I’m not quite sure where to begin with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Being the final book, there’s an awful lot to take in as Harry faces a final showdown with Voldemort and the story comes to a very dramatic conclusion, plus there are more deaths than if Miss Marple had been invited to stay for the weekend. Of course you couldn’t really have a war without casualties, but I do wish some of the doomed characters had been allowed to survive.
The book is divided into uneven halves, and the films are divided in similar places. The first half is mainly spent with Harry, Ron and Hermione hiding in forests and trying to track down and destroy the remaining horcruxes (which would be easier if they knew exactly what they were). It includes a somewhat backfiring plan to sneak into the Ministry of Magic, and a rather over-the-top strop thrown by Ron which results in him storming off and being unable to find his way back, while Hermione spends most nights crying into her pillow. The second half of the book (and nearly the entire second film, bar a Gringotts robbery) is concerned with breaking into Hogwarts (which has been taken over by Death Eaters) to find the final horcrux, and the epic final battle which occurs there. The second film picks up exactly where the first left off, with Voldemort taking the Elder wand from Dumbledore’s tomb.
It’s very sad in a lot of ways, and not only because it means the series has to come to an end. There are the extra boo-hoo touches of Hermione erasing herself from her parents’ memories (which was shown very effectively right at the start of the first Deathly Hallows film), and poor Kreacher leading the house elf charge against the Death Eaters, which did cause me a small sniffle, but then there are so many deaths along the way to victory, some of which seemed a step too far. I could just about cope with Hedwig and Dobby, it seemed pretty mean to kill off the poor pet owl and cute house elf, but it tugged at the heartstrings so I can see why J.K. Rowling did it. I actually agreed with Remus being killed. All of his closest friends had been killed, it would seem unfair (and I think he’d have felt it unfair) if he had survived to a ripe old age, and would he really have been happy to do so without the people he loved most? Okay so he had Tonks, but I’m a bit suspicious of that relationship. If you ask me, they got together because they were bonded by a mutual pining for Sirius (but I may have read too much fanfiction as a teenager). And yes it was sad that they left behind such a small baby, but again there was suitable heartstring tugging (and another generation of Marauder blood). At least they died together so one wouldn’t have a torturous life without the other, although I think it’s cruel that we were deprived of seeing how they died. We’re just told that Harry sees their bodies lying in the Great Hall, which seems so callous and cold. I’d have liked to have read about their heroic deaths, a last hurrah if you will. Lupin deserved more than to be written out of the sidelines. At least he very touchingly reappears alongside James, Lily and Sirius from the Resurrection stone though, which was enough to set me off all over again (although if I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times – James and Lily look far too old!).
I can understand why every other character had to die, but there was no need to kill off poor Fred! That was absolutely unforgivable. I can’t think of anything crueller than to separate such close twins. They were closer than close, they were pretty much two halves of the same whole, so for poor George to have to spend the rest of his life without Fred seems like the worst thing J.K. Rowling could possibly have done. I can’t think of anything more heartbreaking. And then she said in an interview that George would have married Fred’s old girlfriend Angelina in later life, because they were bonded by their grief! It’s just too sad to imagine. It’s lucky that Percy got to reunite with the Weasleys right beforehand, because I don’t think I could cope with so much regret otherwise! But again, much like Lupin, we’re deprived of seeing Fred being killed in the film, but instead see the Weasleys mourning over his already dead body. I think this might have been for the best though, because I’m still not completely sure how I feel about the Phelps twins playing Fred and George and, just in case, it’s better to avoid me becoming so upset when there’s still so much film to go.
