Thursday, July 21, 2011

Review - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

And that, as they say, is that. Ten years and some 7 billion galleons after The Philosopher's Stone first charmed Potterphiles the world over in 2001, J.K. Rowling's magical saga finally fades to black with Part 2 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which makes a fitting end to a beloved franchise. While I never felt as consistently invested in the films as I did the books, I can only tip my hat to the series as it takes its final bow, and to The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 in particular for leaving on a strong note. It strikes me as an appropriately representative cross-section of the whole; perhaps not as artistically intent as Alfonso Cuaron's Prisoner of Azkaban, not nearly as lethargic as Mike Newell's Goblet of Fire, but a balanced mixture of thrill and sentiment that makes it easy to understand why moviegoers were so keen to keep returning to this world.

A token summary of the plot seems unnecessary for a review of this film, as surely anyone who's interested in seeing it will have read the books years ago... at least you had better have, or you'll find yourself inescapably lost. Writer Steve Cloves has ceased making concessions for the casual viewer, omitting anything but essential information and necessitating that we fill in the blanks. Though his resulting screenplay is inevitably less detailed than Rowling's involved tome, it proves a necessary evil; one not exercised enough in The Deathly Hallows' first half, but effectively employed for this closing chapter. The payoff is clear: a refreshing 2-hour run time, making this the most efficiently told entry in the octalogy. In retrospect, the move to split The Deathly Hallows in twain worked out for the better, although I still cringe sceptically at the original motivations behind the decision.

The focus of the story here is on the long siege of Hogwarts by Voldemort and his nefarious Death Eaters while Harry, Ron, and Hermione scramble to destroy the last remaining Horcruxes. I admit that the trailers (which seemed to advertise this as the best Michael Bay film of the year) had me a tad worried, but director David Yates prevents the gravity of the action from becoming burdensome. His approach to the Battle of Hogwarts is to scatter several mini action sequences between snippets of plot development (applause to editor Mark Day for piecing it together so tightly). The spectacle of the battle remains fleet and exhilarating, rather than a butt-numbing slog. As always, it's sensationally evoked by more of Tim Burke's marvelous effects and Stuart Craig's meticulous production design. Could either of them finally bring the series its first Academy Award on its last at-bat?

Watching the three young principles – Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson – grow from photogenic munchkins to mature actors over the course of a decade has been a fascinating ride. True, they feel a bit like slaves to the action in this movie, but line it up at the end of seven other movies that gave each of them plenty of character development, and their collective performance in this one becomes a rather moving denouement to a long emotional journey. Peripheral characters like Matthew Lewis' Neville Longbottom, Tom Felton's Draco Malfoy, and Evanna Lynch's Luna Lovegood are spared precious minutes of screen time for themselves. Many of the adult ensemble (justly lauded over the entire series as one of the richest mosaics of British thesps ever assembled) get their moment as well. Some more than others – Robbie Coltrane's Hagrid literally gets less than ten words to utter, while Alan Rickman's Snape gets a compelling flashback montage to round out his not-so-unexpected character arc. So much for equity, I guess. I must aver, however, how gratifying it was to see Maggie Smith (among my favourite living actresses) start kicking ass and taking names. Totally worth the price of admission.

And so it ends, and all that's left to do is wait for time to dictate just where these pictures will stack up in the heap of cinema history. Hard to say. For me, none of them, not even this one, seems like a classic to be, but I get the feeling that the whole may be much more than the sum of its parts. Across the boundaries of nations and the boundaries of media, Harry Potter somehow captured the imagination of a generation, brought us into a world of wondrous sights, sounds, places, people, and made us care about all of them. That is the greatest bit of magic ever performed.

*** out of ****

6 comments:

  1. I was going to review this movie, but I really couldn't define my thoughts well enough. I can't say it was the best because the others were, in a way, a form of set up for this film. If I had to pick favorites, this and part 1 would be close behind Prisoner of Azkaban, but I am partial to the latter and I think pt. 2 owes a lot to pt. 1, or to the rest of the films honestly

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  2. A valid point, but the same can be said of any film series. That wouldn't stop me from assessing the individual parts on their own merits. I think I'll have to go back and watch all eight in succession at some point. See how it works together.

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  3. yea, I did that before seeing it, save for the Half Blood Prince since I didn't have it on me, and I will admit while they were all good in their own right, the deeper they got into the series, the more dependent they got on the former films/books, which isn't bad, but it kind of hurt my perspective, the 6th one especially when I saw it...

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  4. What do you see for it as far as oscar potential goes?

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  5. Nominations for Art Direction and Visual Effects seem possible, but I wouldn't hold out hope for much more than that. Maybe Cinematography or maybe Score (because the music branch likes Desplat).

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  6. Personally,I think it might be able to pull off a best picture nomination. After all, so far it's been a pretty weak year for film making. And its gotten the highest Rotten Tomatoes score out of any widely seen films this year.

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