15 July 2011

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
2011, 130mins, 12
Director: David Yates
Writer (s): Steve Kloves, J.K Rowling (novel)
Cast includes: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman, Michael Gambon
UK Release Date: 15th July 2011

With “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” a major series in recent cinema history comes to a close. It’s been 10 years since the first picture to feature the legendary wizard, and boy, how things have changed. Instead of the innocent whimsy prevalent in the early Chris Columbus adventures these later tales have become increasingly gloomy and serious, “Deathly Hallows: Part 2” marking perhaps the sternest Potter adventure yet. It’s a fantasy riddled with violence, death and hopelessness, all brought vibrantly to life through the directorial ingenuity of filmmaker David Yates. Due to the massive scale and constant warfare, “Deathly Hallows: Part 2” is a less human offering than its immediate predecessor, but the movie undoubtedly brings the Potter chronicles to a fittingly gargantuan conclusion.

Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) are still on the hunt for Horcruxes, hoping that by destroying them they can eviscerate portions of Lord Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) soul. Their quest leads them from the vaults of Gringotts to the halls of a now weary Hogwarts, a school supervised by the treacherous Snape (Alan Rickman). When Voldemort becomes aware of Harry’s plans he offers an ultimatum to the residents of the educational institution, either give the young wizard up or face outright war. The forces of good select the latter, turning Hogwarts into a battlefield, as Voldemort’s forces lay siege to the students and teachers. However it’s the mental struggle between Harry and Voldemort that truly dictates the fight, each determined to slay the other in pursuit of victory.

“Deathly Hallows: Part 2” is a true blockbuster, generally forgoing the slower, meditative vibe of “Part 1” in favour of pure anarchy. The middle section of the film feels like one huge battle sequence, Yates pulling out all the stops to provide a rousing and visually impressive interpretation of magical warfare. Key characters are killed and the stakes heightened, the plot maintaining the somber poignancy that allowed “Part 1” to register with such clarity and effectiveness. “Deathly Hallows: Part 2” is still very much Harry’s story, the film working to bring the character to a satisfying and emotionally resonant climax, as he faces off with his deadly nemesis. Unfortunately many of the supporting players are sacrificed in the process (Ron and Hermione possibly feature less here than in any previous installment), Yates zoning in on the struggle between Voldemort and Harry. It helps that both Radcliffe and Fiennes are on fine form, the latter displaying a vulnerability in his character previously unseen.

The picture opens with a bang, a terrific vault raiding sequence kicking off proceedings to stunning effect. From there the struggle between good and evil becomes the focal point of the feature, Hogwarts playing out as the primary plateau for this heavily budgeted affair. The production values are faultless and the action slickly directed, Yates ensuring that this final chapter offers a genuine sense of scale befitting of such a mighty franchise. As a companion piece to “Deathly Hallows: Part 1” it’s perfect, the two pictures complimenting each other sublimely. The first was a deliciously character driven piece, high on more simplistic moments of dread and tension. This on the other hand is undiluted razzmatazz, using the heart wrenching developments of the previous film to its advantage. Certainly by the time “Deathly Hallows: Part 2” concludes viewers will have been thoroughly rocked, the creative minds behind it determined to provide closure in the most fantastical manner possible.

Special mention should be reserved for Alan Rickman’s portrayal of the complex Snape, a character often utilized for comic purposes, now given room to grow as a conflicted and dynamic entity. Rickman nails the inner turmoil, providing a welcome dose of tragic pathos. Another figure who steps up the fore here is Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis), coming into his own at the helm of the Hogwart’s army. It’s nice to note in the few instances that Yates does decide to cast his camera way from the tale’s central enemies; he picks up on some unexpected personalities, using them to imbue the film with added soul. It’s these sorts of touches that keep “Deathly Hallow: Part 2” fresh.

At 130 minutes the movie is the shortest in the franchise, although pacing isn’t always the film’s strongest facet. Just before the final exchange between Harry and Voldemort (which is incidentally breathtakingly exciting), “Deathly Hallow: Part 2” hits a brief rough patch, the filmmakers lathering on a final splurge of exposition to provide an aura of completion and lace the last act with the appropriate context. I suppose it helps solidify Harry’s destiny, but this section of the movie does drag, particularly a whitewashed sequence in which the title character traverses some sort of afterlife environment. In truth it would be hard to remove this segment and still provide the ultimate showdown with sufficient punch, but that fact doesn’t make this clunky portion of the narrative more involving.

“Deathly Hallows: Part 2” is a brilliant denouement, wrapping things up with merit and energy. In reality the picture isn’t much edgier than any of the other latter Potters (although it is more overtly bloody), but there’s definitely enough harsh material to spook younger fans. I’m not sure exactly where I’d place it in the Potter Pantheon (my gut suggests parts 6 and 7 were a tad sharper), but “Deathly Hallows: Part 2” undoubtedly honours its beloved source. It’ll be sad to see Harry disappear from our screens for good. It’s not always been smooth, but on the whole Harry Potter has been a vital figurehead in the last decade of event cinema. Not only have the movies presented us with well crafted escapism, but also expertly profiled the transition from childhood to adulthood in the process. Dumbledore would be proud.

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2011


Portugal said...

Loved this movie, made me laugh and made me cry...a great ending to the potter movies. Wonderful visuals, acting, and special effects. A great Harry vs. Voldemort movie

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