Harry Potter and the Power of an Editor

A couple of weeks back, I went to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2. My history with the Potter franchise has been long. I’ve been a fan fiction writer, a moderator on a site, a member of a board that helped put on Potter conventions, and an academic researcher about Potter. I used to have, before we moved English to our new building, the Potterized office. Yup, I had the Potter bug, and I had it bad.

I became involved with Potterdom about the time the first movie came out. I was thick in the throes of my PhD, but I was certain I wasn’t going to see that movie without reading the books first. Bryon and I read them together, and by the time movie one was released, we had read the first three books. I was hooded in December, 2001, and I decided I wanted to know about Potter. I also had serious doubts about my ability to still write, so I thought fan fiction might be a way to see if I still could. And I stuck around for a while until I decided I needed to be writing my own stuff.

I also have to admit to dwindling interest. I felt pretty okay with the books up through book 4. Then characters I sort of assumed things about were revealed to be jerks, the movies were hamfisted Hermione Granger fantasies, and well, meh.

But, here’s the thing. A couple of the movies have had what Rowling seemed to lack in her later books–editing. My favorites were 1, 5 (ironic because it is the book I detest), and 7, Part 2. Some of the most problematic parts of Rowling’s 7th book were dealt with well in the movie (Steve Kloves, you may live. You are forgiven for some of your earlier mistakes…for now).

Here there be spoilers.

Why the powers that be decided to divide book 7 into two movies, I’m not sure. That first movie is really, really slow, just like the first part of the book is. They are very faithful to their source material. The second part is also pretty faithful. We get a lot of action in the second part: the Gringott’s break-in and bust out on a dragon, the defense of Hogwarts, the smashing of the last horcruxes. It’s all good. Everyone is brave and strong and cool.

I was worried that Neville’s bits would be given away, but they were preserved as Neville’s bits. They were not co-opted by any of the leads. The teachers’ roles in the defense were expanded and looked pretty good. Goyle burns out the Room of Requirement like a champ.

The two items I thought the movie really improved upon were Snape’s unrequited love and Rowling’s fan fiction epilogue. I have always hated that the wizarding world is such an inbred place that it is cool to marry the people you dated in high school. (This works out for some. Personally, I shudder to think of this possibility!) Snape’s love for Lily in the book seems stunted, but in the movie it seems beautiful. It seems like he almost has a sibling’s care for her when she goes off to her new life, and his nobility in caring for her from afar is touching. Another wonderful reveal is that Snape is really the one who’s trying to take care of Harry. Dumbledore is our ruthless wizard (a subject which is also dealt with well.)

As for the epilogue, it is mightily edited. The only part of substance left is when Harry talks to his second son about Snape, and how Snape was a brave man. Vital, as we see Harry grapple with Snape’s memories when he learns the truth, and we understand that Harry has progressed to the point as an adult when he understands Snape’s higher actions. I was pretty proud of both that Snape and that Harry.

I came away as a satisfied viewer, and I would like to see the film again.

Catherine

Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.

2 thoughts on “Harry Potter and the Power of an Editor”

  1. I enjoyed the movie, but I have to say that Snape’s death was very anti-climatic for me. I couldn’t remember what exactly happened in the book, so was expecting something very meaningful, and then remembered why I had perhaps forgotten the first time. His entire purpose for all his playing both sides was to be killed without even being found out, and without doing anything particularly awesome for the good guys? Ugh. Anyone could have been kept around to tell Harry at the right moment that he had to die. Or you know, magic could have been used to send a message at the proper time. Double ugh.

  2. Oddly, I don’t remember much of the second half of that book. Perhaps it is because I was so underwhelmed by the middle. By the time I got to the end, I was just glad to be done. I felt like I needed to finish to see what happened, but I had lost my passion for a series that re-awakened the reader in me.

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