Wednesday, July 20, 2011

REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Wow. A Woody Allen movie and a Harry Potter movie ranks as the two best films of 2011. Now that's magic.

The saga of "the boy"who lived" comes to a thrilling, and yes, spellbinding conclusion with this highly emotional action epic - with the emphasis on the word action.

More than any other Harry Potter film, this final entry is an action film above all else. Breathlessly paced, the picture is the shortest of the Potter films, at about two hours and 10 minutes - but it seems to zip by in far less time than that. Steven Spielberg expressed interest in directing the series before ultimately deciding against it, but to the extent that the Potter films are Spielbergian, this one is Harry's Raiders of the Lost Ark - only with one very large snake instead of thousands of smaller ones. Voldemort never seems more dangerous than he does here, not just because he's scary, but because he's vulnerable - and as Harry points out, that only makes him more menacing.

It seems pointless to recap the story, since even those who haven't read the books know this is about the final showdown between Harry and Voldemort, and the search for the horcruxes that hold pieces of the Dark Lords' soul. But it must be said that the movie executes the story extremely well, with only a couple of minor snags.

Director David Yates, who has ended up helming half of the movies, has grown impressively as a director. His first entry, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, felt rushed and uncertain, and was the weakest film of the lot. Now, however, Yates' control has vastly improved. His command of the big action set pieces is sturdy and confident, but he never lets the bombast overwhelm the emotions of the characters. In fact, the action and the emotion are often overhwelming in the best way - the way that lives you quite grasping what you saw, but knowing you still liked it. The final fate of Snape (Alan Rickman) is especially riveting.

The Potter plots have always packed with detail that can be hard to grasp if you haven't read the books. I have read every book except Deathly Hallows, and in most cases, I saw the movies before I read the books since movies are my beloved medium. I acknowledge that approach has its drawbacks, although not for the reason one might think.

Some people who don't follow the books complain that the movies, including this one, have confused them. The Potter movies have never confused me, but sometimes they do have trouble striking a balance between pleasing the die-hards and educating the more casual fan. For instance, when one character dies, Harry mentions  that characters' son, but we've barely glimpsed this son, if indeed we've ever seen him at all. So the emotional impact of that scene is muted. I was also disappointed that Ginny Weasley (Bonnie Wright) got short shrift in this film. The series had been building up the romance between her and Harry nicely, and then practically dropped it the Deathly Hallows movies.

Still, these are minor quibbles in the grand scheme of things. The original Deathly Hallows ads promised that this would be "the movie event of a generation." And for once, I'm hard pressed to argue with the hyperbole. When the tears come at the end, the movie - and indeed this whole franchise-  has more than earned them. Remarkably, each movie in this series has never been less than very good - and this one is great.


1 comment:

Kim Hayes said...

I LOVED this film! I agree - best yet and a wonderful way to finish the series on a very high note. How often does that happen??? It did include nail-biting action but still allowed one of the best things about the series to shine through - the characters. As for the surprise son you mentioned - you had to REALLY pay attention in part 1 and then that would have been an OH!... awwwww...moment for you. :)
I also agree with your earlier post about Order of the Phoenix being one of the weakest of the movies, and I think it is because the story is full of holes - so much was pulled out it was like Swiss cheese and it really affected its continuity. I just discovered something that I hadn't been paying attention to...that is the ONLY one of the movies that Steve Kloves didn't write the screenplay for. Coincidence? I think not. At the time he felt like he needed a break, but now says he regrets not writing it. Me too! I feel it would have been a better film because he seems to understand the characters and the series so well. So I don't think the director is entirely to blame on that one.
At any rate - I think this series will go down in cinematic history - it needs some kind of honorary Oscar in my opinion! :)