Wednesday 20 July 2011

Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Year: 2011
Director: David Yates
Screenplay: Steve Kloves
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupet Grint, Bonnie Wright, Ralph Fiennes

Synopsis is here

Note: As always I don't try to add spoilers to my reviews, however, I do mentioned certain aspects of the film that some could consider may say too much to those who have lived under a rock and haven't seen the films/read the books. You've been warned.

It all ends, not with a whimper but a beautiful bang as this franchise despite my reservations and issues with it in the past has come good. More than good I feel as this film (in collaboration with part 1) is the most accomplished entry into the Potter series. To me the other films were stuffed with the priggish middle class boarding school elements, seemingly Scooby Doo like shaggy dog stories about prisoners of the order of the stone of secrets (or something), a lead character whose passiveness and general lack of spark have caused frustration and of course the problematic imbalance cause by having to stay close to the material and yet still having to pull in those who haven't read every book. These final films have succeeded in my view.

For me there's so much to take in within the Deathly Hallows part 2. Not only the most visually striking film (check out the first bombardment of Voldemolt's army on Hogwarts) but it's the one that brings the most spectacle. Nearly every set piece is executed with a conviction and style that was missing before (although some of those effects are still a bit patchy). Part two is also the film that truly brings all the emotions and themes to life. At one point when Harry walks through the ruins of his once grand school Yates films and spies  the grieving of his colleagues and their loved ones, Yates manages to compile the imagery in such a way that one could feel wrong or intruding on such a private and sombre moment. In this; still considered a mainstream family film, we have a character looking at death and fate with a maturity which reminds us that a popcorn film need not have to be dumb to be enjoyable.

Lofty themes are approached broadly but effectively as Yates' film touches of not only fatalism and the inevitability of one's own death but also how events of previous generations can bring forth strong reverberations. Within the film we finally see the tragic reasoning behind Snipe (Rickman's best performance of the series) and the true complexity of his relationship to Harry. During this scene we are then given a substantial amount of information (all the films have always had issue with exposition and this is no different) to which even Potter himself exclaims that he himself is willing accept his fate; that is, he's ready to die. Such an exclamation displays how high the stakes are and raises the poignancy of everything tenfold. There was nothing put forth so intriguingly in previous entries.

The film doesn't stop there, also giving us the well known but very effective dualism of both the hero and villain. That the two are so strongly intertwined that they shouldn't really exist without each other, is at it's strongest here. The most appealing thing about this factor being that the only thing that separates the yin and the yang is quietly shown in a transition, one in which one character is told that help can be found only for the next shot to be one of the other character stating that they don't need help at all. Integrity counts above all the magic we see. 

Loftly thematic ramblings aside, the film is consistently entertains. The first 15 minutes aren't the strongest and the humour isn't the best placed this time round (the overall tone is too serious for it) but once we enter the halls of Hogwarts for the last time, I found myself transported to it's world. The film is wonderfully paced throughout; the action is tightly packed and has a distinct sense of place which means unlike your Battle L.A's and Transformers movies, you can follow what's going on. 

The cast still has the same blessings and curses that where bestowed upon the franchise 10 years ago. The older circle outclasses the younger group every time. Only an actress like Maggie Smith could give "it's good to see you" the grounding it has. Rickman is as I mentioned before brilliant, while it's taken far too long to see Fiennes' perform in full glory. His gleefully sadistic Voldemort has been the perfect foil for the later films. Most of the older cast say very little but this is clearly as their stronger moments were in earlier films. This kids have moved from cardboard ten years ago to vaguely passable now. Radcliffe in particular is seemingly swallowed up by the films scope. It's not all his fault as Harry has never been the strongest character, despite the films being all about him. However there's no true horrible displays by the three "kids" and praise should go to Matthew Lewis as Neville.

So we come to the end of the Potter franchise with a genuinely satisfying final film, one that doesn't have too many, rung out multiple endings and a emotional tug (despite my ongoing frustrations with passable Potter himself) that doesn't have that manipulative feel about it, although the kisses between couples do feel a bit cheesy and forced. To the this journey without the books was also interesting as with no other real connection to the material other then the movie, it was engaging to interact the series without the nagging non-objective view that many fans who haunt the blogs and message boards of "muggles" who just couldn't get behind the series. 

But I must say to those who may have given up the gryffindor ghost that Deathly Hallows made me glad that I stuck with it. I won't say I fully get everything and it's doubtful I'll be revisiting these films for generations to come like many others certainly will (looking at the reaction of the fans, this may the closest thing to Star Wars will see in a long time) but for me after the sweetly touching final codec that transpires back at Kings Cross station, I can safely say that the journey wasn't perfect but the destination was worthwhile.