Monday, July 18, 2011

Review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows-Part 2

Rottentomatoes.com: 97%
Commonsensemedia.org: 5 out of 5 Stars
Metacritic.com: 87 out of 100
IMDB.com: 8.6 out of 10 Stars 
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Gambon, Robbie Coltrane, Bonnie Wright, John Hurt, Tom Felton, Helen McCroy, Jason Isaacs, Gary Oldman, Julie Walters, Maggie Smith, Emma Thompson, Evanna Lynch, Warick Davis and David Thewlis. 


Where does one begin when writing a review for a movie like this?

It’s the final Harry Potter film- ever. The finale of the biggest, most lucrative franchise of all time- the saga that defined a generation, that was the creator of the midnight release- it is the series- even if you don’t like it, everyone knows about it. Which is why I return to my original question- how does one go about writing a review like this? When approaching the aforementioned inquiry, I considered going about it in the matter I completed my review of ‘Deathly Hallows-Part 1’ in. Wherein I conducted a psychologically questionable conversation with myself, (You’ll recall, if you’ve followed me long, that I split the review in two, my feelings as a fan and as a critic. This may be considered symbolic of Voldemort’s splitting his soul in seven) but even that I don’t think I did very professionally. I handled my critical feelings well, but deep down, fan self was so overwhelmed that I didn’t properly convey my feelings in a comprehensible matter (though it was quite humorous, wasn’t it?).



The whole journey has been a coming of age for not only Harry, but myself. It defined my childhood- which is why now that the series is over, I find myself pondering the question- who am I now? Like much of the population of planet earth, I have to come to terms with my moral dilemma- Harry Potter is over. What does that say about me? The definitive franchise I grew up with- (even before reading the books, I grew up always expecting another movie each year) is gone. It is a delicate period of moving on- much like my review of the first half, we must separate our feelings of the movie itself and how we feel about the movie actually ending. To sadness’s that will become muddled and mixed up, even if one could utilize the latter.



This is the first movie I actually bothered to go to opening day- with a film like Harry Potter, you know how crazy it is going to get. Needless to say, I had to keep moving around. Once next to a sweaty 11-year old boy who stole my drink, next behind a woman with a ridiculously large afro. Finally, as the first preview was starting, to a seemingly normal woman in her mid-twenties. Of course, she turned out to completely bonkers. She was very annoying- it was obvious to me from her conversation with the man next to her that she was but a devoted fan to the films, but hadn’t read any of the books. I had never actually met one before. Though she disturbed me, it was interesting to hear a fan’s preconceptions about the final movie. Movie reviewers online speculating about the final film wondered whether Snape was good or not did it in a ‘wink, wink’ sort of matter. I learned of such ignorance through a few profanities towards Alan Rickman as he appeared on the screen and applause loudly at Rupert Grint’s and Emma Watson’s snogging.



The movie starts out with the ending scenes of part one- Dumbledore’s marble tomb being opened by Lord Voldemort, him stealing what is now apparently the Elder Wand- the most powerful wand that ever existed, and the weapon the Dark Lord believes will finally enable him to defeat Harry Potter. This is long before the lingering, haunting WB logo even once appears on the screen. The movie chronicles Harry, Ron, and Hermione at the Shell Cottage, belonging to Ro’s brother Bill, only hastily introduced in the last film, with his veela wife, Fleur, who Ron had an infatuation with in ‘Goblet of Fire’. (I don’t know why they don’t even show any slight violation on Ron’s part- I mean, come on, wouldn’t you?) The movie picks up a startlingly fast pace not seen in any other movies. I was a bit perturbed; all the other Potter films are notoriously long, this is the final film- neigh, half of the final film. Couldn’t they slow it down a bit? 2 Hours is plenty to fill up the numerous plot holes and then some but they could’ve made it a bit easier on the fans to say goodbye.



That said, the opening sequences are a bit slow. Cameos from John Hurt as Ollivander and Helena Bonham Carter as Hermione as Bellatrix Lestrange under the polyjuice potion are both excellent. Carter portrays the idiosyncrasies of Hermione’s character while also showing the effort for her to be playing Lestrange- it’s obvious she had lots of fun there. Harry (Under the invisibility cloak), Ron (in disguise), Hermione (as Bellatrix Lestrange), and Griphook (A goblin under the invisibility cloak with Harry) break into Bellatrix Lestrange’s  vault where they suspect she has one of Voldemort’s horucruxes is hidden. This is includes an excellent opening set piece from Stuart Craig, where anything in the vault that is touched multiplies in King Midas- style fashion.  This follows a rollercoaster style ride that had me grimace slightly (You can be sure you’ll be seeing that in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter by next year). The 3D wasn’t all that evident, but it did take away a bit from these first few scenes, as edges and such are unnecessarily bold and make it feel less and less like a Harry Potter movie. (Plus I already wear glasses, so you can imagine what hell that was to keep both of them on) However, it is less noticeable in the end.



