Apparently, I have a lot of thoughts about the Battle of Hogwarts. Specifically, the movie version. I actually really like the Deathly Hallows Part II movie, but there are a few things about it – most of them very minor – that get on my nerves.
Yesterday, I wrote about the horde of a thousand Death Eaters, and I’m sure there will be a post coming soon about the weird way Voldemort’s body dissolves when he dies. But one of the things that bothers me the most is that no one attempts to evacuate the castle.
In the book, Professor McGonagall’s first thought upon realizing they’re going to fight Voldemort at Hogwarts is that they have to evacuate the students. She and the other Heads of House agree that anyone under seventeen must leave the castle before Voldemort attacks, although the oldest students will be allowed to stay and fight if they choose to. There’s a whole scene in the book where the students gather in the Great Hall and McGonagall explains everything that’s going on. The movie does things a little differently, but it wouldn’t have been hard to have evacuation brought up and Harry suggest the secret passageway to Hogsmeade.
Instead, what happens is this: after Voldemort’s ultimatum, Professor McGonagall sends the Slytherins to the dungeons, and the rest of the students are left to fend for themselves, even the first and second years who can barely make sparks fly out of their wands. Aside from how hard it is to believe that none of the Hogwarts teachers thought about trying to get their students to safety, and the horror of realizing many of them likely didn’t survive the battle, this takes away their choice as well.
It takes away from the fact that so many of the seventeen- and eighteen-year-olds did stay to fight. It takes away from the fact that younger students, like Ginny and Colin, refused to be told they had to leave and fought in the battle anyway. I wouldn’t say it negates the heroism of those who fought, but it makes their actions more about survival than a conscious decision to do what was right.
It also takes away the choice from the students who left. Those who had not been part of the DA and knew they would be no good in a fight. Those who left to make sure a younger sibling got safely home. Those who left to return with reinforcements. Those who were just plain scared and decided the battle could be won or lost without them. Those who were loyal to the other side. The fact that so many left – all the Slytherins, and some of the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs – adds realism to the story and makes those who stayed seem all the more noble for doing so.
For that matter, it takes away the possibility of help from the outside. In the book, Professor Slughorn returns near the end of the battle with a large group of reinforcements to help defend the castle. In the movie, this couldn’t possibly happen, because no one left the castle. The villagers in Hogsmeade might have seen that something was happening, but they wouldn’t have known what they could do or why they should. The families of the students who stayed to fight would have had no idea that a battle was even happening. Someone had to find them and ask for their help, and if no one left the castle, that’s impossible. The reinforcements are more than just numbers to help them win the battle. I see them as a sign that Hogwarts is not alone. The teachers, Dumbledore’s Army, the Order of the Phoenix, the few who are there when the battle starts and who have been fighting all along, are not making their final stand on their own, and there are many others out there who step up when the time comes. This kind of wider support for the heroes is in direct contrast with the movie, where they truly are on their own and up against massive numbers under Voldemort’s command.
It takes away the Slytherin students’ choice as well. In the book, many went straight to Voldemort, while a few went with Professor Slughorn and then returned to help win the battle. Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle snuck back into the castle and tried to capture Harry themselves, which didn’t go all that well for them. In the movie, there are no such choices. No one has a chance to leave the castle.
That means it also takes away from the Malfoy parents’ dilemma. In the book, when other Slytherin students start showing up to join the Death Eaters and Draco doesn’t, they have no idea what happened to him. Voldemort seems to suspect disloyalty and makes it clear that he doesn’t care if Draco lives or dies. There’s a battle going on, and they don’t know which side he’s on or whether he’s even still alive. His father begs Voldemort to call off the battle, and when that fails, his mother lies to Voldemort, telling him Harry Potter is dead, in an attempt to end the battle and find Draco. In the movie, though, Snape is the one person from Hogwarts who went to Voldemort at the start of the battle. The students are all still in the castle. Draco’s parents have no reason to suspect that anything unusual happened to him, or that he’s in any more danger than the other Slytherins.
The Harry Potter books are so tightly-woven that even a small change makes a big difference.