Harry Potter (2001-2011) – Ace Mini-Review + How Ace Is Alan Rickman?

I know almost everyone alive has either read the Harry Potter books or seen the movies. But in case you haven’t, this review will be discussing key plot details from the very end of the series. Which means…

 SPOILERS!!!

 You have been warned.


Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Written by: Steve Kloves
Directed by: Chris Columbus
U.K./U.S.A., 2001

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Written by: Steve Kloves
Directed by: Chris Columbus
Germany/U.K./U.S.A., 2002

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Written by: Steve Kloves
Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón
U.K./U.S.A., 2004

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Written by: Steve Kloves
Directed by: Mike Newell
U.K./U.S.A., 2005

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Written by: Michael Goldenberg
Directed by: David Yates
U.K./U.S.A., 2007

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Written by: Steve Kloves
Directed by: David Yates
U.K./U.S.A., 2009

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Written by: Steve Kloves
Directed by: David Yates
U.K./U.S.A., 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Written by: Steve Kloves
Directed by: David Yates
U.K./U.S.A., 2011

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson
Books by: J. K. Rowling

How good are these movies?

As page-to-screen adaptations go, the Harry Potter films are reasonably decent. The early installments have many of the same weaknesses as the books – the obnoxiously infallible hero, the occasionally mean-spirited humour, Dobby – while the later ones struggle to contain the complex and convoluted plot. Prisoner of Azkaban is probably the best, with Goblet of Fire as a close second. Both break from the early films’ slavish fidelity to the novels, cutting out the extraneous sub-plots and adding their own original touches to make a strong story more engaging. Order of the Phoenix is by far the biggest disappointment. It’s based on my favourite book of the series, but Imelda Staunton is utterly miscast in the role of Umbridge (Before seeing the movie, I actually thought that was going to be Helena Bonham Carter’s part. She would have been an awesome Umbridge, am I right?) and it totally fails to capture the novel’s deconstruction of Harry’s toxic masculinity. Still, the climactic sequence is pretty cool, even if it substitutes a “power of friendship” theme for the book’s “hatred gets people killed” message. I’m glad they decided to split Deathly Hallows in two, allowing most of the plot to fit in without feeling rushed. All the slow bits are in the first part and all the action in the second, but if you watch them together as one long movie they work quite well. The child acting is painfully bad for the first few films, but the actors do grow into their roles, and by the end are quite likeable. I also appreciate the fact that the adolescent characters actually look like adolescents – not like twenty-somethings with personal shoppers. Of the adult actors, Maggie Smith is well-cast as McGonagall and Ralph Fiennes is great as Voldemort. Alan Rickman’s Snape is also enjoyable in his way, although he is very different from the book version. I’m more sceptical of some of the other casting choices, most notably Michael Gambon, who makes for a weirdly grouchy and unimpressive Dumbledore. Over all, the films are worth watching, but I still recommend reading the novels first. Key story elements often get sacrificed in the interest of time, and while I’m glad to be rid of some of them (those house-elves, man…) others create major Adaptation-Induced Plot Holes. As a result, most of the films don’t stand up very well without knowledge of the books.

How ace are these movies?

Being primarily about and aimed at children, there’s no sex in these movies. The early films are also free of romance, with Harry instead defined by longing for his lost family and friendship with Ron and Hermione. Romance also plays little role in the lives of the adult characters. Many of them – including McGonagall, Dumbledore, Sirius, and Mad-Eye – are entirely without love interests, though this may be partly because they are seen through the eyes of the children. Platonic affection is also important to the adults, be it the parental concern many of them show for Harry, their shared resistance to Voldemort, or the friendship between Remus, Sirius, and James. Romance begins to be seen more in Goblet of Fire, with the kids turning into obnoxious teenagers as they grapple with new feelings and relationships. Romantic sub-plots continue to intrude for the rest of the series, but they remain secondary to the story. Harry shares his first kiss with Cho in Order of the Phoenix, but the relationship has no chemistry and ends abruptly after Cho’s arrest and torture. Friendship and teamwork are a much more important theme in the movie, and when he is fighting off Voldemort it is Harry’s memories of his friends and family that give him strength, not his memory of Cho. Even when Harry finally falls for Ginny and Ron and Hermione for each other, the importance of friendship continues to be emphasised. Hermione chooses her friendship with Harry over an irrationally jealous Ron in Deathly Hallows 1; Ginny has close relationships with other characters, such as Neville; and the romances themselves are all based on friendship. One could argue that the ending is very heteronormative, with Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and Draco all married with children, and even a hint of a Neville-Luna romance that isn’t in the books. One might also question why, with such a large cast, there was no room for any explicitly queer characters or queer relationships. However, the teachers and students in Harry’s life do function in many ways like a queer kinship network. Harry is raised by multiple adults, many of whom he cares for passionately, and he even refers to Sirius as his family. Sex, romance, and biological relationships are of little importance in this network.

