Slimming Down

Sorry for the delay today, folks. In between the end of the holidays and moving, I’m running behind on everything. Starting tomorrow, there will be some familiar faces helping out here for the rest of the week (and I’ll be around, too).

Over the Thanksgiving break, my brother took me to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I. I’ve long felt some ambivalence about the Harry Potter movies, which have mostly been slavish recreations of the books, acts of reverence rather than living, breathing, independent works of art. But this is by far the best of the Harry Potter movies, and it’s so good not just because the actors have grown into their roles nicely, or because the movie looks excellent, but because it’s the first true adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s work for the screen.

The stuff that goes is big. Rita Skeeter’s Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore, and Harry’s generalized confusion about his late mentor, are reduced to a very minor role. There isn’t a lot of angsting about whether Harry should race Voldemort to the Hallows or keep destroying the Horcruxes. And the long central camping sequence is edited down neatly: there’s no encounter with the runaways in the woods, and less focus on hunger and survival. All of these elements are important to the tone of the book, but not necessarily to the plot, and the movie makes some deft substitutions, like Harry and Hermione dancing to a song on the radio in the wake of Ron’s departure, finding very temporary respite in that aping of normality.

The one subtraction I really missed was Kreacher’s redemption. To me, that subplot was a great illustration of Harry’s development into a truly decent man. And damnit, I want to see Kreacher leading that house-elf battalion during the Battle of Hogwarts. But I think that cut isn’t devastating. Rowling’s work got less editing as it became more successful, and this movie is a retroactive slimming down. At its core, this is a novel about facing adulthood, which means death, disappointment, love, heartbreak, sacrifice, courage. Deathly Hallows is effective without every single illustration of what growing up means.