called Ron Weasley. So here’s what you do: cut the twins, give Ron their sense of humor, and then, instead of killing off a bunch of forgettable sidekicks in the final battle, have Ron die heroically, clearing the path for my third suggestion.

3. Have Harry and Hermione get together.

When you cast a bunch of 11-year-olds to shoulder your multi-billion-dollar franchise for the next decade, you’re lucky to get two actors as talented as Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson. The filmmakers seemed to realize this, and over the years, wedged the two of them into scene after scene together, consigning Rupert Grint to the margins, where he posed a minimal threat to himself and others. If you’re just watching the movies, then every instinct will tell you that Watson and Radcliffe should get together. But no: according to the time-lapse epilogue, the prettiest girl in school picks the unfunny redhead over the savior of humanity, while the savior goes for the redhead’s forgettable little sister.

4. Focus half of the final film not on Harry Potter, but on the heir to the franchise: Neville Longbottom, Snake-Slaying Action Hero.

This one, at least, they got right.

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4 thoughts on “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

  1. “palpable on-screen chemistry between actors who aren’t supposed to be romantically involved”… surely you mean Draco Malfoy and Voldemort? because that was the least awkward hug I’ve ever seen.

  2. Okay you knew when you wrote about HP I had to respond. There are a couple things to clear up here because clearly you haven’t read these books as many times I have (I mean come on I only read them I’d guess an average of 13 times each. How hard is that?)

    So to respond to each of your points in turn:

    1) I agree with you in principle. You can cut characters. Although I would argue that Lupin and Sirius (who you might also apply this to). But the fact is that Lupin somewhat developed. Not completely but a bit. Maybe not enough the amount of screen play he got in the 8th. Now Tonks, she is barely touched before this (especially their relationship). They didn’t even include Teddy. That’s how undeveloped that story line was.

    2) You made a list of a lot things about Ron: “Ron is worthless. He whines, he fumes, he acts out, and he’s bad at everything.” But you forgot the most important thing about him as a best friend: In the end he is 100% loyal to you and would die for you. Ron may run out on Harry and get upset with Harry but in the end, he would do anything for Harry. That’s what a best friend is. Now it’s true that doesn’t come out quite that well in the movies but still.

    3) I won’t even go into the millions of things that you missed in the books on this one. But I will throw two out there: First, in the books, Ginny is basically the most attractive girl in the whole school. So calling her forgettable is kind of a problem there. Second, Ginny is the most powerful witch/wizard in their generation (Dumbledore and Voldemort probably surpass her) but of the characters in their generation mentioned in the book, she is the most powerful. Again, hardly forgettable.

    4) Truth, although I think they could have even pushed it a little farther with Neville.

    Boom.

  3. @Jackie: Great call – although, like Dobby’s attraction to Harry, Voldemort’s attraction to Malfoy seems to be unrequited.

    @Geoff: Beautiful input. Thank you. I think we agree on Lupin: he was well-employed in #3, but didn’t deserve his screen time in #8.

    I recognize that Ron is loyal in the end, even if you’ve got to put up with the petty tantrums along the way. But as you said, while this works somehow in the book, Grint lacks the charisma to pull it off in the films. (I’m not arguing the books should be changed in anyway, just that the film producers should’ve had the chutzpah to make some changes.)

    Also, it’s true that in the books, Ginny is a knockout, and Hermione and Ron have a where-there’s-sparks-there’s-fire thing going on. I don’t doubt that. The problem is that – phrasing this as carefully as I can – Ginny ain’t a knockout in the films, at least not the way Emma Watson is. The character can’t ride on her good looks when the actress is getting outshone by the actress eight feet over.

    EDIT: Taryn has filled me in that Ginny is, in fact, super-powerful. Point taken… in the books. In the movies she remains forgettable.

  4. Geoffreybach has some good points, but seems to be forgetting that this is about making the movies better, not just about what problems the stories have. In the books, minor characters matter, Ron is awesome, Harry and Ginny have tons of chemistry and Neville is a hero.

    In the movies, it’s definitely true that some minor characters get lost and that Harry and Ginny have zero chemistry. He clearly should have ended up with Cho Chang in the movie world, since that actress who played Ginny was so disappointing.

    Ben, you’re totally wrong about Ron though. Rupert Grint forever!

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