St. Cecilia of Slytherin (My review of the DH 2 movie)

So I saw DH2 the other night in a midnight showing, at the Boston Common theater. The Boston Globe was there covering the event, as there were thousands of people there, many in costume, myself included. I had decided to wear my Slytherin tie.
Now, those of you who have known me for a while know I’ve identified as a Ravenclaw for years and years. Heck, my LJ default icon even says it. Haha! Even the name “Ravenna” is a reference to it! But?
But. I have to ask myself, if I’m such a Ravenclaw, why do I even OWN a green and silver tie? I picked it up second-hand for $1 and at the time I thought someone else might want it someday. But I wore it.
A Boston Globe reporter came up to me. “And which character are you?” she chirped.
“I’m just a generic Slytherin,” I answered. “In fact, I’m coming out as a Slytherin today.”
“You are?” She looked surprised. “But aren’t the Slytherins the bad guys that everyone hates?”
“Yes,” I said. “The Slytherins are the New York Yankees of the wizarding world. Everyone hates them because they’re the best.”
So here you have it, my coming out photo, which appeared on the front page of Boston.com the next morning!

I had no idea why the photographer who was taking the shot for the paper asked me to move a little to the side. Apparently it was to capture the light streaks behind me to make what Francie called “St. Cecilia of Slytherin.”
A little while later, I tweeted: It all ends tonight! I used to be a ravenclaw. Technically I’m a Slytherclaw. But JK Rowling you are done kicking Slytherin around!! Green & silver REPRESENT!
As is my fate in life, I can never fit into a single box. Life of a bisexual, half-blood (in the Muggle sense), switch with gender identification issues. Heh.
Anyway, this meant I had a great time even before the movie started. There were people there dressed as Nagini, as the Golden Snitch with “I open at the close” painted on their skin, some Rita Skeeters, some Trelawneys, and lots and lots and lots of Hogwarts students. Mostly Gryffindor, of course, but plenty of the other three houses as well. And lots and lots of Quidditch players! I mean real actual Quidditch teams from the local colleges who came in their uniforms (T-shirts mostly) carrying their brooms!
And then came the movie. My review follows. Stop reading now if you don’t want any spoilers.


