Monday, 18 July 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two (dir. David Yates, 2011)

There isn't really very much that's Classical in Harry Pottter 7b - aside from the usual Latin names and spells - but I'm nothing if not a completist so I'm covering it anyway! Spoilers follow.

Harry Potter 7b (thanks to Kermode and Mayo for that nickname) does contain a dragon, so perhaps this is a good time to discuss ancient dragons. Dragons as we imagine them are generally either Eastern (the long ones, especially if they're friendly, like that one that looks like a dog in The Neverending Story) or Norse (the fire-breathing, treasure-hoarding ones). However, the word 'dragon' comes from the Greek drak┼Źn, Latin draco, both of which essentially mean 'large serpent'. In Classical myth, a dragon is long and toothy, more like an Eastern dragon or perhaps a wyrm-type of dragon, but it doesn't really have any special qualities other than size. A dragon guarded the Golden Fleece, but that was more because it had been placed there as a suitably scary monster rather than because dragons had any particular connection with treasure hoarding. Whereas modern pop culture dragons, aside from usually having a heavier shape, tend to have certain qualities - cleverness, a weak spot in a thick hide, a fondness for treasure - ancient dragons really are just big snakes. The dragon in the film is definitely a modern-by-way-of-Norse dragon.

The dragons that pull Medea's chariot as she makes her escape, and the dragon that guarded the Golden Fleece swallowing Jason - as you can see, they're basically just big snakes.

Draco Malfoy's first name, of course, means dragon, but it is also the name of a legendary ruler of Athens who brought in a set of incredibly harsh laws in which the death penalty was laid down for just about everything. These laws were repealed by Solon, except for the murder laws, and it's Draco of Athens that gives us the word 'draconian' for a particularly harsh set of rules. Draco Malfoy is named for the mythological creature - in fact, for the mythological creature in its Classical, big-snake form, given that he's a Slytherin through and through. But I can't help feeling that the most harsh of the ancient law-makers is a pretty suitable connection for him as well!

I really enjoyed the film, and almost everything I wanted to see in it was there. (The exception was the wonderful scene where Professor McGonagall enchants a bunch of school desks to go after the bad guys, which I loved, but I understand why it wasn't included). I was a bit sad to see Draco still refusing to stand up for, well, anything, but I'm very glad the scene with Narcissa and supposedly-dead Harry was kept, which was one of my favourite parts of the book. Mrs Weasley kicked bottom, though I expected her to shout louder! Poor old Fred's death scene got a bit curtailed, which was a shame, and I wanted Neville to kill the snake in front of the whole school, not just Ron and Hermione. And the entire film felt a bit like one big climax with no build-up - since all the build-up was in 7a - which I guess is justified after ten years and eight movies, but does make it feel a bit incomplete. Though we did get to spend almost all the movie in Hogwarts again, which was great.

There were some parts I absolutely loved. Neville and Luna make a great couple. Perhaps my favourite moment of all was Professor McGonagall telling Mrs Weasley that she'd always wanted to do the spell that makes the statues turn into an army. Helena Bonham Carter as Hermione on Polyjuice Potion was completely wonderful and, bizarrely, had better chemistry with Ron, though the kiss in the Chamber of Secrets was nice. Ron yelling 'that's my girlfriend!' like he's secretly been wanting to do for eight movies was good too. Snape's death and the revelation of his memories were great and I cried - I especially loved that they got the shorter wig back for some of the sequences set in the past - though I did wonder how Voldemort thought he could win the wand from Snape if he got a snake to kill him (because he disarmed him I suppose).

The epilogue worked better on the film than it did in the book for me. I think it's because the railway station is such a symbol of the world of Potter, because Harry's offspring is trundling along an identical cart to Harry's and most importantly, because the original John Williams score comes back. The use of the first movie's music all over the end section - with it's more magical, enchanting and especially more upbeat sound! - really brought the story full circle and was the perfect way to demonstrate that all is well in the wizarding world once again. It was like that moment at the end of Revenge of the Sith where the two suns appear on Tattooine and the original score plays and you just want to watch the whole set of movies all over again from the beginning (in Star Wars' case, from No. 4, of course). It's actually the perfect ending for the film and for the series, and I foresee many circular viewings of the films that both start and end with the flawed but magical first film in the future!


  1. By the way, I've added my personal order of preference for books and films to my Harry Potter index page - though these do tend to change every five minutes!

  2. Just saw it last night, and it was pretty good. I'd watch Alan Rickman do a one-man Snape show for two hours straight; he's the main reason I go to see Harry Potter films at all. Well, him and Emma Watson; I think Hermione is really a far more important character than Harry, who, to be honest, is pretty much a dweeb.

    Anyway, we got extra Snape last night, and that's a good thing. Though the makeup was a bit odd -- made him look like a mannequin sometimes.

    And, yes, Helena Bonham Carter was just aces as Hermione! For a minute there, I thought maybe they had just done a bit of a makeup job on Emma Watson -- but, no! The woman is amazing.

    And they say good film music just fades into the background and sets the mood without being noticed -- in which case, I suppose the music did its job, as it was entirely forgettable except for the little touches of John Williams's original score.

  3. Oh, and Maggie Smith, whom I adore. But, damn, she's getting old! I kept thinking they must have had to haul her out of her wheelchair and prop her up for each scene. Ah, well. Probably the last film she'll ever do; going out with a bang, I guess.

  4. I wouldn't write Maggie Smith off yet - Angela Lansbury was still doing films until the noughties!

  5. Well, I hope you're right, but, still, she won't be doing a remake of _The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie_ anytime soon....

  6. I have been a little dubious about this. The Deathly Hallows book, in my opinion, could happily lose a fifth of the length, and not having seen part 1 I'm not sure how it could be cut in half and not lose dramatic tension. I will be going to the cinema to see it, though!

  7. I loved Part 1, which somehow worked better as a film - Part 2 is a bit too much dramatic climax and not enough of anything else, but it works!

  8. We're going tonight. We'd meant to go over the weekend, but we actually forgot it had come out. I'm glad to hear that Neville got his Moment of Awesome, even if it wasn't quite as awesome as it should have been.

    Concerning Draco's name, there is probably one other influence on top of those you mentioned. Given that his mother is a Black, the constellation Draco may have been the direct inspiration for his name. The constellation represents either the dragon who guarded the Golden Fleece, the one who guarded the golden apples of the Hesperides and provided the poison for Herakles' arrows, or the dragon killed by Cadmus. Take your pick.

  9. Part 2 definitely works... as Part 2. As a stand-alone movie it doesn't work (whereas Part 1 did)

    I had a blast! Cried, laughed and sat on the edge of my seat throughout it. So sad it's over!!!

    (still wished we could have gotten more of Dumbledore's story though, no point in calling the film Deathly Hallows when they barely mention the damn things)

  10. I can live without Dumbledore's story, I wasn't really sure how I felt about that anyway and Snape's is more important. Wish there'd been time for more Snape!

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