In honor of the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Pt. 2), the final film and by extension final release from J.K. Rowling’s massively successful, hugely influential fantasy franchise, this week’s Head To Head will consider:
What’s the best film in the Harry Potter franchise?
I’ll go with Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 here. Though I understand the major argument against it, that it’s two-and-a-half hours of three teenagers camping, angstily, my rebuttal stands: So? That’s remarkably true to the first half of Rowling’s final novel, and the seventh film, freed for the first time from the constraints of having to serve as a sort of bullet points memorandum for the source material, stands as an eloquent and genuine work. That such a description can fit a multi-billion dollar franchise piece is all the more remarkable.
Not only does Hallows work as a faithful adaptation, but even its few departures, in particularly the unexpected and resonant slow dance to Nick Cave midway through the film, serve to conjure something even more impressive than any magic onscreen: it faithfully captures the personal experience of reading the novels, far more than anybody ever expected of it. There’s a certain intimacy with the characters built into the series at this point, but Hallows as a film nails down that tricky balance between slavish faith to the popular novel and genuine inspiration.
Also, though it breaks a great deal of continuity with the films, the sacrificial death of Dobby the house elf is done with such reverence that it doesn’t really matter.
Half-Blood Prince. Word of warning here: I have only read the first 5 books. I read them as they came out and just stopped reading them. I don’t know why I stopped; I fucking love wizards. The only person who loves wizards more than me is a younger version of myself. I also didn’t see any of the films until my girlfriend recently made me watch all of them through a course of a week. So take my opinion on the matter as someone who is not completely ingrained in the mythology of the series.
I love me some Tom Riddle back story. From a story-telling perspective, I’ve seen it before: someone corrupted, and eventually transformed, by a thirst for power. Anakin turning into Vader, Arthas becoming the Lich King, whatever. But it still seems fresh. Maybe because Hogwarts is this whimsical place and we learn Tom Riddle is becoming obsessed with the Dark Arts while everyone else is learning to do a bunch of shitty charms.
And the scene with Dumbledore meeting Riddle at the orphanage is my favorite single scene in the whole series.