Saturday, July 16, 2011

It Has Ended: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

A movie franchise that has spanned 10 years and that has kept primarily the same casting which consisted of 8 movies is quite a rarity. The Harry Potter series is genuinely one of a kind and have defined a generation. It has had an impact on pop culture and quite simply, something we may never see again in our lifetimes. The final installment of the movie series, one that was split into two parts, was released in theaters this past weekend and it certainly conveyed the emotion from the novel with epic battles and some heartbreak.

David Yates starts the movie without a recap or a "previously on..." deal here. Just a reminder that Voldemort has robbed Dumbledore's tomb and is now possession of the Elder Wand. That works best here and doesn't bog the pacing down and we can just jump right in. One thing I noticed off the bat was the lack of music. Yes, there is still music in the film and John Williams' unforgettable tune that is now forever associated with Harry and Hogwarts is there, but it's mostly faint and unassuming. It's not drowning in music like the Star Wars prequels, but I felt at times like I was at a funeral, it seemed that quiet and a bit awkward. It does pick up, of course, during the battle for Hogwarts and damn is it good.

It's interesting to see Daniel Radcliffe with the heroic stubble that is almost cliche now, but here he stands a man ready to face his mortal enemy, so I think it's fair that he looks the part. I've been on a bit of a re-watching spree as of late, and to have seen Daniel, Emma and Rupert grow up before our eyes. Their characters no longer have that glimmer of wonder and magic in their eyes, but the sunken visage of despair and fatigue. When the series started, it was filled with new magical worlds full of whimsy and discovery, now the once shiny pillars of Hogwards lay in ash and ruin and even I shed a tear as the Quiddich field burned and crumbled.

There is a lot going in this film, mainly because the second half of the book is where the action was while the first part set everything up accordingly and pulled no punches. Part Two continues that trend and allows proper time to give the battle for Hogwarts to play out and not be rushed and leave ample time to see pivotal parts of the book played out. I shudder to think what would have happened should this have been crammed into a single film. This really did get the treatment it deserved.

While it's certainly Harry Potter/Daniel Radcliffe's story, the minor characters really take the center stage, especially during the last half of the film. Maggie Smith who has played Prof. McGonagall throughout the series is a domineering force inside the body of an elderly woman. The fact that she was going through chemo treatments for cancer and still managed to work through this rigorous shoot displays what courage really is and does her character justice as she has in the past decade. Matthew Lewis who started out as awkward and clumsy Neville Longbottom, has become something of what embodies a Gryffindor. Neville shows bravery and even has a moment in defiance towards the Dark Lord himself. He's come along way from being bullied by Draco while practicing broom riding.

The scene-stealer here is Alan Rickman. Rickman, the legendary British star, was Rowling's first choice to play Prof. Severus Snape and does so here again as he has in the previous installments, gives Snape a voice and a performance that truly shows how complex the character is. I won't give away spoilers for those have yet to seen the movie or read the book, but it goes to show you in the world of Harry Potter, nothing is what it seems.

The final showdown between Harry and Voldemort actually comes across as anti-climactic. It's a bit of a breather since the Hogwarts battle just took your breath away with the special effects and tension you're feeling, especially for the fans of the series who knew what was coming. Ralph Fiennes once again dons the sans nose make up of Lord Voldemort and truly captures what a great villain can be. The scene with Snape in particular demonstrates his capacity for evil and his ruthless aggression.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 wraps everything up as Rowling intended, but should she continue on the legacy of the Potter stories, there is room to do so for another generation. The epilogue from the book is there as well, but I feel it would have been better with actual older actors instead of the current cast with just make up. I fear it doesn't translate well and we still get the impression they are early twenty-somethings instead of people almost forty. That is a small knit-pick out of a flawless adventure that concludes a story that will be enjoyed for generations to come.