After escaping on a magnificently done CGI dragon, the trio arrive in Hogsmeade- there Harry makes the decision to go back to Hogwarts, where through some incoherent but well-done scar-burning, I-can-see-into-Voldemort’s-head sequences, that the last horucruxes are hidden in Hogwarts. After being spotted by some of Voldemort’s Death Eaters, they go to Hog’s Head where Dumbledore’s brother, Aberforth is introduced and we learn the secret behind all the half-glimpsed mirrors in the last film. This, I felt, was one of the badly handled speed bumps of the films. Past films have made the mistake of not including seemingly insignificant pieces in the books, where they turn out to be greatly important in development of the final installments- this is one of them. I felt that for the most parts, Yates handles it impressively, but this is one of the parts you’ll end up confused if you haven’t read the books.



The trio get back to Hogwarts through a secret passage where we indulge in a small nostalgiac moment with the kids again in the Room of Requirement. It’s one of those small moments of introspect and humor (this being humor, as a bloody Seamus points out to Ron that his sister only wants Harry) that quickly turns into peril and battle. I have to say, Daniel Radcliffe really, really shines here. When he looks Snape dead in the eye and says "Despite your exhaustive efforts, you seemed to have failed to realize you have a security breach,” you really appreciate how unnerving it sounds when a Brit says ‘exhaustive’.  But it was most chilling when he said “How dare you stand where he stood!” that was seriously awesome.



The rest of the movie gives the rest of the supporting characters (all of who, with the exception of the deceased Richard Harris appear) the spotlight. Maggie Smith was jaw dropping as her return as Professor McGonagall, especially when pushing Harry aside and kicking Snape out of the castle while knocking out a couple a’ death eaters. An excellent visual effect piece follows as the stone soldiers go to guard characters and she just had to tell a stunned Julie Walters that she just “Always wanted to use that spell.”



Julie Walters delivers my absolute favorite line in the entire movie as a furious Molly Weasley as she turns Bellatrix Lestrange to stone then gives the only Avada Kedavara I’m sure the audience ever cheered for. If there was one person who deserved to kill the person who did in Neville’s parents, Dobby (who I still cry in the middle of the night for), and Sirius, it’s her.




Matthew Lewis, who plays Neville, is probably the one who grew the most throughout the series. That bumbling, nervous, shy little boy who was once hung by the ear by a bunch of Cornish Pixies on the chandelier in Professor Lockhart’s room now comes out into his own, leading the revolution of Hogwarts students. Perhaps most jaw dropping is when he walks up to Voldemort after it appears Harry is dead and tells him off, delivering the climax as well as the message of love and death and hope the entire saga has been trying to tell all along. And there’s no one more fitting to do so. He’s a brave kid- not a smart one, but a brave one. (No one’s arguing there that he doesn’t deserve to be Gryffindor, just not Ravenclaw) Evanna Lynch, who has always been delightful as Loopy Luna Lovegood really comes out in this movie as well. (“Don’t you walk away from me, Harry Potter!” she yells at him on the staircase) There are just so many other supporting performances in this film it is hard to place an admiring finger on all of them, but other highlights include  Helen McCroy as Narcissa Malfoy and Ciaran Hands, again, on his excellent performance as Aberforth Dumbledore. (Someone should really put him in “Game of Thrones”- I’m sure they have space somewhere for another hairy, drunk, angry Viking.)



Meanwhile, Harry is still searching for the other horucruxes, which he thinks was something that belonged to Rowena Ravenclaw. He seeks assistance from Helena Ravenclaw, Rowena’s daughter and the Ravenclaw ghost. Kelly McDonald is jaw dropping as Helena Ravenclaw (“I know who he is, I know what he’s done with dark magic!”)- it’s a shame she doesn’t get more screen time. Ron and Hermione reenter the Chamber of Secrets where after destroying a horucrux, they share their first kiss. Ahh. 



After destroying the horucruxes with the basilisk fangs in the fantastic Room of Requirement scene, the battle begins. Alan Rickman finally gets screen time longer than five minutes, and I have to say, he gives the absolute best, no contest, best performance in the entire series. It made the movie- through an excellent flashback sequence in which he reveals his true colors, he made that obnoxious woman sitting next to me eat her words (which I enjoyed). He delivers such poignancy, such brilliance- I will storm into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences myself and hold them hostage (Anyone read my blog entry on what I did to John Lassetter?) until they agree to give that dude the nomination he truly deserves- no matter what snubs they’ve given to Harry Potter in the past, this is nomination that I think that they deserve to get the most.



