Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

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B

I would be what is called a Harry Potter noob. I haven’t read any of the books and didn’t see any of the films until a week before the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. Without this connection, I may not be the best judge of any of the films (I have to admit, I wasn’t always totally sure of what was going on), but I’m going to spin that to say that I’m not one of those people in the audience that burst into tears for no particular reason.

You all know the story (hell, based on the box office numbers, you’ve all seen the movie at least once already — sidetrack: congrats me on pegging this as the top grossing film of the summer, as if that was some sort of long-shot), so I’m not going to waste my time with any plot synopsis. Really, though, the best qualities of the film are mostly anything apart from the plot. Any of the films in this series could have been presented as a total cash-grab, designed to capture the fans of the book with very little effort, but I never got that feeling with any of the movies, especially the final installment. Sure, those who know the books will be able to follow the story more clearly, but my favorite things about this film was the overall look and the energy of the film’s fun set-pieces.

I have to commend David Yates on jumping straight into the story. Of course, the beginning of this film is the start of the second half of a complete story, but the film never back-tracks to remind us what happened to Potter and the gang over the past films. Instead, it takes off from the opening sequence and genuinely and continually builds to a climax. Part 1 and Part 2 do feel like a complete story, and I think both films would benefit from being seen as one film — certainly Part 1, with its set-up upon set-up, building to no actual climax, would have benefited. Strangely enough, this is the leanest Harry Potter film of the series, just over two hours, yet it is still stuffed with the set-pieces and mini-quests that we’ve come to expect throughout the franchise. In a time when epic films are becoming longer and longer, it was nice to see one that tries to be as tight as possible. It doesn’t always succeed in being so, toward the middle sections of the film, especially one particular scene that is played as a re-telling of previous events, the forward momentum is stalled a bit, but it was interesting in its own right.

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Harry Potter has never been a franchise to shy away from stunning action set-pieces, but Part 2 of its conclusion really breaks it wide open. The final showdown at Hogwarts castle is a dizzying, dazzling showcase of action direction and production design. The filmmakers seemed to forget that this is a young-adult fantasy franchise and had mistaken it for a Shakespearean siege, as that is what the final scenes of the film recall. Seeing how the little army of good guys stave off the evil hordes is as good a strategic action sequence we’ll see this year, including the remarkable one with those big robots. The epic showdown between the two characters destined to duel, while beautifully shot, lets down a little from the rest of the action going on around them. Still, the fateful climax delivers in a way that should have been difficult, because we all knew it was coming and we’ve been waiting ten years for it to happen.

The film misses its biggest mark with the emotions of loss and death. The series has never been great at this (the over-emphasis on a minor character’s death in Part 1 for example), but this is where not being a fan of the books hurts me the most. I don’t have a deep-rooted love for these characters, so I can’t be emotional over any particular death just because. While the film certainly builds a connection to its three main characters, it doesn’t totally earn some of the other emotional beats. Yes, there were plenty of viewers audibly crying while I was seeing the movie, and I feel that the film knows this was inevitably going to happen, so it didn’t exactly try to earn them. While I applaud the film for not playing to its common fan in many respects, this is a slight digression from that.

In all, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 was a fun ride and worthy capper to the groundbreaking series. In terms of the franchise, it is in the mix among the best and maybe the best from David Yates, but is not quite as captivating as Prisoner of Azkaban. I have heard plenty of jokes on the Internet lately, spawning from its incredible success, that it’s too bad Warner Bros. can’t make another sequel, but I truly think that knowing this film would be the last helped Yates, the cast and crew make the film as well as they could. I wouldn’t put it past anyone in Hollywood to pitch some spin-off in the coming years, though.

tags: Daniel Radcliffe, David Yates, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint

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