First off, I loved it. Not as much as I loved movie 6, but as a Draco fan, of course I loved movie 6 the most. But this film does not stand alone–and it is not supposed to. It truly is the second half of the whole.
When the previews ended, in the entire theater I was in, it felt like the crowd was holding its breath, waiting to cheer the opening title card. In all the previous midnight premieres I’ve been to, a huge cheer erupted the moment the WB logo appeared. But the filmmakers pulled a change-up on us, opening with a dark image of Voldemort. The entire theater was eerily silent, breaths caught in our throats. I felt plunged right in. I’m getting goosebumps just describing it.
In literature you can leave some questions unanswered and open to interpretation. In a Hollywood film, you can’t. In a book you can meander around trying to get your plot together. In a film you have to take the most direct path. And in a book you can concern yourself chiefly with a single character’s arc of development. In an ensemble cast like this one, though, in a film, you have to ensure everyone gets a moment.
In this way the main ways the final three films, 6, 7, and 8, differ from the books are in answering questions that were left unanswered in the canon, stripping away the fat from the plot, and closing the character arcs of multiple characters and relationships that were left unconsidered or merely hinted at in the books.
In particular, the filmmakers went a lot further toward understanding Draco in a way that I don’t think Rowling ever did.
I’ve been critical in the past of some of the deviations the films have made from the books, like the non0sensical and useless burn-down-the-Burrow scene. But I accept and embrace the fact that movies are a different medium with different needs from books. I’ve also been critical in the past of how I feel the books have some flaws. Most of those flaws involve Rowling leaving questions unanswered or unexplained, or having explanations that make no sense. Small example: You have to speak Parseltongue to get into the Chamber of Secrets. In the book, Ron fakes his way through it and it works, claiming he tried to imitate what Harry did when he opened the locket earlier in the book. Kinda far-fetched. In the film they at least give it slightly more credibility in that Ron says Harry talks in his sleep, making it something he’s been hearing for years and years, not just once.
By far the most significant deviation in the DH2 movie, though, is the revamp of the confrontation between Harry and Draco in the Room of Hidden Things. The film-makers remove the muddy, confusing confrontation in the book, in which Crabbe and Goyle do most of the talking, it’s unclear what Draco’s motivations are and who’s idea it was to try to catch Harry there, et cetera, and replace it with a more direct exchange between Harry and Draco. In which Harry comes right out and asks Draco why he didn’t identify him to Bellatrix and Lucius when they were captured at Malfoy Manor.
In the book we never have any indication at all that Harry even considers the fact that Draco saves his skin there. It’s like he doesn’t even notice. After the intense antagonism between these two character in book 6 (Harry nearly kills Draco, recall…) you’d think Harry might be at least apprehensive that Draco is going to turn him in, and when he doesn’t, you’d think Harry might be relieved, or curious about what made Draco do it. There are a ton of things that Harry might think at the time, or later, but we never get any of them in the book, even in this confrontation scene which is the next time they see each other.
The filmmakers cannot delve into what Harry is thinking, either, but they at least acknowledge the significance of the moment and that Harry MUST consider what Draco did means SOMETHING. So Harry asks him why he did it.
We still don’t find out the answer, as all hell breaks loose before Draco can answer. But I suppose that’s OK. I was pleased enough with the nod to the necessary scene without going so far that the film would have to create something more. This is a direct descendant of the changes made in movie 6. In Half-Blood Prince, Harry spends much of the book obsessing over whether Draco is marked or not. This question is never answered in the books, but in the film the revelation of Draco’s mark is used as a climax moment.
Another change, the Malfoys separating themselves from everyone at the end of the film. Lo and behold, there’s Draco on the “good guys” side. Hmm? However, at this point Narcissa (and possibly Lucius) know that Harry is actually alive and that it’s time to cut bait. Narcissa’s insistence that Draco join them is laden with meaning, and Draco doesn’t miss that she is telling him something is going on. The smirks on her and Lucius’s faces as they stand behind Voldemort are also priceless. And then the three of them get the hell out of Dodge before anything else can go wrong.
Somehow I found Voldemort killing Snape for mastery of the Elder Wand more convincing in the film, as well. The reason he gives is the same, but somehow the way the scene unfolded felt more convincing to me. I just re-read it in the book, and it feels to me like the book version is a first draft, the film version a revision.
Given that Rowling herself is a producer of the film and supposedly had script approval, I am starting to feel that these last few films in particular *are* revisions. They do not “change” the canon for me, but they show how differently a revision of the manuscript might have gone. (If you’ve ever seen the early drafts of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald you know how drastically a great work of literature can change… thanks to Cosmin for reminding me of Gatsby as one of the rather more striking examples of such…) If anything this opens the door for me, a fanfic writer, to make my own renovations and changes in my own interpretations of the story and characters.
More movie stuff: when Neville is dragging the sword toward confronting Voldemort at the end, I realllly though he was going to pull an Inigo Montoya and say: “My name is Neville Longbottom. You killed my parents. Prepare to die.”
(ok ok, i know they’re technically not dead, but I still thought it…!)
Helena Bonham Carter pretending to be Hermione pretending to be Bellatrix was brilliant.
The Snape flashback scenes are heartbreaking. Probably moreso if you’re a Snape/Lily shipper. I’m not and they were still incredibly powerful. If anything, though, I didn’t feel a grand tug of romance there, more the tragic feeling that she was the only light in his world, his only friend, and boyhood crush, meaning that once she was killed he was trapped in an emotional state unable to ever move on or mature. Somehow this came through to me on the screen in a way I had not felt it in the book. My only regret about Alan Rickman playing Snape is that he is indeed too old to pull off the young Snape scenes completely. I’m good at suspending disbelief, though, so it hardly mattered. But I’m sure the filmmakers would have loved a de-aging potion.
One cute note, during AMC’s “First Look” propaganda they show before the actual previews, they showed a snippet from the original screen test with Daniel, Emma, and Rupert, and OMG so tiny and young they were.
At some point now, perhaps around Christmas when I have a feeling it’s likely some kind of massive box set of the DVDs will be coming out (ya think?), I’ll have to watch all the films back to back. (perhaps over the course of a weekend).
Meanwhile I get to see DH2 again this coming week! At Diacon Alley! Cannot wait to see it again!

2 Comments

  1. I didn’t ship Lily and Snape at all, but I found the portrayal of their relationship very touching. It was one of the points in the movie that really made me tear up.
    And congrats on your coming out!

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