Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

"Potter Familious"

Finally.  The last film in the "Harry Potter" adaptations.  Given the way the series has been rather cagey with the details of the life-long death-struggle between Harry and "You-Know-Who," one hoped going in that "All Would Be Revealed" before "It All Ends."

Fortunately, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 delivers on that promise and a good deal more.  It has been tough to get through these films enthusiastically.  I'm too old to be a die-hard fan, but I admired the cleverness of J.K. Rowling's writing (I still suspect she cribbed Neil Gaiman's Tim Hunter character from "The Books of Magic") Although I've seen them all, I had lost any real interest with Mike Newell's turn as director on No. 4 (the last of the "revolving directors" before settling on the uninspiring David Yates), the nadir of the series being the last one (which we'll just call Part 1) in which...nothing much happened.  In fact, that one was a good opportunity to do some back-filling and pay attention to some of the characters who'd been ignored the last few films.  Even that was squandered with all the attention paid to The Hogwarts Three (Harry, Hermione and Ron..."oh my") wandering around "getting lost" so as not to be found.  Besides that, the "magic" that Chris Columbus had started the series with away back in 2001—the delicious little magical details that tended to float through the frame not calling attention to themselves, the little character asides in the dialogue—had gone noticeably missing, and the increasing number of deaths of characters (that increased as the story got increasingly darker) seemed to happen in a way that is best described as "cold and unfeeling."  Oh, they'd be momentarily mourned (and off-screen demises we were merely informed about), but their deaths evoked no feeling in the audience (or this audience, anyway), and the one death that was supposed to resonate in Part 1 was of a character we hadn't seen since HP and the Chamber of Secrets, the second film.  Dobby, we hardly knew ye.

That problem still persists in Deathly Hallows, Part 2there are too many off-screen deaths and we're barely given time to register them—but at least this one is filled to bursting with events (in a lean running time of 2 hours 10 minutes) —that, given the message of the movie and the series (friends and family are important), runs a little off-message.  Part 2 picks up where Part 1 coda'd with Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) prying the Elder Wand from Dumbledore's cold dead hands.  Meanwhile, Potter and Co. have been seeking and destroying horcruxes, each of which contains a bit of Voldemort's soul, and only by destroying all of them can Harry hope to make The Dark Lord mortal and defeat himYates gets things going fairly quickly and doesn't let up the pace, save for some expository dialog at the beginning and some necessary breathing space between rounds in the Battle for Hogwarts (and it feels like a video game version of multi-tiered strategies).

But, there are creatures aplenty, a particularly amusing subterranean roller-coaster ride—I didn't see this in 3-D, but I'll bet it looks great—actors avoiding flying rubble (that Fiennes hasn't chewed on, anyway), lots of sparks and flames, and lots and lots of shots of people pointing sticks.  I found it quite satisfying, and particularly clever in how it wrapped up the sub-plots and filled in the gaps, a tribute to Rowling as well as the film-makers.  And the series did well in teaching life-lessons along the way, none more satisfying than the one here, which has been percolating, frustratingly, below the surface (and will be addressed in the inevitable "Now I've seen Everything" post about the series).

But, the best thing about the series is how it maintained the continuity throughout the entire run (with one of two minor exceptions—for instance Ciarán Hinds plays Aberforth Dumbledore in this one) with the same actors who started out in the roles.  None has payed off more than keeping Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint in the three crucial roles.  To see these kids grow up and become fine actors (Radcliffe's reading of the line "It's mine" is particularly off-hand and nuanced) and replace the image of the kids in the minds eye as the definitive versions of the characters.  Take a bow, kids. Invest your money wisely.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 is a Matinee.


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