I have long been a fan of the Harry Potter films and the books. This, for some people, seems contradictory. I've heard people fight adamantly on both sides. Most commonly, you hear people who say that they liked the movie well enough but they'll never stack up to the way they felt about the books. I suppose all of these are fair responses, but as an avid student of adaptation theory, I've liked some of the films, and loved others of them in similar and different ways to the books, and I'm ok with that.
For example, one thing I really loved about the sixth film (Half-Blood Prince) was the way the film was able to parallell the journey of Draco and the journey of Harry. The books, by necessity couldn't tell Draco's story as he fought to find a way to complete the task given to him by Voldemort. The books are narrated from Harry's perspective, and, barring a few chapters at the beginning of the last few books, if Harry isn't there, the audience can't see it. But films are different, and the sixth film allows us to see the parallel journeys of Harry and Draco. That particular telling of the story gave me a different perspective on a story I already knew.
This means that when I go into a film adapted from a book I've read, part of my brain is turned on to comparison (what is different from the book, and why did they make the change), but most of my brain is dedicated to following the story that the movie is telling. That long-winded introduction in mind, this is what I thought of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, parts one and two. I already wrote my review of the first film (albiet, hastily.) This review will be more conclusive about the impact that they have as a pair.
I realized a long time ago that the Harry Potter films were going to select which stories to tell based almost entirely on the impact that storyline had first on Harry, and then on the friendship of Harry, Ron and Hermione. You can see this in the way that (almost all) of the movies end with the three of them looking off into the distance. This meant that other storylines that were important in the books were scrapped in the films. Dumbledore's background. Many of the Voldemort memories in the sixth film. Hermione's political activism with SPEW and Rita Skeeter. Ron's Quidditch experiences.
This made, I think, for more angry fans in the earlier movies who saw some of their favorite book plots scrapped. It did, however, make it slightly easier for them to adapt Deathly Hallows. I remember thinking that Jo wrote a pretty daring final novel. While so many people would have been tempted to make the last novel an adventure tale a pure detective novel with one explosion after another, Deathly Hallows is, for the most part, a remarkably quiet book. In fact, the destruction of the horcruxes - which everyone thought would be the focus - was almost entirely an afterthought. Harry doesn't witness the destruction of one of them. One horcrux gets destroyed by accident. He is only personally responsible for the destruction of one of them. Deathly Hallows is a book first and foremost about the power of friendship and fighting for those that you love.
I was a little afraid, I think, that the films would forget this. Hollywood, being Hollywood, would be tempted to make a bigger deal out of the action than they might have needed to. We saw this in Goblet of Fire, for example, with the fight Harry has with the dragon. I was a little nervous that the intellectual focus required for the first half of the film would be sacrificed with long intense fights. I was worried that the second film would be one big long explosion.
Instead, I was relieved to find that the writers and director David Yates were daring enough to make the movie that ought to have been made. A sincere and dedicated duo of films on the power and challenges of friendship and relationships of all kinds, healthy or not.
One thing that the movie brought out that I hadn't ever quite connected after reading the books was something a friend of mine noticed that we had a really great conversation about afterward. We talked about the symbolism of each horcrux and the individual most related to each object and the lessons learned from each object. Each horcrux and it's purpose/destruction/relation to an important person in Harry's life became a pretty great symbol that I suppose I could have picked up on through the reading of the book, but the visual element of the film brought it out even more.
The diary and its connection to Ginny brings up the element of where you put your trust and who you put it in. The ring and Dumbledore remind both Dumbledore and Harry not to dwell in the past. The locket and Ron remind us again about trust, but more specifically the trust of those things you hold most dear and being more open about what you feel. The trophy is Hermione's, and Harry's, possible temptation into the world of recognition and accolades and fighting against the threat of pride. The diadem is, I think, one of the more interesting connections because it is not really finalized - it's connected with Draco and the shared position Harry and Draco have as only sons and privileged children with many opportunities. Its accidental destruction showcases the relationship between Harry and Draco that won't ever be settled or more than cordial. Neville's destroying of the snake Nagini is a nice symbol of the way he stepped up to fill Harry's place in his absence - he destroys Voldemort's right hand, so to speak. Most important, of course, is Harry's destruction of himself - his symbolic conquering of his own weaknesses and foibles to protect the ones he loves. Wonderful. It was a fantastic conversation, and I have the films to thank for it. (This friend hasn't finished reading the books. Yet.)
There were a few things changed from the books that I missed, but the substitutions in the film were good. I appreciated the moment where Harry said good bye to Ron and Hermione. I thought the presentation of Snape's memory was a masterpiece (HUGE shout out to Alan Rickman, who was brilliant.) I even thought the final battle between Harry and Voldemort was good - it was a good visual representation of the mental battle they have in the book.
Ultimately, though, the real test for me on this film was that it left me feeling almost exactly as I had when I finished the book - utterly bewildered about what to do with myself. I felt as though I had just been through war. I felt as though I, too, had accomplished something great. And now the world expected me to do something as simple as closing a book or leaving a theater and . . . what. . . sleep? Eat? It didn't seem big enough. I didn't want to say good bye. I wanted to honor a story that had meant something to me - both through written word and through a final film pair that was everything it could have been and more. I can't wait to see it again.