Of course, even taking into account the multiple deaths that occurred (and of some of my favourite characters), the most heartbreaking aspect of the entire series has to be the discovery of Snape’s motivation. Finally, and too late because it’s not revealed until his death, he is proved to be trustworthy as a double agent working for the Order because he held himself responsible for the death of Harry’s mother Lily, who he was in love with. It’s so unbelievably sad, it’s actually making me feel quite teary thinking about it. She was probably the only real friend he had, but he lost her because he joined the Death Eaters and she ended up marrying his bully. Apparently Alan Rickman was given more of this information than anyone else in advance so that he could have more of an insight into the way the character of Snape should be played, and obviously, being Alan Rickman, he played it excellently. (Plus it turns out the reason poor old Aunt Petunia was so against magic is because she was so jealous and desperate to be invited to Hogwarts, which is pretty sad in itself. Petunia, love, I know how you feel).
It all gets a bit confusing towards the end because at first it seems (from Snape’s memories) like Dumbledore was using and manipulating Harry, while steering him towards his own death. Things are sort of cleared up a bit when Harry’s dead-but-not-dead and somehow at King’s Cross railway station, but I still found it slightly confusing and the matter of who inherited the Elder wand didn’t really help matters. I think actually the film explained that aspect a bit clearer than the books (that Harry inherited the Elder wand because he disarmed Malfoy, even though Malfoy wasn’t actually using the Elder wand at the time). Snape’s death added to the confusion for me, because Voldemort killed Snape as he mistakenly believed that Snape had gained the Elder wand’s allegiance when he killed Dumbledore, but then Voldemort didn’t actually kill Snape himself (he ordered the snake Nagini to kill him), so would that have been enough to get the Elder wand’s power even if it did obey Snape? Unless the fact that part of Voldemort’s soul was in Nagini meant that Nagini killing Snape would work? I must admit things got a bit blurry for me there, but then Snape had never had the Elder wand’s power anyway so his death was completely unnecessary (although obviously brought a lot to the plot with his dying memories).
The battle of Hogwarts was just amazing, even the castle itself got involved. From the suits of armour and desks charging the Death Eaters to Kreacher leading the house elves armed with kitchen knives, the scale of it was pretty incredible and I think the film did a pretty good job recreating the majority of the details, and throwing in a few more for good measure. I generally liked the way the Hogwarts scenes were portrayed, although the final duel between Harry and Voldemort seemed a bit strange to me. I didn’t dislike it, but I wasn’t really expecting it to take the direction it did. In the book, there’s a lot of chat between Harry and Voldemort while they’re circling each other (mainly with Harry explaining his theory about the Elder wand owing its allegiance to him), and then Harry casts expelliarmus at the same time as Voldemort casts avada kedavra, and Voldemort is killed. In the film, there’s not so much discussion (which is understandable because it probably wouldn’t work so well on film), but instead Harry and Voldemort are chasing each other around, flinging spell after spell at each other and jumping off of buildings, until they cast expelliarmus and avada kedavra at the same time, and Voldemort sort of explodes/disintegrates/drifts away on the wind. It’s a lot more action based, although jumping off of the building seemed to be taking it a bit far.
I’m pleased that The Deathly Hallows was divided into two films as far too much would have had to be cut out otherwise, but again there were a few things that I would have liked to have seen that weren’t included, or at least weren’t included in as much detail as I’d like. I thought it was a shame that we got a somewhat abbreviated version of Kreacher’s story of Regulus and the locket, as it really helped with the characterisation of both Kreacher and poor Regulus. I really liked the way it was done in the book, and I thought it was so sad that Sirius considered his brother to be a low-ranking member of the enemy, when actually he was a hero but nobody knew. And what an awful way to die! I can’t imagine that Sirius wouldn’t have been upset knowing that Regulus had died. Death Eater or not, he was still his little brother, and it’s sad thinking that he had some of the same qualities and the same bravery as Sirius did, but no one knew how he used it to try and bring down Voldemort. I have a real thing for those Black boys.
I also would have liked to have seen the full backstory concerning Dumbledore, Aberforth and Ariana. Aberforth almost tells the story in passing in the film, whereas it’s quite a big deal in the book, and rightly so. I liked the opportunity to see more of the human side of Dumbledore – to know that he is fallible, he does make mistakes, and he does have regrets like everyone else.
