‘Wipe Them Out … All Of Them.’
This article was originally intended to be a very late review of Lego Harry Potter Years 5-7 which I purchased recently for PS3, but when I was blocking out the article in my theme-park of an imagination I was struck by a sudden thought. This thought occurred after witnessing Lego’s take on Dumbledore’s death. Obviously the game is aimed squarely for a younger audience and pulls the punches where character death is concerned. It has been the same since Lego Star Wars back on the PS2. Deaths in Lego games are always light-hearted and almost always have the poor little Lego chap or chapette cut in half, their legs to one side, or doing a little jig before they go rigid and ‘death’ happens. Lego plays death only for humour, they don’t want to upset anyone.
In Lego Harry Potter Years 5-7 Harry finds Dumbledore underneath the astronomy tower as in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (film and book). In this rendition, however, Dumbledore is nailed down into the ground head-first from the fall, his limbs spread-eagled like a ridiculous flowering tree and his Lego hand clamped firmly on the list of Horcruxes Harry must destroy. Cue the little tug of war as Harry tries to wrench the list free from the recently deceased headmaster. I chuckled for a moment.
The point I’m trying to make (albeit in a roundabout way) is that Lego games tend to treat death in a vague way, or as something abstract or humorous. You never see the life drain away from the characters, and you don’t see their bodies left behind. There is no reality to their deaths, and obviously I’m not criticising the game for that. The game is in fact standard Lego fare, so it’s well polished, well presented and runs smoothly. It’s a tonne of fun and full to the brim with lovely, lovely collectibles. If you enjoyed the first Lego games, you will definitely find something to love in Lego Harry Potter Years 5-7.
Though, like I said, this isn’t a review. I played my way through the game, watching Lego’s take on Dobby’s death. Instead of being run through in a gruesome manner by a knife, he is hilariously (perhaps not the best word) crushed under umbrellas, fish and miscellaneous items.
Then I got to the juicy stuff, the battle of Hogwarts. I took control of Molly Weasley and dispatched Bellatrix Lestrange who has a little fit, becomes separated from her three piece body and disappears in a purple puff of smoke. That seemed familiar. Then I was Harry, fighting Voldemort, and just like in the movie Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, after being hit by the final blow Voldemort dissolves away into nothing. Then it hit me! Lego didn’t really need to re-imagine Bellatrix or Voldemort’s death, because they were already Lego-friendly.
Okay, I have to confess. I really disliked the way Bellatrix and Voldermort went out in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 film. Bellatrix was struck by a curse from Mrs Weasley and broke apart like ash, as did Voldemort. I can understand why the directors would possibly not want to have a realistic take on major villain death. They don’t want Harry Potter and friends looking like killers because, you know, they are the good guys. It’s okay to have your good guy kill if they dissolve into nothing, right? Luke Skywalker literally killed thousands of stormtroopers, support staff and a few cleaning ladies when he took down the Death Star, but it’s okay because we didn’t see their bodies floating about in the debris.
The problem is that the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 and Part 2 made the mistake of showing us ‘realistic’ death when they killed off Dobby and Lavender Brown – two rather innocuous characters - with full-screen, face on death. You can see the nothingness in their eyes, all the life simply drained out of them. A shell of an individual. Why couldn’t we see Voldemort and Bellatrix like that?
It would give us a great finality to Voldemort’s presence. We would watch as Harry and his friends approach the crumbled body of the Dark Lord they even dreaded mentioning for decades, realising that he was really dead. Slowly, the feelings of happiness would out, not because Voldemort is dead, but because seeing his dead body means that all the horror, darkness and misery is over. That would be a fulfilling end.
The movie unfortunately ignored its maturing audience, an audience who could accept the fact that Harry would have to physically kill another person. We can all understand Harry’s choice if he had to stand, defend himself – and if necessary, kill – if it was the greater good. In the book, Harry even offers Voldemort the chance to surrender, still resisting the prophecy that said Harry had to kill Voldemort if he was ever to be stopped. Eventually, Harry has to take that stand and go against his personal beliefs to kill Voldemort, an act that you can imagine Harry still doesn’t agree with. He wants to be nothing like Voldemort, who is a merciless killer. The movies, in the end, could be said to compromise Harry’s journey and internal conflicts, reducing them to save Harry’s image.
Harry Potter, in the books, was groomed by Dumbledore to be a sacrifice, and in the end, the person who would kill Voldemort. Okay, he did ‘kill’ Voldemort in the film, but personally, the ‘Voldemort dissolving away into nothing’ robbed me of all emotional impact. Losing that quiet moment when you ask ‘is it over?’.
It’s strange that the most evil character in the movies would be treated so humanely at his moment of passing, whereas in the Book he was treated like any other man. Robbed of his life, he is simply a man, no longer the dreaded Lord Voldemort. Just a body.
Here’s an extract from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (by J.K. Rowling):
Chapter Thirty-Six : The Flaw In The Plan, Page 596
‘Tom Riddle (Lord Voldemort) hit the floor with a mundane finality, his body feeble and shrunken, the white hands empty, the snake-like face vacant and unknowing. Voldemort was dead, killed by his own rebounding curse (Okay, he was killed by his own curse, but Harry Potter knew what was going to happen. In the end he engineered Voldemort’s death as much if he had used the curse himself), and Harry stood with two wands in his hand, staring down at his enemy’s shell.
One shivering second of silence, the shock of the moment suspended: and then tumult broke around Harry as the screams and the cheers and the roars of the watchers rent the air.”
Even from that small paragraph you can feel the weight of Voldemort’s death, the release of tension, the sudden realization that Voldemort, the most feared dark wizard ever, is dead. You can just imagine the piss-up Hogwarts had that night… after, you know, they cleaned up all the rubble and got all the dead spiders off of the front lawn. I feel that the previous paragraph packed more of a punch than this.
Yes, the battle of Hogwarts was gritty and bloody, and you could feel as if you were there. It’s wonderfully dark and violent like in the books, but why, oh why didn’t they just take that to Voldemort’s death, it feels too ‘clean’ for me. It’s a little too much like it was written for a Lego game, although in this case it’s not funny or charming. It’s just a bit of a let down to cheapen what could have been an important moment for the story, if not the most important moment in all the Harry Potter film franchise.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the films and I was hyped as hell for the end of the saga, but I can still remember thinking after Voldemort’s infamous dissolving: “Really …?”
Let me know what you think in the comments section, do you agree or disagree? All constructive criticism of my argument is welcome, but be nice about it!