Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2: A Magical Ending

The Harry Potter series, a game changer in cinematic history, has been incredibly entertaining nearly from beginning to end. It’s the rare series that more or less gets better as it goes, and it’s the even rarer series with the marvel of watching its stars grow from children to young adults before our eyes. David Yates helped bring this octology into its darker, more mature latter half, and he provides us with a thrilling, action-packed conclusion. It does feel somewhat rushed, and some sequences work better than others, but the movie is at its best when it slows down and allows for more emotion. It fails to be the best in the series, but who cares when five of the eight entries in the series are 3 and a half star films? It’s a satisfying conclusion.

We pick up abruptly after Part 1 has ended. Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has the Elder Wand, stolen from the grave of Dumbledore (Michael Gambon). Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) is now Headmaster at Hogwarts, running it on Voldemort’s behalf, surrounding it with Death Eaters and dementors and treating the students in a militant manner. Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) have just buried Dobby, and Harry has the sneaking suspicion that one of the remaining Horcruxes that needs destroying is in Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter)’s vault in Gringotts. Led by Griphook (Warwick Davis), a goblin they saved, they break into Gringotts, with the hopes of destroying the Horcrux and heading to Hogwarts to find the rest, meet up with Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) and their other friends, and fight back against Voldemort in hopes of saving the wizarding world.

Pretty heavy stuff. Once again, Yates uses a palate of shadows and heavy blues to bathe his Voldemort-infested world, and the film looks great. Alexandre Desplat’s score is the best since the original, and many of the effects are quite convincing– look at the trolls in this film compared to the one in the first. Unfortunately, so much action has to go down that certain sequences feel rushed. I liked the way some of the battle at Hogwarts was staged, in particular a sequence following the main three as they try to escape with carnage all around them, Desplat’s score emphasizing the steadfast determination of the characters. The Gringotts sequence seems to have been designed for 3D purposes primarily, and much like the opening sequence in Deathly Hallows Part 1, it feels more like a roller coaster ride than an action scene staged with sophistication. More kinetic forms of action don’t seem to be Yates’ strong suit– it’s still engaging enough since we care about the characters, but the seams of the effects show and the sense of geography grows confusing.

Yates’ strong suit has been and continues to be the emotions in the series. He knows when to take his time, when to let the music swell, when to let the camera linger, and, most importantly, how to get great performances from his actors. He also is an expert at using special effects to affect the scene– a Snape flashback involving leaves that turn to butterflies is an indelible image, as is Harry having a discussion with several ghosts. My favorite film in the series was The Half Blood Prince, a film criticized by some as seeming to wander aimlessly, being too slow. I saw it three times in theaters: the slowness connects you to the characters, allows their performances to shine. Once again, in this film and the last one, scenes in which actors are standing around and emoting are the ones I’ll remember more than the Gringotts break-in or the broom chase sequence.

It’s really nice to see the three young actors, so precocious and overall unconvincing in the first film, blossom into the fine actors they are today. They stand their own magnificently against the cast of British hambones surrounding them. Many of the adults, such as David Thewlis, Emma Thompson, Jim Broadbent, Helena Bonham Carter, Julie Walters, and more are relegated to merely a scene or two, but they make them count (Thewlis’ scene in particular is memorable). Maggie Smith gets a few moments to herself for the first time in a few films, and she really shines, getting several laughs and exuding warmth. Rickman has an expanded role in this film, and his performance is complex and moving, as is Matthew Lewis as Neville. Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort seems to be taking his inspiration from the image of a child screaming and writhing when he doesn’t get his way– his hamminess is who Voldemort is, and I often found myself laughing at the way he moved and twisted his words with such gusto. The movie, of course, really rests on the shoulders of the three leads. Watson is the best actor of the bunch, but Radcliffe… is Harry Potter. He embodies everything Harry is and should be. I found myself caught up emotionally at many moments, as Harry concluded his journey at Hogwarts (I also enjoyed the epilogue and the use of restrained effects, though others in my theaters had a hopeless case of the giggles). As survivors stood in front of a destroyed Hogwarts school, you got a sense of what the school meant, what the losses felt like, and what the characters were fighting for. That’s good storytelling. The Harry Potter series is a feat that I can’t imagine will ever be duplicated. The ending is a bit rushed, making it imperfect, but so many moments, especially at the end, feel… right.

~ by russellhainline on July 15, 2011.

2 Responses to “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2: A Magical Ending”

  1. I agree with you, some of the scenes definitly seemed rushed to me. I don’t think this was the best Harry Potter film, but it was still great and enjoyable. I think this movie was hyped up so much that it was never going to be as amazing as anyone thought it would be. But it still passes with flying colours.

  2. 2 hour isn’t enough to cover the book. and it’s only part2. everything is rushed. But i love the gringotts. so close to the book. almost similar. and i expect more dueling scene. it give me adrenaline rush while reading the book.

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