From the very beginning, this movie feels intense, like the open of the close that it is. Our first glimpse of Minister of Magic Rufus Scrimgeour, with his unblinking stare (he actually blinks three times but who is really counting), starts the film, followed by the incredible music composed and conducted by Alexandre Desplat, underscoring scenes from Hermione’s house, Privet Drive (where Harry watches the Dursley’s leave), and The Burrow. It is genuinely heartbreaking, the way that Hermione erases her parents’ memories and watches while her image fades away from the family photographs. She then walks away from her home. The title screen follows. In all, I think this is one of the most clever beginnings to a film that I’ve ever seen.
After the title screen, we see the death eaters in a meeting, where Lucius gives his most timid and yet convincing performance yet. I question Bellatrix’s blood lust to kill Harry Potter, though, because it would seem that she should know better, that Voldemort would want to kill Harry himself, even if he didn’t have to, due to some underlying magical law. However, this does give a reason to explain this to a movie audience.
After the screen is swallowed by Nagini, the film transitions to Privet Drive. I love that Harry looks into the empty cupboard under the stairs and takes a glimpse back with us, for us, so that he, and we, can all remember how these past ten years started. Privet Drive is then visited by the Order, beginning a scene that is full of comic relief, especially where the twins and their one-liners are concerned. Dan Radcliffe also does a spectacular, and humorous, job at acting like everyone else. My personal favorite of the six is his impression of Mundungus Fletcher. “Alright, alright!”
Following the comic relief, we have a battle scene. A battle scene to end all battle scenes. Hagrid and Harry flying through the air, driving through the streets, running upside-down on top of double decker buses, crashing into the swamp at the Burrow. Here we see a glimpse of Molly looking hopelessly worried again, which is a look that we see quite often from Molly, such as later, when the message comes from Kingsley at the dance to inform the guests that the Ministry had fallen and the Minister was dead. Her looks of worry are partly the reason why she is my favorite character. In comparison with other adult female characters, Bellatrix and Umbridge for example, Molly is so full of love for everyone around her. Worry is an iteration of love. It so clearly shows her love of family and friends. Bellatrix and Umbridge, on the other hand, couldn’t care less if someone else died, just so long as it wasn’t themselves, and just so long as someone else’s death further increases their own power.
The night following, Ron speaks with Harry as he tries to leave. Despite being a touching scene, Ron is also right. This whole thing is bigger than Harry, which is something that even we as fans have to remember sometimes. This whole story, despite that Harry is the chosen one and the namesake of the books and films, is so much bigger than one character. The next morning, as the Weasley’s prepare for that evening’s wedding festivities, we see Harry zip up Ginny’s dress. Some people think that the film’s representation of Ginny as a character is too simple, too modest. She should be gorgeous, she should be strong, she should be irresistible. I can understand that to a point, but at the same time, I like her the way she is too: simple and modest. I like that Harry is protective over her, even though he certainly doesn’t seem to know her or spend nearly as much time with her as he does Hermione, even though he doesn’t seem to worry as much about her as Ron does, being her brother. Hrm. Maybe “some people” are right.
On to evening, the wedding, and the dance. The Lovegoods are so awkwardly awesome. The dance they do is wondrous. Sometimes I forget that there are really old witches and wizards. Not Dumbledore-old. Dumbledore may look old, but he is not a retired wizard. He was still a headmaster when he died. He still worked, still did things, still destroyed Horcruxes. However, take Elphias Doge for example. He is old, retired, and presumably has little to nothing to do with the war that’s going on around him. The adults are affected greatly, and the young adults around Harry’s age are affected possibly the most, since the final battle takes place at Hogwarts, the school for young adult wizards and witches. But the infants are too young to know what’s going on. And the elderly, as mentioned, are seemingly too old to have any affect on the outcome of this war. I really don’t mean anything by pointing this out. I simply wonder sometimes what the rest of the wizarding world is doing while the war rages on outside. In the world of instant media, I can recall where I was when I heard about the attack on the Twin Towers on 9/11. I wonder if it was the same when Voldemort was destroyed. I suppose it was. It just seems strange, somehow, that while we as fans are in the thick of things at all times, most wizards and witches are not.