There are some aspects of both the book and the films that brought me a lot of joy, and one of those was Neville being given his moment to shine and killing Nagini. It’s just like when he won Gryffindor the crucial final house points in the very first book! None of the other characters seem to expect much of Neville, and then he does something to really pull it out of the bag and make everyone proud. I’m glad that he got to do something as important as helping to kill Voldemort (or one of his horcruxes at least), as he’d lost just as much as Harry under Voldemort’s reign of terror. In fact, I’d say that he suffered more as, although his parents were still alive, they weren’t able to be real parents to him, or even to recognise him as their child. Considering that Neville was very nearly ‘the Chosen One’, it seems very fair that he should be given a role to play in bringing down Voldemort.
Then there are some aspects of both the book and the films that I was a little unsure of. I couldn’t really review The Deathly Hallows without mentioning the Epilogue. I can understand why a lot of people don’t like it; in a way it feels a bit jumbled because so many characters of this new generation are introduced too quickly, and it’s a bit much to take in. I personally am not too keen on the idea of Harry naming his children after so many dead loved ones, although at the same time I liked that he recognised the importance of everything Snape had done and that he’d done it all out of love. Harry’s relationship with Ginny never sat comfortably with me, and I’ll admit I’m completely amazed that Hermione and Ron’s marriage survived for long enough to produce children. (Plus I suppose it’s different in times of war, but I find the idea of anyone spending the rest of their life with someone they were in a relationship with as a teenager really weird. But maybe that’s just me). So I can see why people don’t like the Epilogue, and I’m really undecided about it myself. I don’t dislike it as such, I just don’t really know what to make of it. At the same time, I can completely understand why J.K. Rowling included it though, and I found it kind of reassuring to see that life went on after the Hogwarts battle. It was sweet to see that a huge war had been fought, evil had been overcome, and children reverted back to worrying about which house they were going to be sorted into. It gave us the chance to fill in the gaps for ourselves, and I did appreciate that. Plus I loved that Neville was the Herbology professor!
So that’s that then. The Deathly Hallows is such a big story both in terms of it its length and the sheer amount of action and plot that it contains, so there’s bound to be endless lists of things that I’ve missed here. When I think about it, I think more in terms of emotions and a feeling of finality than of actual plot events. This marked the end of my Harry Potter marathon, but seven years ago it marked the end of a part of my childhood, which is very sad in itself. I had grown up with Harry Potter, but the end of the Deathly Hallows meant that was it, and I’d have to say goodbye to the world of magic and Hogwarts because there would be no new adventures there. It was a very distressing realisation, and actually it’s still something that I’m kind of in denial about. I know J.K. Rowling says there will be no new Harry Potter stories, but secretly I keep hoping that she’ll change her mind. I don’t need Harry Potter stories as such; I’d love to read Marauders’ stories instead, and I’d even settle for stories about the new generation of Harry and co.’s children. We haven’t seen the last of the world completely, as J.K. Rowling’s currently in the process of writing three new films featuring Newt Scamander, the author of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, set in New York. It won’t be the same though. For a start, I just don’t like the idea of a story based on the world of Harry Potter (although 70 years earlier) set in America. I know it’s daft because magic is meant to be worldwide, but Hogwarts is British so I want everything else magical set here too. Then there’s the fact that these stories will only exist in film form rather than as books, and we all know that the book is always a superior medium (as these comparisons should have made all too clear). I enjoyed all eight of the Harry Potter films, but they just couldn’t compare with the books because the books just bring so much more to the story. Still, it’s the best we can hope for, for now.
In the meantime, I urge you all to revisit the world of Harry Potter for yourself. I’ve had the best time. Even though I know the stories so well, I don’t think they’ll ever get old for me. It’s like visiting an old friend and, like I said before, I sort of feel like these characters are my friends, because they’ve been a part of my life for so long. I know this sounds ridiculously sentimental, but this world was a key part of my childhood, and I’m actually really quite sad that it’s had to end again.
See also My Culture Mission or read reviews of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, or The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling.