This weekend I saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, as did most of you, I’m sure. I thought it was everything it should have been, and then some, and I really loved it.
OK. Now that that’s cleared up, I want to discuss my three HUGE problems with it. I’ll give the obligatory **Spoiler Alert** warning, but my problems won’t give anything away to those who read the books and they really have nothing to do with the plot overall. But, you’ve been warned anyway.
1. Gratuitous nudity. I had read in Entertainment Weekly that Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson kiss in the movie. This confused me greatly because Harry and Hermione definitely do not kiss in the book and nowhere in the series did JK Rowling allude to a love triangle. One of the great strengths of the book is that Harry doesn’t get the girl. He gets everything else. Plus, Ron and Hermione are just better together. So, when it came to the kissing scene in Deathly Hallows: Part 1, I was relieved that it was all just a terrible trick being played on Ron by the forces of darkness.
Then, as the camera pans away, it becomes obvious Harry and Hermione are in a naked embrace (and wearing bronzer), and the swirls of fog below their waists imply either 1) they have no legs or 2) they are having sex. In either case, is this necessary? No! Of course it’s not. Regardless of how old the actors are in real life (which is still only about 20, 21, by the way), they are playing 17 year olds in a series that, despite its evolution, is still largely appealing to young children. Teenagers have sex, yes. But not in Harry Potter. Gratuitous nudity is bad enough in movies, but when teenagers are involved, it takes on a new level of perversion which, while I’m not offended by in this case, remain disappointed in.
As writers, we should keep in mind that JK Rowling didn’t allow such foolishness to occur in her books. Sex doesn’t need to sell an already massively successful series. If Harry and Hermione, or any other two characters, actually had sex in the books, then go wild, Hollywood. Nudity all around. But writers should not add something that doesn’t enrich, or stay true to, the plot just for the sake of shock value. As a rule, writers shouldn’t really include anything, shock value or otherwise, that doesn’t add to the story.
2. No one liked Jar Jar Binks anyway. OK, so in the Harry Potter movies, he’s called Dobby, but you know what I mean. I suspect that Problem #2 will cause the most controversy here because I know there are people who like Dobby. To them I say, it’s nothing personal. But to me, Dobby was obnoxious in Book 2, was the source of a terribly annoying subplot in Book 4 (remember SPEW?), and his death in Book 7 left me saying “finally!”
Regardless on one’s opinion about Dobby as a character, my main problem with his death scene in Deathly Hallows: Part 1 was its length. Dobby was comic relief at best and a very minor character throughout the entire series. I was much more upset about Hedwig’s death, both in the book and in the movie, because what did Hedwig ever do to anyone except deliver their mail? But I digress.
In a final book that kills off several important and beloved characters, some of whom managed to die within the first twenty minutes of the movie, the film decides to give this minor character a hero’s death and later shows a teary-eyed Harry demanding a proper burial. Then, inexplicably, they show the burial! I’m sorry, movie producers, but there’s a whole lot of book left to portray. I don’t have the time or the level of care to waste on a CGI elf who, if you’re only judging by the movies, hasn’t been seen since Chamber of Secrets.
As I said, my hatred of Dobby as a character is strictly subjective. But there is still a writerly lesson to be learned here. Minor characters are important and can be beloved (see my Hedwig comment above), but in a series as rich as Harry Potter when so many other fates are at stake, characters should be treated with an appropriate weight. JK Rowling wrote off some very important characters as causalities of a war, and even though I was shocked at quickly some of them went, I understood what she was doing. Death scenes are hard to write, but keeping in mind the context in which you are writing them might make them a little bit easier. In the case of the Deathly Hallows film, Dobby’s death was undeserving of the level of attention it received, which, for me, made the rest of the movie a little bit weaker.
3. Do Harry and Ginny Even Like Each Other? In the final season of The West Wing, the writers realized there were only a few episodes of the series left to go, so they very quickly remembered to get Josh and Donna together. This halfassed-ry cheapened their relationship for the audience who waited seven years to see it happen. Enter another seven-year series and say hello to Harry and Ginny.
Ginny has a girlish crush on Harry from the very beginning of the series, but Harry basically ignores her until Book 6, presumably because she finally grew boobs and Cho Chang had recently proven herself to be a popularity whore. Harry and Ginny walk off into the sunset, making out in the woods, and doing all the stuff teenagers in love do when they’re restricted to the pages of a children’s book. Good for Ginny! Who doesn’t like finally making out with their crush? Good for Harry too because Ginny is awesome. But, other than the occasional kiss, what chemistry is there between these two characters? They lack the passion of Ron and Hermione and their longest conversation resulted in Harry saying, “Sorry, but I have to leave you for an undetermined number of months so I can destroy a bunch of horcruxes.” I like to think Book-Ginny thought to herself, Whatevs, I’ll see what Dean Thomas is up to.
The lack of believability in book-version Harry and Ginny look like a romance novel compared to the way the films completely ignore their budding relationship. Deathly Hallows: Part 1 showed the two share a brief (and adorable) kiss early on, and when Harry, Ron, and Hermione flee for their lives, Harry calls out Ginny’s name. That’s the last time he says her name throughout the rest of the movie. Yes, he has bigger things on his mind, and I appreciated when Ron calls him out for being so seemingly uncaring. Still, it made me sad to know that Ginny ends up marrying Harry. Even though Harry is “chosen,” Ginny deserves better. I mean, would it kill him to wonder aloud what Ginny’s up to, or, ya know, if she’s alive?
It made me wonder why Harry needed to end up with someone at all. It’s the equivalent of making a female protagonist have a “happy ending in the form of marriage.” Harry doesn’t need to end up with anyone. He’s already pretty amazing on his own. Ginny’s strength matches his, so she’d be the best choice, but the audience doesn’t necessarily need to see that happen. When writing, think of whether your characters really need romance by their story’s end. Girls like Cho and guys like Dean are fine throughout – even a Harry and Ginny love affair is all well and good – but giving two characters a happily ever after because you feel obligated to do so isn’t doing anyone any favors, characters included.