Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Directed by David Yates
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman and Maggie Smith

Warner Bros. | 2011 | 130 min | Rated PG-13 | Released Jul 15, 2011 (Theaters)

The Film 4.5/5

I’m a fan of the Harry Potter franchise. I have read all of the books and own the first seven movies. My favorite in the series is the Prisoner of Azkaban, while I rate Deathly Hallows Part 1 as the weakest entry.

It seems that Part 1 moves slowly and contains too many insignificant scenes. In contrast, this final installment feels a little rushed. It runs about two hours before the credits start to roll and tries to cram in the final showdown, while tying up as many loose ends as possible. Some of the threads are resolved using rather clumsy exposition and deserved more screen time. My final quibble involves the use of quick cuts to increase the sense of action. The story was good enough to do that on its own and I didn’t feel that it was necessary to turn some of the scenes into something resembling Bourne.

Although the movie isn’t perfect, it’s still a fine way to end a thoroughly enjoyable franchise.

I can’t imagine that this final entry will be seen by many people who avoided the first seven movies, and that’s a good thing. The story picks up right where Part 1 ended and introduces us to many of the characters from the first seven movies. It wouldn’t have much impact as a standalone movie and it’s not supposed to. I’m interested in seeing the two final parts together to see whether Part 1 works better. In fact, I’ll watch all eight movies when the final Blu-ray is released.

The story follows Harry, Ron and Hermione in their search for the remaining horcruxes. The first hunt is a spectacular affair which is heavy on the special effects and action. I’m aware that many viewers will not have read the books, so I’m not going to spoil anything. If you read the final book, you’ll be aware of which sequence I’m referring to. 

For anyone who complained about the absence of scenes involving Hogwarts in Part 1, much of the action takes place at the school in this concluding part. What struck me is how different Hogwarts looked when we were first introduced to the world of Harry Potter. Gone are the vibrant colors and whimsical interactions with ghosts or paintings. Instead, be prepared to enter a dark setting. I mean that literally as the setting is extremely dim for about 95 percent of the movie; think Gotham City for a comparison.

Another thing that I noticed is how much the acting has improved. The main characters were around 11 years old when the franchise was born, so they are about 21 now. Radcliffe held his own in scenes involving some of the best British character actors of their generation. Watson and Grint played their parts well, and it’s a tribute to the original casting that the franchise has developed as well as it has.

It should be noted how important some of the supporting actors are to the success of the franchise. Can you imagine anyone other than Alan Rickman as Snape? His story is one of the most interesting in the series and sees a fitting conclusion. I’m also fond of Maggie Smith’s portrayal of McGonagall and love her role in the final installment. You’ll see actors that have appeared infrequently given a little recognition, and they deserve it.

I watched the movie with a large audience made up of children and adults into their sixties. Although the sense of evil was always present and the setting was dark, the audience found plenty of scenes worthy of laughter. It’s a truly entertaining movie.

The movie might have improved if 30 minutes were added so that everything felt less rushed, but it could have affected the tension if we were given more chances to breathe. The sense of scale reminded me of some of the battles seen in Lord of the Rings. Replace Voldemort’s minions with orcs, and there were quite a few similarities.

Fans of the Harry Potter franchise, and I am among them, will be pleased with the way everything is wrapped up. After a disappointment in Part 1, the conclusion was worthy of the story created in the first seven movies. To see who lives, who dies, and what happens to the survivors, you’ll have to check it out for yourself. I thoroughly recommend the experience.

The Blu-ray release should be spectacular, despite the grim setting. The explosions and battle scenes will rock your home theater.

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