Friday, July 15, 2011

A Fond Farewell: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows--Part II Review

Note: This review assumes that you are knowledgeable in the Harry Potter universe (reading the books would put you in this category). Thus, several spoilers lie ahead. If you do not know what this movie is about, this is not the thing you should be reading. I am not here to catch you up on seven books worth of material. You’re a big kid, and you can do that on your own. At this point, if you are still clueless about Harry Potter, consider yourself at a disadvantage in terms of social well-being. That is all.

   It is precisely 3:03 on the morning of July 15. I came home from the midnight premiere of the final Harry Potter movie about 20 minutes ago. I snuck the computer into my room and I am now sacrificing all of my rights and privileges as a member of this household in order to bring you this review in a timely fashion. After all, this might be the one people actually read.
   The final Harry Potter movie brought with it a lot of anxiety on my part. I do not think I have ever wanted to love a movie as badly as this one. But at the end of a day, a good movie is good, and a bad movie is bad. So does my Harry Potter fandom make me automatically walk away from this movie with a perfect 10 in mind? Absolutely not, but it does not stop me from saying it is pretty darn good.
   Did you find relief in those words? I know I felt some relief when I was watching the movie. I had two demands from the filmmakers. First, stick to the source material. People love this series, obsess over this series, and wish they could take part in this series. You mess this up? This fan base will spare no one in their vengeance. Do it right the first time; we’ve been waiting years for this. Second, make the epic moments really epic. The final book features massive battles, intense one-on-one confrontations, and loads of action. Break out the big bucks and make this thing awesome.
   I can happily tell you that for the most part, my demands were met. Hallows II was very respectful of the story, and while obviously everything could not make its way into the two and a half hour slot, all the things that matter are present. The fights we have been waiting to see are all there, and there was not one moment where I was unsatisfied in terms of how a confrontation played out. Especially well-done were both Harry’s final battle with Voldemort and Neville Longbottom’s heroics with Gryffindor’s sword (Oh, I’m sorry, did you miss the spoiler warning I put up there in bold? Should have read the books, my unfortunate friend). There is one scene that was added in toward the end of the film that I found a little questionable, but as it has very little impact on the story, it is excusable. I should warn the non-readers among us; you may find the movie’s ending a little campy. Everyone else should not have a problem.
   If the adherence to the story saw a few hiccups, the epic feel made up for it. As I said before, all of the scenes you want to just have that “BAM!” factor totally bring it. The standouts I mentioned above are excellent one-on-ones, but the large-scale scenes are spectacular in their scope. At times Hallows II is like a magic-infused war movie. You have the full-on charges, the explosions, the mayhem, and the destruction. This is far and away the most action-oriented film in the series (as it should be), and the result is an absolute treat for viewers.
   So my big two concerns were abated, but everyone knows that it is the little things that turn a good movie into a great movie. Unfortunately, it is here where Hallows II falls just short. One, you need strong lead acting, and while I think Daniel Radcliffe (he plays Harry, in case you’re like me and are not as versed in pop culture) gives one of his better performances here, he still lacks emotion and dynamics in some pivotal scenes. Unfortunately his romantic counterpart, Bonnie Wright as Ginny Weasley, has the same problem, and the result is a disappointingly unbelievable couple. But on the other side of this, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson have done nothing but improve over the years, and Ron and Hermione (plus their corresponding romantic tension) are all the more enjoyable to watch because of it.
   A few minor characters also steal the show, with the fan favorites seeming to be Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange and Alan Rickman as the shadowy Severus Snape. In reflection on the series as a whole, these two command every scene they are present in, and I honestly wish we could have seen more of them. Ralph Fiennes is also memorable as Lord Voldemort, and Hallows II takes him to multiple new levels (just wait until the scene with Draco Malfoy, it’s classic).
   I am really going to miss Harry. People are saying now that the can officially kiss their childhoods goodbye now that this movie is over, but no matter how long you cling to the epic tale of the Chosen One, you can be happy that he went out on a good note. I was not thrilled with a minor addition to the ending, and I would have liked to have seen a little more growth out of Dan, but even these complaints cannot hold the film back. Stunning action scenes both on a large and small scale, an excellent supporting cast, and an acceptable adherence to the world-famous books propel the final Harry Potter movie to what is arguably the top spot among their ranks. As a self-proclaimed movie critic, I can say that with all fairness Hallows II deserves an 8 out of 10. Fans of the series will no doubt be satisfied with how our hero went out, and that is all we can ask for. That alone, in some sets of eyes, might be reason for a perfect score.
   It’s been a fun ride Harry. We will never see anything like you ever again. The world stood captivated, and tonight you proved that you could repay our loyalty properly. Thanks for all that you have done for us; it certainly has been an experience that none of us will ever forget.

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