In this film (adapted from the book), we learn a lot more of the back story of Dumbedore, from Elphias Doge and from Rita Skeeter. But also in this film, we learn more of the back story of Hermione, as the three go from place to place while she is in control of the apparating. She visits Shaftesbury Avenue, because she used to go there with her parents, then when they are attacked in the coffee shop, she uses the obliviate spell on the Death Eaters, which is a look back to the beginning of the movie, when she casts the same spell on her parents. I cannot imagine what she is going through with this separation from her parents. Her parents no longer knows that she exists, would no longer recognize her. Later, when she and Harry arrive in the Forest of Dean, she says to Harry, “Maybe we should just stay here, Harry. Grow old.” This sort of sentiment makes me wonder, if going to Hogwarts and becoming a witch means leaving her family, do you think she might have been happier had she never become a witch?
Breaking in to the Ministry of Magic, albeit necessary, seems dumbfounded and poorly planned, with such a high chance of getting caught. I suppose it only seems that way, because we don’t see in the movie the weeks of planning that it actually takes to break in. Despite that, these scenes really makes me think how much this story is an allegory for World War 2. This is not even the first wizarding war to arise. It is the second, which fits together nicely with the second world war in real history. The current Ministry of Magic is an allegorical representation of Nazi Germany. Harry looking through the pictures of “undesirables” in Umbridge’s office. The snatchers catching them later in the forest. The use of the term Mudblood. The statue of wizards crushing the Muggles (the Jews) beneath them at the Ministry. These Pure-Blood fanatics are just as easy to hate as the Nazis before them.
Another question from the breaking in to the Ministry of Magic begs an answer: why is it raining in Yaxley’s office in the first place? Did he start the rain himself to get at Reg Cattermole? Or did someone else stand up to him and pull a prank, which coincidentally came down to Reg Cattermole to fix? Speaking of which, it is pretty funny the way Ron actually thinks he is married to Mary Cattermole.
Some further scenes that I love include: the “traveling” scenes underscored by the voice on the radio, the argument between Harry and Ron, which is so emotional. I can’t believe that Ron could say something like that to Harry: “Your parents are dead. You have no family.” Later, Harry and Hermione dance to that Nick Cave song in the tent, which is another one of my favorite scenes from the film. Then, they arrive in Godric’s Hollow. I like that they, unlike the book, don’t use Polyjuice Potion. I like the reason why. It makes these scenes all the more meaningful to us, because we can actually see their faces when they find Harry’s parents’ graves, for example. Where is the plaque in honor of Harry’s parents, though?
Here are some things that are left unexplained: Is it ever explained why saying “Voldemort” causes snatchers or Death Eaters to appear? Sure, we can see it happen, but is it ever explained why that happens? The point where Harry, Hermione, and Ron are “snatched” is changed from the book as well. It does not involve saying the name “Voldemort” as it does in the book. It just involves an accidental ambush (as well as a pretty cinematographic-ally awesome forest chase-scene)… Is it ever explained why Rita Skeeter went on hiatus from reporting or writing (as the Goblet of Fire book explains), but suddenly returns to write an unauthorized biography about Dumbledore? Is it ever explained where Harry’s broken mirror came from? These things are explained pretty well in the books, but not very well in the movies. And maybe they don’t need explaining up front. Some of these things are explained later, as Harry does about the mirror in Part 2, but still, a non-reader audience might get confused.
Some random comments about following scenes: Bathilda-snake be creepy, yo… Um, I don’t get the blinding white room in the middle of the Nagini fight scene… Harry stripping down to his skivvies? I think I can hear a thousand DanRad fan girls screaming right now. Yeah, I know he is supposed to do that, as the book says he does, but still… That whole Harry / Hermione animated sex scene? I think I can hear a thousand H / Hr shippers screaming right now… I really love how Ron is always taking Hermione’s side on everything now that he’s back. I think I can hear a thousand R / Hr shippers screaming right now… The animated story of the Deathly Hallows is brilliant. Emma Watson is a great narrator. One thought, though. Ron says, “twilight is better actually”? Not hardly! How is twilight better than midnight? Once again, I think I can hear a thousand Twilight fans screaming right now. Alright. Enough screaming for one night.
Dobby owns the end of this film. He rescues everyone in the dungeon so heroically. “Dobby is a free elf!” He delivers the one-line funnies so eloquently. “Sir? I like her very much!” “Maim or seriously injure.” It makes the outcome, Dobby’s death, that much more tragic.
In the final scenes, Voldemort takes the Elder Wand from Dumbledore’s grave and tests it out, quite to his satisfaction. This makes for such an awesome ending to an awesome film, as well as an awesome beginning to the next film. This final scene ties the two movies together. Now, after the release of the final film, I find it difficult not to watch the two parts back-to-back as if they were one film, because they fit together so well!