How ace is Alan Rickman?

Character: Professor Severus Snape (Potions professor, Dark Arts enthusiast, former Death Eater)

For most of the series, Snape shows no sign of romantic interest in anyone. He has cordial relationships with Dumbledore and McGonagall, and Charity Burbage describes him as a “friend”, but he doesn’t really seem close to anyone. Even in Goblet of Fire, when people are pairing up all over the place, he remains aloof.

Of course, we eventually learn that Snape did love one woman in his life, and that he’s still very much hung up on her. However, his lack of interest in anyone else suggests that she was a unique case. Whether because he is wracked with grief and regret, or because their relationship was so special, Snape seems never to have had sexual feelings for any woman except Lily. That makes him come off as demisexual, at least.

In fact, it’s not even clear that Snape is attracted to Lily sexually. I won’t get into the difference between sexual and romantic attraction; in a children’s series like this the two can be assumed to go along together. But there’s no evidence in the films that Snape’s feelings are even romantic. We’re told that he loved her, but not that he was in love with her. He was hurt when she married James, but that’s not surprising given the way James had tormented him. Her death obviously left a deep void inside him and he subsequently devoted himself to protecting her child. This might seem to suggest romantic love, but only in an amatonormative context where platonic love is devalued. In fact, there’s no reason Snape couldn’t have had all those responses to Lily, even if his feelings for her were completely platonic.

The books do drop many hints of Snape’s sexual feelings for Lily. But Film!Snape is not Book!Snape. Alan Rickman’s performance is, in many ways, a distinct interpretation of the character that deviates in numerous ways from the original. This interpretation opens up many possibilities for how we understand him and his relationship with Lily. He may have loved her in a sexual way, but he also may not. Ultimately, what matters is that he loved her, regardless of what kind of love it was.

What if he is?

Asexuality would just add one more layer to Snape’s tragedy. Unable to live up to James’s standards of either manliness or heterosexuality, he would naturally feel like the friend who is abandoned in favour of the more sexually appealing love-interest. It would also mean that, like many asexuals, he would lack the language to justify or even explain his obsession with Lily. There’s a certain nobility accorded to unrequited sexual love, but many people might be hard-pressed to understand how Snape could remain so hung up on a woman he was “just” friends with. Even Dumbledore seems surprised when Snape shows him his patronus. An asexual Snape would be an important reminder that deep love, heartbreak, and devotion are possible even in platonic relationships.

Philosopher’s Stone: 3 Stars; 3 Aces
Chamber of Secrets
: 3 Stars; 3 Aces
Prisoner of Azkaban
: 3.5 Stars; 3 Aces
Goblet of Fire
: 3.5 Stars; 3 Aces
Order of the Phoenix
: 3.5 Stars; 3 Aces
Half-Blood Prince
: 3 Stars; 3 Aces
Deathly Hallows 1
: 3 Stars; 3 Aces
Deathly Hallows 2
: 3 Stars; 3 Aces

3 thoughts on “Harry Potter (2001-2011) – Ace Mini-Review + How Ace Is Alan Rickman?

  1. luvtheheaven says:

    “An asexual Snape would be an important reminder that deep love, heartbreak, and devotion are possible even in platonic relationships.” – this entire analysis is really interesting to me; sorry I missed reading it before.

    Like

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