Sunday, July 17, 2011

Review: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2"

I hate to say it, but I was a little underwhelmed by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, the eighth and final film in the magical series adapted from J.K. Rowling's bestselling novels. I am a true Harry Potter fan. I have read and reread every book, seen every film on the big screen, and I am currently watching Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (the third film in the series). I even went to the midnight screening because I was so excited for the film (and even showing up 75 minutes early got me a seat in the third row!). In my review of Part 1, I suggested that the film suffered because it felt incomplete. This is true once again, as the second installment lacks the same emotional cohesiveness. That is my only complaint, as I thoroughly enjoyed the finale and laughed and cried with everyone else in the theatre. I first read Harry Potter and the Philosopher's [Sorcerer's] Stone when I was 16, after my brother was given the first two books as a Christmas present. I was already a bookworm and the books did little to enhance my already sky high love of reading, but I fully realize what Harry Potter has done for a generation and this final film carries a lot of expectations. We have watched Harry, Ron and Hermione, played by Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, grow into young adults, and while their characters own most of the time on screen it is, as always, the supporting actors who steal the spotlight. Helena Bonham Carter owns the screen as Bellatrix Lestrange, while Maggie Smith and Alan Rickman are superb as Professors McGonagall and Snape, respectively. The film is also very dark, thematically and literally. I saw the film in 2D and I would guess that the 3D effects would only be a dimming distraction. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 offers a fitting conclusion to the series that began nearly ten years ago, and while separating the story into two parts creates flaws, there is enough to excite and appease every fan.

Part 2 begins right where Part 1 left us, Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes, fantastic as usual) has found the Elder Wand and Harry, Ron and Hermione are at Bill and Fleur's cottage. Harry makes a deal with Griphook to surrender the sword of Gryffindor in exchange for entry into Gringotts to look for a Horcrux in one of the bank vaults. Using Polyjuice potion, Hermione goes into Gringotts posing as Bellatrix Lestrange, with Harry and Griphook using the Invisibility Cloak. All goes well until one of the bank's security measures removes all enchantments and they are thrown from the cart in a tunnel as an alarm begins to sound. After discovering the Horcrux in Bellatrix's vault, they are able to escape from the goblins. Harry, through a vision, sees Voldemort and learns there is a Horcrux at Hogwarts. They apparate into the village of Hogsmeade and are discovered by Aberfoth Dumbledore (Ciaran Hinds), brother of Albus. Aberforth helps them return to Hogwarts through a hidden passageway, where they are reunited with their classmates, including Neville, Luna and Ginny. Professor Snape, now Headmaster, gathers all the students in the Great Hall to warn them of Harry Potter's return. Harry confronts Snape but Professor McGonagall intercedes and uses her powers to disarm Snape. She instructs Filch to take the Slytherins to the dungeon and all other beings are summoned to protect Hogwarts. Harry goes off in search of the Horcrux, while Ron and Hermione try to destroy the Horcrux they found in the bank vault, Helga Hufflepuff's Cup. It is Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch) who directs Harry to speak to the ghost Helena Ravenclaw (Kelly Macdonald), daughter of Rowena, as they believe the Horcrux at Hogwarts is Rowena Ravenclaw's long-missing diadem. Harry must find and destroy the Horcrux and further diminish Voldemort's power before he can confront him.

I think part of what has caused a disconnect between me and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 is that the film begins right where the previous film ended. It is one story and should have been one film. When Quentin Tarantino was forced to split Kill Bill into two parts, the conclusion of part one and the opening scenes of part two had a much stronger purpose. This does not exist with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2. I felt that Part 1 also lacked focus, so it should come as no surprise that Part 2 suffers the same way. Warner Bros., the studio responsible for the films, should understand that Harry Potter fans were more than willing to read (and reread) 700 page books, so we would also willingly watch a four hour film. It is easy to nitpick because I really did enjoy the film and I have loved the film series, though The Half-Blood Prince would be the weakest link. There is so much story and background to cover in The Deathly Hallows, and the film glossed over quite a few details. Harry seemed to end up at Hogwarts far too quickly and the battle between good and evil seemed less frantic than it had in my mind when reading the book. This film series will be remembered for being the highest-grossing franchise in history. The eight films will have earned an astonishing amount of money, but credit must be given to J.K. Rowling for creating such an incredible story. Major and minor characters are equally significant to the world of Harry Potter and the fantastic British actors who have appeared in the series must be thanked as well. Personally, top honours go to Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange), Ralph Fiennes (Lord Voldemort), Gary Oldman (Sirius Black), Alan Rickman (Severus Snape), Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall) and Imelda Staunton (Dolores Umbridge). I cried during the final film and it saddens me that Harry Potter is over, but I will reread the books many more times in my life and one day I will hope to get to see the series on the big screen once again.

My rating: 3.25 stars out of 4 (if only for my personal issues with the disconnect between parts).

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