Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 - Theatrical Review


Release Date: July 15, 2011

By now there are probably hundreds of reviews out there for this final entry into the Potter film franchise. What I have to say will not sway you or anyone else to either see it or not. At this point the entire series is beyond critic proof. What I am going to try and do is sum up as best I can my feelings on the series as a whole and try to determine if this was a fitting end to the landmark franchise.

Review Vital Stats:
Theater: Grauman's Chinese Theater Hollywood
Time: 7:30 pm July 15, 2011
Projector Type: Digital 3D

Loves: The world of Harry Potter
Likes: The idea and world of magic in general
Neutral: Splitting this final film into two parts
Hates: Side characters not getting a proper send off
Stupefied: My reaction to the out of left field ending (that I know is from the damn book!)

It has taken me a little while to gather my thoughts on this final Harry Potter film. This isn't your typical end to a trilogy of films, this is the culmination of a decades worth of films that were able to do the impossible by keeping most of all the talent in front of and behind the camera intact for all eight entries. So some special consideration must be taken when laying into the final part that essentially wraps everything up. I will once again forgo any elaborate explanation as to what has happened in the previous films and will instead hope that anyone out there reading this already has a firm grasp on the Potter universe by this point. Also keep in mind that there will most likely be spoilers ahead pertaining to the previous films as well, you have been warned.

The Deathly Hallows Part 1 ended rather abruptly. We saw the death of Dobby, Harry and friends were at an all time low point and we witness Lord Voldermort attain what appeared to be a form of ultimate power when he retrieved the elder wand, one of the three deathly hallows of legend. Things looked beyond bleak for our trio and the world in general as the dark lord's minions the deatheaters systematically began taking over every point of interest they could. In the last film they had completely absorbed the ministry of magic and thus gained control over the media and now they set their sights on Hogwarts where Snape has taken the position of headmaster for the school and uses his new found power to change the curriculum to a more malicious nature.

Our fearless trio returns to end it all.

The Deathly Hallows Part 2 starts up immediately after the final moments of the last film. Harry, Ron and Hermoine along with some other survivors are held up at this cottage by the ocean as they try to figure out what their next step is. They now possess the sword of Griffindor which they used to great effect in the last film when they destroyed one of Voldermort's horcruxes. Their next bit of business is to locate and destroy all the remaining horcruxes before Voldermort's power becomes so much that no one can stop him. And so the stage is now set, our heroes venture forth to complete their mission put upon them by Dumbledore two films ago while Voldermort begins to spread his darkness and forboding across the land.

It is was a strange feeling sitting down to experience this final Potter film. For the past ten years I have always had the luxury of knowing there would be another Harry Potter movie the following year, but not this time. This time I knew that when it ended it was all over, for real. I am sure you have seen the countless ads stating laboriously that "It All Ends", and that isn't just clever marketing. There are no more books so there are no more movies, for once you can believe the hype. So with that knowledge I took special care to prepare myself for my very last fresh Harry Potter experience I am most likely to ever have. To say my expectations were high would be an understatement.

Voldermort has surprisingly turned into your stereotypical villain.
I am happy to report that The Deathly Hallows Part 2 brings everything to an exceedingly rousing final crescendo. What was promised all those years ago is made good on and I cannot think of one thing I would have done differently...well, that is sort of a lie but I will get to that in a little bit. This entire series has always been about the impending confrontation between Harry and Voldermort. Everything else has been window dressing more or less. All the eccentric professors Harry has had to deal with, all the growing pains he was forced to endure (most of which are uncommon for teenage boys even in the world of wizardry) and all the dangerous tasks he completed were but simple tools to bring us to this exact moment in time.

While there are most certainly other things going on in the film such as the redemption of certain characters once thought evil and a full blown battle that ravages Hogwarts to the point of complete destruction, our eye is constantly on the prize. At this point it is a little silly to beat around the bush about it but the moments that truly lived up to their potential for me was everything surrounding Harry and Voldermort. Watching the two of them struggle towards the finish line like two sprinters on the last leg of a marathon was exhausting, but in the best way possible.

The siege on Hogwarts is pure eye candy minus any real dramatic tension.

With this being the shortest of all the Harry Potter films at just above the two hour mark I was surprised by how fast everything went by. As mentioned earlier there is no wasted time here, we are only in that cottage for mere minutes before being led into probably one of my favorite sequences in the entire film. The raid on Gringrotts was the only moment in Deathly Hallows Part 2 that felt like any of the other Potter films in the series and I mean that in the best possible way. It served a double purpose which was to get the ball rolling right out the gate and to let us know that Harry's search for the horcruxes was not going to take the entire movie this time (that was one of my only problems with Part 1).The film felt sort of like an Easter egg hunt where if they don't find all the eggs they die. Luckily and rather conveniently I might add, they come by each of the horcruxes with little to no problem. Destroying them is another matter entirely though.

