*Harry Potter Spoilers All Over the Place*
The Harry Potter film franchise released eight films in the span of ten years. None of them are of poor quality. That’s an impressive feat. The acting across the series was top notch, most notably the late Alan Rickman, who was Oscar worthy in the final film. While it was shaky for the kids at first, they improved drastically when Alfonso Cuaron took over for Prisoner of Azkaban. I know many believe that to be the best one, but I think the series got better when David Yates took over. The worst one was in between Cuaron and Yates when Mike Newell helmed Goblet of Fire. My favorite part of the entire book series is when Harry faces off with a reborn Voldemort for the first time. That was epic as hell. The movie version completely blows it. I’m still bitter.
In a way, this leads into what I want to kvetch about today. As great as the movies were, the final fifteen minutes of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II nearly ruined the entire series. Just to be clear, I’m not talking about the epilogue. That was fine. I’m talking about the final battle between Harry and Voldemort. I’m not one of these people who stamps their feet and folds their arms whining, “YOU HAVE TO FOLLOW THE BOOK EXACTLY! MMRA!” I’m all for changes. My problem isn’t that they changed the climax. It’s how they changed it. With a return to the Wizarding World apparating into theaters this weekend, I took this as an opportunity to complain about why this climax is one of the most botched finales in cinema history.
THE NEVILLE LONGBOTTOM SPEECH BLOWS BAGS
Up until the climax, everything about Deathly Hallows Part II was brilliant. You can read my original review for that. I can remember sitting in the theater when Voldemort walks up to the Hogwarts castle with a fake dead Harry in Hagrid’s arms. I was so jacked up for the climax to end all climaxes. One of the greatest parts in the book is when Neville Longbottom walks right up to Voldemort. He says very little and unleashes the sword of Godric Gryffindor from the sorting hat, slicing off Nagini’s head. It was glorious. When Neville walks up to Voldemort in the movie, I was salivating for this moment.
Instead of cutting off the snake’s head, Neville goes into the most long-winded, clichéd movie speech of all time. Are you kidding me with this? And apologies to Matthew Lewis, but he’s not exactly the most eloquent actor. This completely gutted the entire build up to this sequence. STOP TALKING! JUST CUT THE DAMN SNAKE! This was supposed to be the mother of all crowd pleasing moments. Instead, Neville stammers through a really convoluted thesis statement:
Imagine if Voldemort kept laughing like a maniac as Neville stares at him intensely, pulls out the sword and just does it. Awesome. You often talk about a QB wanting to have a pass back after a horrific interception. David Yates (probably) wishes he could have this scene back.
LET’S ALL CHASE THE SNAKE
At this point, the finale was shot. You’re already pissed off. Not only does Neville not cut the snake’s head off, but it’s a double whammy as we are hit with a drawn out chase sequence. First of all, the finale should have been focused on Harry Vs. Voldemort. That’s it. We’ll get to them later.
I have no idea why the filmmakers thought this would be a good idea. Ron and Hermione chase the snake around trying to hit it with dumb spells. Harry tries to get it with a basilisk fang. It’s so repetitive! It also comes off as comedic, like someone chasing a pig as they try and get it back into its pen. It all just sucked.
To cap it off, we get the worst shot of the entire series when Neville gets up in slow motion and stares into the camera with a goofy grin on his face, as if to say, “Duuuuuuhhhh, maybe I should do this!” Ugh. By the time Neville FINALLY cuts his head off, the moment is completely gone. To go back to football, it’s like Blake Bortles throwing a touchdown in the fourth quarter after the Jaguars are already down by thirty. The moment is over.
HARRY VS. VOLDEMORT – IT SUCKED
The entire marketing campaign for nearly a year was Harry and Voldemort facing off in the posters. This was before the face-to-face poster shot became over used, so it was still cool back then. In the book, their final face off is more of a verbal jarring. I understand wanting to make this more Hollywood and draw it out, but this was a complete and utter fail.
Harry and Voldemort run around the castle and cast weak spells at each other. That’s it. I can understand the logic that Voldemort’s wand can’t produce the magic it’s supposed to because he’s not the true master of the Elder Wand, but this was still really really lame, especially after the PHENOMENAL duel Voldemort and Dumbledore have at the end of Order of the Phoenix.
After a few Crapiarmus spells, Voldemort casts his robes at Harry. Huh? I’m dead serious. Go back and watch the scene. Voldemort multiplies his robes like on the Michael Keaton poster for the 1996 movie Multipliticity. That’s his method of attack. For the love of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans.
After the riveting robe tosses, Harry and Voldemort get awkwardly close, almost kissing. They start fist fighting. Yeah. Wizards. Fist fighting. Okay. Then Harry grabs Voldemort’s face, the two fall out a window, and we get the worst camera work in the history of movies. This is the point in the theater where I start shaking and pounding the chair. WHAT THE HELL AM I WATCHING?! WHAT IS THIS!
To cap off this absolute blunder of a final battle, Voldemort tries Avada Kedavra (95th time’s a charm), it back fires, and that’s all she wrote. To be fair, that’s what happens in the book. Here’s what doesn’t happen in the book – Voldemort turning into pixy stick dust. What the hell was that?! And this is where I am going to play the “book did it better” card. Voldemort reverts back to his weird fetal body. That’s what should have happened. If you want to make the excuse of “Well, that’s a little too grotesque for the movie,” it doesn’t work. THEY SHOW THE SAME EXACT FETUS VOLDEMORT EARLIER AT KING’S CROSS! Why not do it again here? It’s way more effective!
THE FINAL LAMENT
This is something I’ve always wanted to get off my chest, but could never fully do it in my review. As much as I hate this entire sequence, it is interesting to analyze just how badly a climax can go wrong. They make every wrong decision possible. I understand wanting to “movie it up” for the final battle, but this was a complete and utter train wreck. You could have made that book battle work in the movie. Harry and Voldemort circle each other in the Great Hall as everyone watches. It could have worked.
I haven’t been super optimistic about Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. At least it has a clean slate though. No book or source material to compare it with. I guess that’s something.
Daniel Cohen is the Film Editor for Pop-Break. Aside from reviews, Daniel does a weekly box office predictions column, and also contributes monthly Top Tens and Op-Ed’s on all things film. Daniel is a graduate of Bates College with a degree in English, and also studied Screenwriting at UCLA. He can also be read on www.movieshenanigans.com. His movie crush is Jessica Rabbit. Follow him on Twitter @dcohenwriter.