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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II: Book to Movie Changes that Worked
It’s been a great decade for Harry Potter. Last night we saw the eighth and final movie in the film series, bringing to a close a chapter of the Potter phenomenon that started in 2001 with the release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Bravo to the filmmakers for bringing the beloved series to an epic, emotionally satisfying conclusion. Deathly Hallows Part II delivers the punch that fans have been anticipating for over ten years, as the heroic boy wizard faces his destiny and makes the ultimate sacrifice to protect his friends and save the wizarding world.
Since its release, fans have been all abuzz over choices and changes the filmmakers made when presenting the story. As with the previous films, certain aspects of the books have been altered, omitted, or enhanced for the screen. Fans will no doubt enjoy quibbling over these changes for the next several weeks (after all, it’s a way to keep the fandom alive). I for one believe that most of these changes in the final film work; they serve the story as portrayed in the movies and in several cases add something to the characters and plot.
So here’s a breakdown of the differences between the book and movie that I liked (warning, spoilers aplenty):
Voldemort announces his arrival
The students and teachers have gathered in the Great Hall and just ousted Snape from power. They know Voldemort is on his way. Suddenly, from the hushed room comes a high-pitched shrieking. A girl crouches in the corner, hands over her ears, screaming in terror. Another student joins in. Then the ethereal voice of Voldemort echoes through the room. The sound seems to come from every direction, but it also appears to invade their minds. What a way to make an entrance! Not only are the students frightened by Voldemort’s arrival, they experience a very palpable terror and pain, almost like they detect his presence in their minds. It was a truly chilling, eerie scene, adding to the sense of foreboding and dread. Having the students screaming is an effective touch.
Snape's fate in the boathouse
It’s understandable why the filmmakers chose to move Snape’s final scene to the boathouse instead of the Shrieking Shack. Visually, it works better because Harry (and the audience) witnesses the brutality of Nagini’s attack on Snape, but the full horror of it is obscured by the glass-paneled walls. Somehow, imagining what is happening is worse than actually seeing it.
Snape’s dying words are slightly altered, too. He still asks Harry to look at him as he dies, but he also says, “You have your mother’s eyes.” We can see realization dawning on Harry’s face then. This line has been repeated throughout the series, but its significance has never been greater, as Harry learns that Snape, his long-time enemy, is not all that he seems. The subtlety of the line "Look at me" works in the novel because readers can go back after "The Prince's Tale" and understand what Snape wanted to see in Harry's eyes. But in the film, Snape's final words add a gut-wrenching aspect to an already powerful scene.
"I'll go with you"
After Harry views Snape’s memories in the Pensieve and learns that as a horcrux he must die for Voldemort to be defeated, he sees Ron and Hermione comforting each other in the aftermath of the battle. In the novel, Harry slips past wearing his Invisibility Cloak, knowing that his friends would try to dissuade him from going to his death in the forest. He feels utterly alone and numb with fear but accepts his fate.
In the film, Harry stops to talk with Hermione and Ron. He’s suspected the truth for a while, as he knows Hermione has, too—that his being a horcrux explains his strange connection to Voldemort and the other pieces of the Dark Lord’s soul. Ron and Hermione are stricken as they realize that Harry plans to sacrifice himself. Tearfully, Hermione says, “I’ll go with you.” It’s a genuine, heartfelt offer. She would willingly go into the forest with Harry and be with him when he dies, and probably be killed herself.
The line reveals a great deal about her character and the level of love she and Harry share. (Not the romantic kind of love that Harry/Hermione shippers want, though, but the love of a true friend. I’ve always seen Hermione as a motherly and sisterly figure to Harry.) For me, the line adds to the emotional punch of the whole sequence, on par with Harry’s asking the ghost of his mother to stay close to him to the very end.
The hugging type?
When Voldemort faces the Hogwarts crowd with the supposedly dead Harry, he crows triumphantly and invites them to join his side now that their one hope, Harry, is defeated. No one moves. Then Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy call out to their son, Draco, relieved to see him alive. Draco goes to join his parents, but he’s intercepted by Voldemort, who congratulates him on a job well done and wraps him in an awkward embrace. Here the audience laughed and tittered uncomfortably, thrown off by this uncharacteristic show of affection from He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. But is it really so unbelievable?
Certainly, Voldemort has never been the cuddly type. At the end of the film Order of the Phoenix, Harry calls him out on his lack of love. Voldemort will never know love or friendship, and for that, Harry pities him. In fact, as a true psychopath, Voldemort is probably incapable of love. All he knows and understands, all that motivates him, are fear and hatred. His hugging Draco has more than one purpose, then. He wants to demonstrate to the crowd that he’s not just a tyrant, that he rewards his followers. (No one buys this, of course—including Draco, who looks petrified.)
Also, Voldemort feels a keen pleasure in thinking he’s defeated Harry, his greatest threat. What a load off his mind! Perhaps carried away by this unfamiliar sensation of happiness (or the closest he can come to happiness), he attempts a show of affection. But it is merely that: an attempt, and a miserable one at that. Voldemort looks as uncomfortable hugging someone as we are watching him hug someone. It only shows the emptiness of his emotions, a fractured soul devoid of any human qualities. I believe the filmmakers put it in not just for unintentional laughs, but to drive home the point that he’s a monster.
A fitting end
Fans knew what they wanted to see in this film, and they got it: the high-stakes break-in at Gringotts, students and teachers defending Hogwarts, McGonagall taking charge, Snape's redemption, Neville's leadership, the much-anticipated kiss, Molly Weasley's showdown with Bellatrix, and the heart-wrenching deaths of beloved characters.
Ultimately, Deathly Hallows Part II fulfilled my expectations and provided a cathartic release for those of us who have been fans of Harry Potter from the beginning. The event brought some sadness, too; this is the end of an era. But with the unwavering devotion and support of the fans, Harry Potter will live on for generations to come.