The centerpiece for the film and the thing everyone was eagerly anticipating was the battle at Hogwarts. I was weary of how this was going to be handled because the last thing I wanted from my Harry Potter movies were large scale battles populated with nothing but CG creatures that I could really care less about. I wanted to see the Weasley family take up arms, I wanted to see muggles fight back against the oppression Voldermort has put upon them, I wanted all the kids I have grown attached to and their professors from the other seven films to finally get their moment to shine in the heat of battle. But most of all I wanted to feel invested in this fight for Hogwarts which would end up being the battle that would decide the fate of everyone. This was however the one thing I felt let down on the most. Because we only get a few glimpses of battle preparations and even fewer when the proverbial shit has hit the fan.

Remember Harry hooking up with Ron's sister...yeah, me neither.
Now I know I have already said that this is Harry's story and it is, I have no issue with that. Harry and Voldermort are very well represented throughout the entire film and their battle of wills is the most engaging thing in it but my problem is that everyone else that I have come to care about is kind of shoved off to the side. I won't go into too many details but as many had suspected (or those who have read the book already knew) there are a large number of characters that die during this final battle. Besides the fact that many important characters don't even make an appearance in the film (where the hell was Mr. Weasley?), others die off screen with most of them getting no more than a passing glance. This idea of seeing the aftermath of a gruesome battle as opposed to seeing it all go down may have worked just fine in the book but I'm sorry, I need a little more than a far away shot of a character I can barely make out for me to properly come to grips with their demise.

There was one person in particular that was of great importance in the third film The Prisoner of Azkaban who was also one of the very few recurring characters in the film adaptations that was apparently killed in this massacre. I had grown to like this character very much and the way I was informed of their death (by a quick shot of their dead body lying on the ground) was kind of insulting in some way. I am sure there are those people out there that will scoff at my dislike for how the fates of all these characters was handled but damn it, when I am asked to get invested into a series now eight films deep I expect some care to be taken on how they handle said characters. Plus it is even more off putting that a very minor character such as Dobby who was only in the second film (yes I know he made other appearances in the books) got such a lavish death scene compared to the kicked to the curb style deaths some of these arguably more important characters were given.

Voldermort isn't messing around any more.

It is not only the characters on the good side I take issue with on their handling but also some of Voldermort's followers as well. Draco was Hogwart's school bully who kind of got in over his head in the past few films once he saw exactly what and who Voldermort really was. While I wasn't expecting anything major to come from him in this last film I was however expecting a little more than I what I got here. Other than all the moments where he would look conflicted over what he was being asked to do he always still did it and there comes a point in this film where Harry finally calls him out on his conflicts. What happens next?...nothing. Some stuff does go down but when all is said and done Draco never really amounted to anything. Actually, looking back now his character is almost completely pointless to some degree which is kind of sad when you think of it. But even that doesn't beat how poorly handled Belatrix's final moments were. Don't get me wrong, it was cool but there were some better ways (and better characters) that could have taken care of the evil witch.

Thankfully that was my one main concern with this film and if I had to choose between having elaborate moments for each of the side characters or Harry fulfilling his prophecy then I would choose Harry every time. I thought that many of the twists and turns the final moments of the film took were pretty spot on and despite there being a significant lack of clarity to how certain things worked out (which were most likely explained in full detail in the book) I couldn't have asked for a more fitting end to such a magnificent journey. It is a true testament to a final chapter in any story when you can look back at everything that came before it and not regret one single moment of time spent with it. And that is how I came away from The Deathly Hallows Part 2. It is not a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination and at this moment in time is not even in my top three of the Potter films but it did its job admirably. This is a series that will likely live on for generations to come and I for one am glad to have been around to enjoy it.

And neither is Harry.

Oh...and one last thing before I wrap this up. I have to bring up the final few minutes to the film which is going to contain heavy spoilers for anyone that hasn't seen it yet. When everything seems finished and we see our three favorite wizards standing amongst the rubble that used to be Hogwarts there is a fade to black which reveals the text "19 Years Later". At this point I started to get worried, the last thing I wanted to see were all the Harry Potter kids all done up in old people make up. Unfortunately for me my fears were confirmed...somewhat. I honestly do not know what anyone was thinking here, I know this is how the book ended but seriously this just looked kind of bad. It looked as if it were a SNL skit or something, it just didn't feel right.

The same actresses that played Hermoine and Ginny playing what I am guessing are supposed to be adults in their late 30's looked lazy, like they had raided their parents closet looking for grown up clothes. The boys didn't have it any better either with Harry sporting some really sad looking make up, Ron appearing the same as he did as a teenager but with a gut and Draco looking as though he was a victim of spousal abuse. Words cannot truly express my reaction to this, it was a combination of disbelief and amazement. I felt sorry for anyone sitting around me in that theater that was totally into the moment because I just couldn't help myself from laughing hysterically (although there were quite a few people that burst out in fits of laughter along with me). Aside from this poorly executed epilogue the film will please anyone that has followed the exploits of Harry Potter up to this point. So with that I give it my seal of approval by saying...




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