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Harry Potter and the Half-Hearted Ending

Illustration for article titled Harry Potter and the Half-Hearted Ending

Did you feel cheated walking out of the latest Harry Potter? Yeah, me too. In an effort to cut this film down, director David Yates effectively neutered the most important scenes in the book. Spoilers ahead!

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was notable only for David Yates' decision that the two most epically important parts at the end of the film should be cut: the death scene and the funeral scene.

Sure, the movie was pretty and funny and not even terribly drawn out like some of the Potters have been. But how could Yates have mistreated the fans so blatantly?!? Well, then again, it's not like he had to pander to us. At this point it seems like this Harry Potter will be a financial success, despite what people say.

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This loyal fan, however, has a few problems with Yates' revisionist ending.

The battle between the Order of the Phoenix and the Death Eaters

Alright, so there have been plenty of non-central characters cut out of the series so far who were to appear in the battle at Hogwarts and the funeral afterward (which we'll get to next). And cutting them out makes sense, no retort here. But the lack of any battle whatsoever between the Death Eaters and the Order of the Phoenix changes the magnitude of the evil enveloping the world.

There is supposed to be clamoring, clanging and general disruption, true evil baring it all in the "safest place" imaginable, Hogwarts. It's not simply a puny, crying teenager uselessly making his final stand.

We're not supposed to have simply Draco. Oh, Draco. What's with his sniveling and annoying whining all throughout the movie? Yeah, OK, some of it is transferred in from the book, but come on. It reaches a breaking point in Dumbledore's office as Malfoy seems to be pleading with the headmaster to save him from what is fated. In the book, Draco sees himself as a man, a grown-up, not a boy playing dress up. But in Yates' version, Draco feels as visibly broken as the Dark Lord sees him.

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After Malfoy fails to kill Dumbledore, JK Rowling paints a perfect picture of the moment that inspired the great Snape Debate:

"Severus ..."
The sound frightened Harry beyond anything he had experienced all evening. For the first time, Dumbledore was pleading.
Snape said nothing, but walked forward and pushed Malfoy roughly out of the way. The three Death Eaters fell back without a word. Even the werewolf seemed cowed.
Snape gazed for a moment at Dumbldore, and there was revulsion and hatred etched in the harsh lines of his face.
"Severus ... please ..."

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Illustration for article titled Harry Potter and the Half-Hearted Ending

On the page, Snape was evil evil evil ... until he wasn't. In the film, we should see him at the peak of evil but the pleading between him and Dumbledore seems to give too much away. There's no hatred, no evil crossing Snape's face; it's more like visible pity. Even the minor interlude between Potter and Snape speaks volumes about the professor's true allegiances.

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One of the greatest and most terrible parts of the book was Harry's literal inability to do anything to save his mentor. On screen, Yates has made the teen acquiesce to Dumbledore's lame "stay below" command. Really?! He remains below as his father figure is dying?! Feels like a cop-out.

In Rowling's version we must suffer alongside Harry as he is petrified under the invisibility cloak. There's nothing to be done until Dumbledore is dead and Harry is released from the curse. Then we glimpse Dumbledore's Army and the Order fighting Death Eaters. More than any other moment, that is the one where we see our students all growed up: Ginny and McGonagall are fighting side by side (at least in my mind) and you can picture the D.A. fighting for their school in the corridors.

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Illustration for article titled Harry Potter and the Half-Hearted Ending

Dumbledore's funeral

What happened here? Why is there no funeral and instead a simple wand show?

Yates' decision to forgo a funeral was sorely misplaced. To not allow a generation of Potterphiles the opportunity to properly grieve for their loved one is ridiculous. Dumbledore has been a father, a mentor, a changing force in every student's life at Hogwarts. The emotional shift that occurs in the book at this point sets the tone for everything that is to come.

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In the book, there are 3 whole chapters after Dumbledore's death covering the fate of the students, the school, and his final resting place. Most of the impressionable characters we've met throughout the series return for the honorable wizard's funeral. It's a great game of catchup and sends an even greater message: In times of trial, friends and loved ones must band together.

In Half-Blood, the movie, we see the headmaster sprawled on the ground ... and that's it. No tomb, no funeral. A silly little light show from the wands and then, scene.

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But Rowling gives us the closure she knows we desperately need:

Bright, white flames had erupted around Dumbledore's body and the table upon which it lay: Higher and higher they rose, obscuring the body. White smoke spiraled into the air and made strange shapes: Harry thought for one heart-stopping moments, that he saw a phoenix fly joyfully into the blue, but the next second the fire had vanished. In its place was a white marble tomb, encasing Dumbledore's body and the table on which he had rested.

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The most filmic moment of (arguably) the series is cut, and for what? More awkward Ron-Lavender snogging, more comedy? I would gladly have given up a forced make-out sesh (or two) and the awkward humor for Dumbledore's white tomb born of fire. Ironically, the characters in the book have the same argument among themselves: To bury the headmaster with the students present or to send them home. Unfortunately for us, Yates decides to throw Dumbledore's death at us and then shove us out of the theater. It feels too rushed.

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I feel like I got hoodwinked, sideswiped, swindled. Whatever you call it, I want closure! I demand a re-cut.

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DISCUSSION

themidnighter-old
themidnighter

So. You would have preferred to see some people (read: kids) murdered and bloodied in the battle at Hogwarts. That would have earned an R rating. And you would have liked another 20 minutes for the funeral, making it a 3+ hour move. That would make the movie financially disastrous for theater chains, as it allows for fewer screenings per day. And fewer screenings = fewer viewers = fewer dollars made for Warner Bros. and the theaters.

Sure, the Dumbledore funeral is great in the book. And the big bloody battle where children are killed in their safe house is awesome. In a perfect world, at least the Hogwarts battle would be maintained. But it's not realistic for a movie that has to play to an all-ages audience while making as much money as possible to keep these things. That sucks, but it's reality, and better people than us have attempted to change it for decades.

One final note: You know how so many people complain about the ending of Return of the King being long, silly, and drawn out? It's because movie audiences are trained to accept very short denouements. A long, protracted Dumbledore funeral scene would have earned the same ridicule. What works in a book does not always work in a movie. In a movie, simplicity and speed are key — and everything must carry narrative momentum. In books, you are rewarded for taking time and exploring intricate nuance. The Dumbledore funeral excising is a great example of this. It would not have played on screen as well as you think it would because it only carries emotional resonance; it doesn't carry any story momentum. Which works for a book, but would bog down the pace of a movie like crazy. I, for one, thought the wand-raising was an effective shorthand way of delivering the same memorial, which the book had the luxury to deliver via a very long funeral, in a short period of time.