Friday, July 15, 2011

I Open At The Close: Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part 2 Is The One Where Everything Happens!

The Good: Special effects, Character moments, Acting, Plot resolution.
The Bad: Very dependent upon prior installments/Final scene.
The Basics: Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part 2 finally arrives to cap off the journey of Harry Potter and his magical friends in a firefight that must be seen on the big screen to be fully appreciated.

I suspect the reason that so many reviews of the new, final, Harry Potter Saga film Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part 2 degenerates quickly into a discussion of the Harry Potter franchise rather than sticking to the content of this film is because it is the culmination of a serialized story. The challenge of reviewing just the most anticipated cinematic event since The Phantom Menace (reviewed here!) is that the film is all about tying up the loose ends. This movie is about making the final reveals, the final missions and the ultimate resolution between the potentially epic battle between young Harry Potter and the lord of evil, Voldemort. So, by its very nature, a review of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part 2 is either going to be full of spoilers or utterly indecipherable to those just beginning the series. I lean a little more toward the former, as the end of the Harry Potter Saga has to be more like The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy (reviewed here!); going in virtually everyone knows that the One Ring will be destroyed, the pleasure of the Trilogy is in seeing how it is done. Similarly, Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part 2 is a film where the "how" is more important to the fans than the "what." And it has been worth the wait.

It bears noting that while the cinematic release of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part 2 might well be the release of a generation, I am not of the Harry Potter Generation. My wife is, but I am not. While she has read all of the books and followed the franchise religiously, I only got into watching the movies when she and I met (I had actually intended to go through this life without getting into this franchise). But, if there is any review you can read that is unencumbered by the books to evaluate the movie, this is it. And before I even begin with the analysis, I'd just like to remind those who have not yet read my review of Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban (that's here!) that right off the back, my objection to the problem of time travel raised in that film is only compounded here. The series is, as far as I am concerned, a complete wash because of the issues there. Forgetting them for the purpose of this review (this is the last time I ask "Where the hell is the time turner now?!" I swear!), Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part 2 is pretty damn impressive.

With the evil Lord Voldemort acquiring the Elder Wand from the tomb of Dumbledore, Snape ascending to the Headmaster position at Hogwart's, and Harry Potter and his friends burying their dead at the cottage home of Ron's older brother, the world looks grim for magicusers and muggles alike. Griphook, the goblin, rescued by Harry offers Harry and his team the opportunity to find the next Horcrux in the vault of Bellatrix Lestrange. So, disguised as Bellatrix, Hermione with Ron, Griphook and Harry in tow, infiltrates the magical vaults at Gringgott's to try to find the next object that houses a piece of Voldemort's soul. They discover a chalice inside the vault and have to fight their way out of the magical repository with the help of an enslaved dragon. The trio then heads to Hogwart's in search of another Horcrux that Harry is given a vision of thanks to his connection to Voldemort. At Hogwart's, Harry deposes Snape with the help of McGonagall and students loyal to the cause.

As the last loyalists arrive to defend Hogwart's, Harry goes on a frantic search for what he believes to be the penultimate Horcrux as Hogwart's is besieged by Voldemort and his followers. With Neville Longbottom, McGonagall, Luna, Flitwick and the assorted Weasleys (among others), Harry Potter resists the Deatheaters and Voldemort over an exceptionally dangerous night. But when dawn comes, Voldemort disposes of one of his most valuable assets, which allows Harry to finally learn the truth about his own existence and the methods that will allow him to overcome Voldemort once and for all!

There is a lot of exposition in Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part 2 and most of it will mean nothing to those who have not seen the prior films. Similarly, the final scene - which is all I had a real beef with in the film - will mean almost nothing to those who have not read the books. My wife turned to me after the movie (she loved it!), and said, "In the last scene, they could have made clear that X - that curly headed boy - was the son of Y and Z." She said the names, they aren't important, but to list casualties are spoilers I won't write for this review! My point here is that the last scene doesn't progress the story or add anything to the film series. Sure, it's in the books and it is a better way to leave the series than the bridge scene that precedes it, but the real "magic" of what it should be is lacking for those who are not obsessive fans of the books.

That said, there was only one other real problem with Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part 2 and that was it was frequently rushed. In the effort to limit how long over two hours the movie clocked out at, scenes had the feeling of being truncated. So, for example, the dragon that has been chained below Gringgott's for an indeterminate but presumably long time stumbles once and the next cut is it flying perfectly. There is an intermediate moment when it stumbles from walking where it presumably fails to fly right for the first time that is absent. So, like other movies where the fans could handle longer - like Star Trek: Nemesis - one presumes that there are many extended scenes that would have enriched the flow of the movie.

Outside that, the movie is perfect. For a long while, I was considering this a 10/10, but that last scene and a few niggling inconsistencies robbed it of perfection for me. There are some nice ways the movie glosses over its own faults, like Harry asking Hermione if any plan they've ever made has actually worked, so they go planless because they know all hell will break loose, but the film lacks that spark that makes a movie perfect. It's very close, though.

In Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part 2, the characters are mature and sensible. Harry Potter, for example, asks the wandmaker every conceivable question about the Elder Wand, short of "Would you recognize the wand if you saw it?" Ron is only goofy once and the rest of the time is surprisingly smart and sensible. Dumbledore's alluded-to brother, Amberforth shows up and becomes a fully-realized character in his brief scenes. Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part 2 is not afraid to let the minor characters shine and Neville Longbottom's role overshadows Hermione's in the "substantial contribution" department in this film. Even Ron's mother has a great character moment that allowed her to grow and impress viewers.

In a similar fashion, the acting in Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part 2 is flawless. Tom Felton is cold and anguished as Malfoy, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson are finally given scenes which give their Ron and Hermione actual chemistry and Warwick Davis plays two bit roles with scene-stealing proficiency. Alan Rickman is finally given an opportunity to make Severus Snape likable, not just sensible, and he does not waste the chance. Instead, Rickman brings a humanity to the character with a performance that comes through in the eyes with full emotional impact. Ralph Fiennes continues to make Voldemort creepy and when he has to play vulnerability, he, too, does some great emoting through the eyes.

But the film rests largely on the performance by Daniel Radcliffe and he lands the role as Harry Potter. Radcliffe plays Potter as a fully-realized young adult and he has the posture of a man who is on a righteous cause. His performance eliminates the uncertainty of the early films, plays flawlessly with the digital constructs and does everything a great performance ought to.

One might hope there would be more analysis, but it is impossible to do without spoilers or degenerating into a discussion of the entire series. What I will - and should - say is this. Within fifteen minutes of the opening of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part 2, director David Yates accomplished something that no one else involved in the Harry Potter franchise aside from my wife has ever done; he made me care about the story, the characters, the resolutions. I felt throughout this movie and I cared, which is something I hadn't before. In Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part 2, I became invested in this magical world and how the characters might overcome the Big Evil. Outside, peeking occasionally at my wife to enjoy her enthralled reaction, I was glued to the screen and that is a huge accomplishment and one of the best possible endorsements I can give the movie.

For other films in the Harry Potter franchise, please check out my reviews of:
Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone
Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets
Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban
Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire
Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix
Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part 1


For other film reviews, please be sure to check out my index page with a full, organized listing of the movie reviews I have done (over 700 now!) by clicking here!

© 2011 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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