IT ALL ENDS.
There are people who enjoy the Harry Potter books and films… and then there are Potterheads, the fanatics. I’ve always belonged in the former category. I read the first novel, then concentrated on the movie adaptations. I did care about what would happen to Harry and his friends, but never had the desire to become a real fan. Since no friend or family member has bothered to keep up with the movies, my journey has been lonely; I’ve seen all of the films on my own, either at press screenings or after the premiere in movie theaters.
Now that the time has come to say goodbye, ten years after the first film, I do so with a hint of sadness, but also satisfaction. The series as a whole is quite an achievement. Individual chapters haven’t always been memorable. But this one is a beauty.
This sequel to the first half of Deathly Hallows begins with a visit to Griphook the Goblin (Warwick Davis) where Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) talk to him about breaking into a bank vault that belongs to Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter). Inside of it may lie one of the Horcruxes, objects that control Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) powers. The problem is that even if they do get ahold of this Horcrux, two more await. One of them is hidden somewhere in Hogwarts, which is now controlled by Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) who was appointed new headmaster after assisting in the murder of Dumbledore (Michael Gambon); the other Horcrux is a living thing, Voldemort’s huge, poisonous snake that is committed to protecting its master at all times. In the end, it all boils down to a final confrontation between Harry and Voldemort, whose armies stand ready to fight the war to end all wars.
Chock-full of glorified cameos
I’m not surprised to see David Yates as director; this is his fourth Potter movie and his first, Order of the Phoenix (2007), was a shot of adrenaline to the series. This final chapter is at times a grueling (albeit PG-13) war movie with desaturated colors along the lines of Saving Private Ryan (1998), at other times a richly nostalgic and emotional cap to the whole franchise. The cast is chock-full of glorified cameos from Britain’s finest; some (like Emma Thompson) barely have a line, others (like Maggie Smith) get more action than in the past three or four entries. Rickman is once again brilliant as the mysterious Snape and Fiennes gets to intimidate his minions in delicious ways as Satan incarnated.
As for the three young leads who’ve virtually grown up on-screen… they’ve matured not only as human beings, but as actors. As always, excellent visual effects and handsome art direction, although the decision to turn this last film into a 3D experience is totally unnecessary; the 3D doesn’t hurt the movie, but nor does it add anything.
At their worst, all eight films have been too obviously formulaic. Still, it doesn’t take a Potterhead to recognize that producer David Heyman has done a tremendous job of guiding us through this Hollywood illustration of Harry’s upbringing, with a little help from four directors, screenwriter Steve Kloves, and J.K. Rowling herself.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 2011-U.S.-Britain. 130 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by David Heyman, David Barron, J.K. Rowling. Directed by David Yates. Screenplay: Steve Kloves. Novel: J.K. Rowling. Music: Alexandre Desplat. Cast: Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davis… Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Ciarán Hinds, Jason Isaacs, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters, John Hurt, Gary Oldman, Jim Broadbent, David Thewlis, Emma Thompson, Timothy Spall, Domhnall Gleeson.
BAFTA: Best Special Visual Effects.
Last word: “I wanted to start with Snape because he’s so integral to the story and we discover so much about him in the movie. And Alan Rickman is so amazing as an actor, and what I love about him and the way he works is he thinks rather than shows. I know we usually open the movies with big bangs and bridges falling down and all sorts of stuff, but to open on an actor’s face, quite close was so compelling. And it’s actually quite an enigmatic expression; he’s not giving away too much, but it completely pulls you in. And then visually, just this notion of this shape, this black shape, and you’ve seen these Dementors just floating there in the ether and he’s almost like another Dementor. Visually, that felt quite strong, and also we needed to remind the audience of where we left the last movie.” (Yates on the film’s opening scene, TwitchFilm)