Through the flashback sequence, Harry not only learns what he needs to do but why he needs to do. Finally, a solid answer in the series. The following action sequences in the film are epic- I don’t care who disagrees with me on this, but I t totally matched the grandeur of the Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and Star Wars without any surprise-out-of-nowhere triple ending. This Potter doesn’t pull any punches, it’s straightforward and brutal about that fact.



Ralph Fiennes gives his best Voldemort yet. Sure, he dwindles on iffy once in a while (Like when he hugs Draco Malfoy- seriously, what was up with that?) but always remains delightfully twisted and creepy. (Ah, who can’t help but like nasally challenged wizards?) What I like about the battle part of the film was that it was better than the book- the book does a good job of portraying battle, now, but there’s no way you can capture that essence of war perfectly on paper. I love how it wasn’t just one little flick of the wand between Harry and Voldemort but a full, drawn out showdown between two lifelong enemies. It was a bit weird though, seeing Harry hop on Voldemort’s back as he was doing that strange black-ink death eater travel thing- mostly when we saw their two faces morph together so it was half- Harry half- Voldy in a Christopher Nolan Batman/Joker fashion.



Preceding their first face-to-face, Harry uses the resurrection stone (finding it only after he comes to terms with himself) to see his parents, along with Sirius Black one more time. After Voldemort thinks he kills Harry, (An excellent visual effect and sound mixing scene) a heavenly-white style sequence between Harry and Dumbeldore (is it me, or is he looking more and more like Gandalf every day?) is touching without dwindling into a drawn out narrative between the two. I like how we brought Dumbledore back for a time without him actually coming back to life, as fans were hoping.  Both of these scenes represent the theme of the movie- the loss of innocence of our now grown up characters, the coming of age that defined more than they thought.



The final (and the actual final) battle between Harry and Voldemort was as good as it could have been. It’s not as if we haven’t seen it countless times in previews and trailers (you could pretty much streamline them together and get the film) but there’s something that’s just heart stopping about the way they handled it. It concludes with an air of finality without being melodramatic- and what more could a fan ask for?



The epilogue scene was very contemporary but sweet. I was worried about how they’d handle it- I thought it might be too whimsical, and that it would feel out of place considering it would have followed countless battle sequences. But I thought it was rightly touched upon and concluded the series in a manner that didn’t leave us hanging but gave us a sense of what the series is really about.  It wraps it up, the first connecting to the last, giving us the feeling that we really did experience an epic saga that’s over—but that really never will be.


This is a film that should be recognized at the Academy Awards, and I am happy to say that that is one dream I never thought would come true but looks like it shall.  Fine performances by Alan Rickman, Michael Gambon, Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes, and yes, Daniel Radcliffe, were all their best of the series, and perhaps the best of their careers. The score, conducted by a returning Alexandre Desplat was haunting and beautiful yet, and he should get recognition at the Oscars, perhaps for no better reason than he’s been snubbed before. Yes, perhaps they should all get nominated, as this is a showcase for snubs- and I suppose that’s what made them do their best in this final installment. The visual effects were dazzling, (3D only taking away slightly) especially in the final battle sequences. I thought that the set pieces and art direction were amazing, (the sound mixing is also greatly prominent, especially in the end) and the cinematography is even better than in the sixth, which I always said was the most cinematographically brilliant of the series. Steve Kloves, who penned all of the Potter films but one, delivers what is probably his most fantastic of all the screenplays. It's funny, bittersweet and action packed without these elements overpowering one another. Definitely deserving of adapted screenplay nominations. For fans, the question is whether it is worthy as Harry Potter installment- yes, it is, and then some. For me, it's been hard reviewing this film because I've had trouble being a fan and a critic. I've decided that I don't need to be a critic- I'm a fan and I loved it, and I was okay with that- which is, as Dumbledore said, makes all the difference.

This is definitely my favorite of the series.  Perhaps that’s not fair, because as I said before, this did not feel like a Harry Potter film- it was a war movie. An epic, sorrowful showdown between the boy who lived and the Dark Lord Voldemort. It’s a series for the ages, the series for the ages, which makes the end so important. It’s a worthy ending- the best ending, perhaps go as far as to say one of the best movies. A saga as epic as this deserves the title, and for a long time, has been so. This proves to be a worthy final film, a grand film of cinematic rapture that deserves to be ranked up there with the best of them. Long live Harry Potter- that small, scrawny boy living in the cupboard that proved a great many things- those things, mostly, ones that would forever define us.

2 comments:

  1. Very well done. I'm a huge fan of both the books and the movies so I'm glad this one wrapped it up so nicely. Great work! -Kyle, CinematicMethod.com

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  2. incredible review. you actually told me things which I didn't realized of the movie.

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