Friday, July 29, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 - Movie Review

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Rated PG-13 for some sequences of intense action violence and frightening images

The Harry Potter saga is finally brought to a close in the 8th (yes I said 8th) film in this gargantuan, box-office shattering franchise. Regardless of how you feel about the films, some sort of recognition needs to be given to the producers of the Harry Potter movies for maintaining the quality of a film series for so long. In fact, the Harry Potter movies seem to have gotten better as they went along. For most franchises, if an 8th film is ever made it is usually either a straight to DVD release or a made for tv movie. While the 1st 4 Harry Potter films are fun fantasy flicks akin to something like the Narnia films, the last 4 in the series - Order of the Phoenix, Half Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows Parts 1 and 2 really are comparable in tone and quality to the Lord of the Rings films. 

Deathly Hallows Part 2 picks up RIGHT where Part 1 left off, throwing us rather suddenly into the conflict. Harry Potter is still hunting down the Horcruxes that contain parts of Lord Voldemort's soul so that he can destroy them, and ultimately destroy the Dark Lord. (If you wonder what the heck a Horcrux is, I recommend reading the book or doing a little bit of Wikipedia investigation!) The story to Part 2 is very straightforward, as Harry, Ron and Hermione return to Hogwarts one final time to find the final piece and end up joining an epic final confrontation with the Dark Lord and his army of Death Eaters. If you have read the book there is nothing new here, except for a few reordering changes to make the movie 'more suspenseful'. In my humble yet honest opinion, they made the story MUCH better and a more exciting film. Despite these improvements however, there are still many moments where the pacing is much too slow. Clocking in at just over 2 hours, I feel that the split in the final chapter required a bit of stretching to fill screen time. Once the film gets rolling though, you never stop until the conclusion.

Acting-wise, Deathly Hallows showcases the actors at their finest. Daniel Radcliffe shines as Harry, giving him an intense emotional depth. As he sees his friends die for him and realizes the sacrifice that he will be required to make himself, we believe that he is actually struggling. Daniel is one of those actors who truly can act sans dialogue. Emma Watson ( my favorite actor in the film) and Rupert Grint have also grown into their own as Hermione and Ron. Although these actors are fantastic, I found that Alan Rickman's Severus Snape stole the show yet again. Although a major player in the final chapter of the Potter saga, Snape was curiously missing from most of the Deathly Hallows Part 1. Now, as his part in the story plays out, we see many more layers to the intriguing dark arts teacher/ headmaster. On a negative note, the only part of the movie that I found to be rather cheesy and unneeded was the epilogue. The cast plays themselves 19 years in the future even though only a minimal amount of makeup effects were used to age them. This led to a very unbelievable and humorous ending to an otherwise incredible film.

Deathly Hallows Part 2 excels on many levels, but I found that the most appealing aspect of the film was the cinematography and visual effects. Eduardo Serra, the cinematographer from Part 1, returns to the gritty, dark look that made Yates' installments so riveting for me. From the muted grays and ominous landscape shots, to the intense and sweeping battle sequences at Hogwarts, this film is much darker in tone than any of the previous films. As the thematic material gets darker, so does the look and feel of the film. The wizard battles are fantastic to behold, as Serra's camera work takes us across the entire battlefield - as if to immerse us in it's enormous scale. While not as sweeping as a battle sequence in The Lord of the Rings, something about these battles feel more personal. We see what the stakes are instead of merely understanding the concept.

Morally, there is no sexual content, little language, and virtually no blood in Harry Potter. The violence is VERY intense though and the body count high in Deathly Hallows Part 2. We lose characters that we know and the emotional tension is high. The PG-13 rating is very appropriate and I would certainly caution parents from taking young children to see it. The magical content in the films is dumbed down to a level similar with that in The Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia so there is no need to worry about witchcraft content. The magic used in Harry Potter is a more fantasy based magic akin to that in fairy tales. While the books did delve into very controversial content, the films are much more family friendly in this regard. I say this only because I know there are many people who are wary of the Harry Potter series because of uncertainty in this area.

Overall, I thought Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 was a worthy conclusion to an epic film saga. While the pacing at times was slow and there were some rather shallow emotional moments, this film is incredibly well made (forgetting of course the terrible epilogue). It is almost sad to think of the Harry Potter saga as being over, but it certainly makes me excited to see the next fantasy epic from Warner Bros. - Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - in December of 2012. 

Signing out,
The REAL Bowman 

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