Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J. K. Rowling’s seventh book in a brilliant series, presents an interesting problem. How can you adapt a 759 page final book in a beloved series into one film without the running time putting any of the Lord of the Rings films to shame? Easy, you don’t, you make two films instead. And, really, that was the only way this was going to work in any sort of satisfying way. So much happens, so much is answered and there is so much build up to the inevitable final confrontation that to cram it all into one film would have just been disrespectful to the series as well as the fans. Amazingly, screenwriter Steve Kloves and director David Yates still managed to fit nearly two-thirds of the book into a well paced and seemingly all-too-short 146 minutes.
Obviously, in any film adaptation, things get cut and/or shifted around. However, in this case, the cuts were not too deep. Mostly there was a lot of condensing of scenes that in a book work well to show the slow progression to despair, but in a movie would appear plodding and repetitive. I think anyone that had not read the books would not know at all what they were missing and would definitely be lead along with Harry, Ron and Hermione down the path of hopelessness just fine. The problem is, that a lot of us will be going into this film having read the book first and while my film fan brain can justify and understand why things were condensed, my book fan brain feels that we, the audience, may have been slightly cheated in being shown just how bleak things got for our heroes.
Personally, I felt that could have been explored more on the screen with the ending happening in a more upbeat place as opposed to the extremely bleak ending we got. Yes, I know there is a Part 2, but imagine for a moment if The Empire Strikes Back had ended with Leia watching in despair as a Boba Fett made off with a carbonite-encased Han Solo. I didn’t expect all smiles and puppies with Harry and Co., but perhaps they could have stopped at one of Team Potter’s small wins just to leave you a little hopeful. Then again, hitting bottom will make the ending of the final film all that much sweeter, perhaps.
There is one scene that was cut that I really felt was important and should have remained. It’s a very small scene, but would have bookended the Dursley’s story nicely. Those that have read the book will recall that Dudley actually feels genuine concern for Harry’s well-being and the two part ways with a shaking of the hands. That does not happen here and I thought it was a big mistake to exclude. I know the Dursley’s purpose in the film was to show how horrible Harry’s life outside of Hogwarts was and, to a certain extent, as comedy relief, but to show Dudley’s transformation from the first film was needed, I think. Still, it wasn’t necessary to the story being told in the film, so my film fan brain is at peace with it.
The tone of this seventh film is the darkest of the series and visually it is quite a bit different as well. We spend a great deal of time in real world settings and even when we venture into the wizarding world, the magic, both literally and figuratively, seems muted and ordinary. I think that was a smart move as it emphasizes the moments when magic is used, particularly in the clashes between good and evil. The film is much more adult in nature, keeping up with the main characters entering adulthood, and so magic is no longer shown through the wondrous eyes of a child, but through a much more mature prism. Innocence isn’t just lost here, but left behind in a locked trunk in a corner of a dark and dank basement.
Now begins the long nearly eight month wait for the second and final film. Being one of those that has read the entire book I know of the much darker and more horrible times that are to come for our heroes and their friends and family. Not everyone will make it out alive and there will be much destruction and bloodshed before it is all over. The biggest dread of all, however, is knowing that when the end credits role for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 the franchise will well and truly be forever complete and done. But I will reserve that final closing of the book for July and the review for the conclusion.