My husband and I went to see The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2 over the weekend, and I must say I was a little disappointed. I couldn’t have asked for a better ending to a long-anticipated movie-franchise finale. Director Bill Condon and Lionsgate/Summit Entertainment really blew me away, although to be fair, they’ve done to the Twilight movies all along what Warner Bros. didn’t do for Harry Potter: remain faithful to the story. And as a bookworm by birth, staying true to a novel is what makes it or breaks it for me when it comes to book-to-film adaptations.
I am a huge Harry Potter fan. I’ve read each novel several times (Goblet of Fire and Deathly Hallows are my favourites) and can quote or reference practically any passage; my iPod functions only to play the seven audiobooks; and the last thing on the screen before my TV puts itself to sleep is one of the eight movies (Philosopher’s Stone and Goblet of Fire usually). As if that weren’t enough, I dragged my husband down to Orlando to stand in line for 8.5 hours during a heat wave on 18 June 2010 (the opening day of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios). Despite all of this, the movies have really left me wanting. While I completely understand the need to make adjustments when jumping from page to reel, I question many of the changes that the studio execs made. The movies with which I was most disappointed were, sadly, the ones I had anticipated the most: the ultimate and penultimate installments that would close the door on a wonderful decade-long adventure. I remember my excitement when I finally reached the last few pages of Deathly Hallows, and I imagined how they would be played out on screen. One of the most riveting scenes in the entire series is the one where Harry and Voldy cast their final spells at each other:
And Harry, with the unerring skill of the Seeker, caught the wand in his free hand as Voldemort fell backward, arms splayed, the slit pupils of the scarlet eyes rolling upward … Voldemort was dead, killed by his own rebounding curse, and Harry stood with two wands in his hands, staring down at his enemy’s shell. One shivering second of silence, the shock of the moment suspend: and then the tumult broke around Harry as the screams and the cheers and the roars of the watchers rent the air. (DH 744)
What makes this scene so great is that Harry is able to defeat his enemy without ever using the Avada Kedavra spell, and that he does so while being surrounded by his friends for whom he (mere moments before) willingly sacrificed his life. Couldn’t you imagine the edge-of-your-seat suspense as Harry and Voldy dance in a circle, aware of everyone else in the room yet never taking their eyes off one another? If you’re like me, didn’t you hold your breath while reading this passage for the first time and then re-read it as soon as it was over? Didn’t you just visualize the scene of Harry and Voldy casting their spells, creating jets of red and green lights, then a lone wand arcing over the space between them, and Harry skilfully catching it as Voldy drops to the floor? Couldn’t you just hear that celebratory roar, perhaps joining in from the comforts of your bedroom? Even now, I get a little breathless remembering the thrill of reading those words for the very first time. But none of it was depicted in the movie (except for the lights). And for all the love I have for the Harry Potter world, I left the theatre at the end of the midnight showing feeling a little cheated of that hero moment that I had imagined over and over in my mind since the day I read the epilogue.
But Twilight got it right. And for a series that I didn’t particularly enjoy until the very last book, and for a collection of movies that made me feel as languid as I did when I read the novels, it wowed me. The Twilight movies were like a choir that bumbled its way through some of the more difficult notes, making the audience cringe in awkwardness at times, but harmonizing on the very last chord. I won’t give any spoilers here. I will only say that whether you are a fan of the story or not, you will appreciate the exemplary ending of this movie up to and including the farewell to the cast whose efforts brought the novels to life.
And if you’re a Harry Potter fan like me who was desperately looking forward to some heroic fighting and festlichkeit, you will walk away slightly disappointed that that other YA blockbuster fulfilled your desires instead. Go see the movie.