Day: October 8, 2011

The End of an Era: Review for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

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For a very long time, I was getting annoyed at all the hoopla people were making out of the final Harry Potter film Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. But, finally having seen the last film in the sometimes-corny-sometimes-marvelous franchise, I now know why. I was amongst the cynics who, despite enjoy the books and reading them voraciously, found the phrase “it’s the end of an era” incredibly irksome. Again, as I say, I now know why people said it.

I was treated to seeing both parts one and two back to back, which was a great experience. It reminded me of when I had first heard that the final book of J.K. Rowling’s magical tome would be split in two. Naturally, like most of the fandom, I was incredibly annoyed and thought it a ploy for more money. However, it actually may have been wiser to do it this way. Parts 1 and 2 are rather different in tone, almost like Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, but switched: Part 1 is more about languid storytelling, with Part 2 is more about visceral thrill and riveting emotion.

Splitting the films in two certainly allowed more leeway in terms of accuracy and detail and despite the plot holes that had left in the series because of previous films; most of those holes are mended in both films. Aside from late and almost irrelevant introductions, director David Yates nicely ties in the cast of characters together again.

Part 2 is the most emotionally raw of the films, even though its primary focus is visceral thrill and excitement. Starting off exactly where Part 1 left off, the film begins and doesn’t really let up until the finale. It has its moments where we’re allowed to catch our breath, but the tone is constructed meticulously, like running a marathon. And, to me as well as countless other fans, Harry Potter was a marathon of emotion, action, and connection with characters.

Once again, the trio, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson, present their best acting chops and really shine. With a screenplay that’s heavily invested in nuance and emotion, the actors exceed expectations and reveal nuances and facets of their characters that haven’t really been shown in the past. The kids bring their A-game to the film. Action notwithstanding, all of them perform their parts, doing spells and stunts, with nothing but realism and professionalism. It hits home when you realize that you’ve stuck with these actors since 2001, when Chris Columbus assembled the three for the first film Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. You’ve watched them grow from mere kid actors to fully matured actors. Radcliffe doing Equus and How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying; Grint doing the anti-war film Comrade in 2012; and Watson doing My Week with Marilyn and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Although they’re no longer tied to these roles (nor should they be), they’ll always be Harry, Ron, and Hermione in our hearts.

The supporting cast does spectacularly, allowing actors who’ve up until now stood in the background to have a few shining moments. Maggie Smith as Prof. McGonagall and Julie Walters and Mrs. Weasley both have totally incredible and kick ass moments during the battle at Hogwarts, and so does Matthew Lewis as Neville Longbottom. But MVP goes to Alan Rickman as Severus Snape, who has had the thankless role (both character and actor) as a despicable antagonist to Harry Potter at school. Here, however, like in the novel, he becomes one of the most important characters in the series, recalling events from previous films. The pensive scene is a particularly a sucker punch to the gut of incredible emotion.

Also worthy of MVP is the delightful and kooky Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange, Voldemort’s right hand woman. She, who is so expert at bringing sickening and disturbing characters to the screen, vamps it to the hilt. Bearing her decidedly repulsive teeth, she’s both sexy and repellent at the same time. She does an excellent job playing Emma Watson playing Helena Bonham Carter (think Polyjuice Potion), working hard not to topple with the impressive and imposing figure and her heels. Helena Bonham Carter is, in a word, wicked.

As with most adaptations, things are missing. This isn’t horribly bothersome, but more background of characters like Snape and Dumbledore would be much appreciated, and would have furthered our understanding of character and added depth. Thus, the way it’s left, Dumbledore’s mysterious past and Grindlewald are kind of characters shrouded in mystery and not much about their relationship is ever known. I hope more is revealed on the DVD/Blu-ray special features.

Needless to say, the film looks absolutely stunning. The scale for battles and the general world of Harry Potter is enormous, and thus the film represents that perfectly. I almost never utter the words “this would looks great in 3D”, as I am a vehement opponent of the technology. But the sense of depth and the humungous setting would have made it an incredible experience. Never would I have realized that Hogwarts was such an imposing castle. The aerial shots of the school are wonderful, comparable to some of the best shots in The Lord of the Rings. Thankfully, Part 2 retains the same great cinematographer as Part1, Eduardo Serra. His knack for geography, color, space, and aesthetic look is perfect, and those very artistic proclivities work even in the most busy and kinetic of sequences (I.e. Gringotts).

The Battle at Hogwarts is an incredible showdown, a long battle sequence (seamlessly edited) rivaling some of the best from the most intense war films, like Lawrence of Arabia, the Bridge on the River Kwai, and Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Though the weapons may be different, the anticipation, the buildup, and the adrenaline are all the same, with scale to match. The final battle between Harry and Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) is an incredible and majestic scene, allowing the story to come full circle.

Everything up till now has been a cake walk. Dramatic points, sheer fun and excitement, and the unraveling story; they’ve all been leading us to this moment. Yates and screenwriter Steven Kloves handle the material with expertise; the cast does a superb job, and the film looking completely amazing. However, that sense of melancholy one feels like parting with a good friend will come back and latch onto your heart as the film grows ever closer to its finish. Contrary to believe, though, this, your childhood, isn’t ending, not permanently at least. With these films and the books as well, your childhood will always be there to revisit again and again, and it will be there to give your future posterity an incredible childhood as well. For this, my friends, is the end of an era, but not the end of the magic.

Grade: A