Good Riddance, Dobby

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 was number one at the box office for the third straight week. With over $600 million in worldwide grosses, the first half of the final installment of the film franchise looks like it will probably surpass the $933 million gross of its predecessor (The Half-Blood Prince) and earn a cool billion. After Part 2 is released next year, the Potter franchise will likely overtake the Star Wars series as the most lucrative film franchise of all time. Not too shabby for some movies based on a bunch of "kids books."

The series has come a long way since the painful first couple films, where we dutifully sat and gaped along with the young protagonists at all the wizardly hoopty-hoo (in between surreptitious glances at our watches). Times have grown dark for Harry and friends, with danger lurking at every turn and familiar faces meeting their unpleasant ends at the hands of Voldemort and his minions. Deathly Hallows continues the last few movies' trend of killing off beloved characters.

Oh, and Dobby the elf.

I guess I have a problem with whiny characters in movies, whatever their motivations or abilities (see also Luke Skywalker). Dobby, like other house elves, possesses magical powers different than/beyond the ability of human wizards. For this reason, he can do things like apparate in and out of Hogwarts and other shielded areas as well as put a sorcerous beat-down on Lucius Malfoy. Fine. And it was only thanks to Dobby's intervention that Harry, Ron, and Hermione (and Luna and Ollivander) were freed from the Death Eaters. Great. He's still a cross between Gollum and Vladimir Putin and has a voice that makes Joe Lieberman sound like James Earl Jones.

Did J.K. Rowling describe him as a trembling annoyance? I don't remember, but don't think that he was. And sure, he saved our heroes' bacon by spiriting them away from Malfoy Manor, but of all the crap excised from the books, director David Yates and company elected to keep in the excruciating long death and subsequent reverent burial of a character we hadn't seen since the second movie.

For real?

I can think of two other deaths in Deathly Hallows that should have packed more of an emotional wallop than Dobby's, and both occurred during the initial flight from Privet Drive. The first was Harry's owl, Hedwig. Appearing in all the films, and a trusted and loyal companion to Harry, Hedwig deserved a little more commemoration than a "there, there" from Hagrid after taking a Killing Curse for her master.

And then there's "Mad Eye" Moody. What memorial is given to one of the greatest Aurors of all time? A man single-handedly responsible for the capture of dozens of dark wizards? Who led the newly created Order of the Phoenix and spearheaded the efforts to protect Harry from Voldemort? Nothing but a brief mention, after the fact, that he was killed by You Know Who at the beginning of the movie. They don't even show his demise on screen, like Hedwig's. Instead, his death is brought up in passing so we can get to the really important part of the film: Harry and Hermione camping.

Audiences are easily manipulated by cute characters in peril. And the sniffling in the theater following Dobby's perforation reminded me of nothing so much as the Ewok dying in Return of the Jedi. Hundreds of thousands of humans are getting vaporized in the skies over Endor, and we're expected to burst into tears over one dead Monchichi.

But at least with Dobby out of the way, we'll be free to mourn the real victim of Part 2 -- Bellatrix Lestrange -- properly.

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