Thursday, July 14, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 Reviewed

I know I'm in the minority here, but I legitimately didn't like J.K. Rowling's final "Harry Potter" installment. I found it to be somewhat boring, anti-climactic, and terribly unsatisfying. It bothered me for months after finishing. My one hope that this series wouldn't leave a bad taste in my mouth lived with this final film (actually the final two). This time, I was not left disappointed, for Harry Potter finally has an end worthy of the series.

These last two Deathly Hallows films are just a cut above the rest. Almost every film in the series could have benefited from being split into two parts. It cuts down on that rushed feeling that often accompanies literary adaptations. Pacing, mood and character development are no longer slaves to the necessary shoehorning of important plot points. Part 1 is the slower film of the two, an enjoyable yet bleak affair that leads you through some tense events with a near-post-apocalyptic feeling to it. Part 2 is the showdown where everything finally comes to a head.  It's definitely the film with the shortest plot duration, which is a plus in that it allows events their proper exposure.

The Hogwarts portion of the story, which, in the book, I found to be terribly brief when considering the length of entire series, essentially gets its own film. There's a definite "this is it" "let's go" feel to the film. It's high energy, loaded with action and emotionally draining. Harry's return to Hogwarts feels special since that element was missing from the previous installment. Even in these dire circumstances, it was still good to see all the familiar faces that we've seen consistently throughout the series. One of my favorite moments of the film involves Professor McGonagall sending the castle's knight's to protect the bridge. It just screams "epic", but then again, most moments in the movie do as well.

It wouldn't take much for these characters, their situation and their world to seem silly, but Yates displays a knack for drawing us into this fray, making it feel as realistic and as frightening as possible. Dementors, gliding like black death, threaten the castle, as do giants, dark wizards and enormous spiders, which is pretty out there, but the way it's captured makes it feel like a real warzone. This truly feels like the showdown everything else has lead up to. 

Some fans might be disappointed by the lack of screentime and attention received by certain supplementary characters, but to me, the film concentrates on what's important - Harry himself. Even his closest friends, Ron and Hermione seem to take an even further-removed backseat. This really allows for the character to become the man he was meant to be. Radcliffe attacks his performance as a man on a mission, giving Potter the aura of a legend who is truly good and fearless to boot.

With emotions running so high, the end almost feels a tad underwhelming. Harry and Voldemort battle for a while, but the moment of truth might have been a little more spectacular, but I won't hold that against the film too much because I think it would be impossible for any part of the film  (or most films for that matter) to match the emotional quality of the tear-inducing Snape-sequence.

As with much of the other Harry Potter films, this one also suffers from a fair amount of exposition, but I guess it's necessary at this point, so people don't get confused by the murkier story developments. I'm inclined to brush over it more with this film because there's just so much good in it.

The very end of the film (the book's epilogue), plays out a tad silly here with CG that doesn't seem to age the characters the necessary amount. However, it's still sorta sweet. Now we must say goodbye to Harry, possibly for good. I will hold out hope that someday Rowling will return at least to the Wizarding World and that perhaps we will have more of these great films (don't you think a period-set prequel featuring Voldemort's initial rise would be awesome?).

Adapting books to film can be tricky - even more so with popular fiction. I don't love all of the Harry Potter films, but I love a majority of them and like the rest just fine, I suppose. But when speaking about the series as a whole - these films are better than they ever had any right to be. Pumping out eight quality films with a fairly consistent cast whilst maintaining the interest of the masses is no easy feat. In fact, it's unprecedented. I'm sure someday a series will come along that rivals this one (there are certainly enough pretenders out there), but for now, Harry Potter stands alone. In the end, I must give a great deal of credit to director David Yates, who took on the series after three directors had already had their hand at it. He gave the series the tone and style it needed for these final installments, something I don't believe any of his predecessors had the ability to.


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