Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Genre: Sci/Fi-Fantasy, Adventure
Opens locally Friday, July 15th, 2011
Run Time: 2 hours, 11 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes
Directed by David Yates (director of the previous 3 Harry Potter films)
As I write this review, it is just past midnight, where surely millions of fans currently sit in drooling anticipation at late-night screenings of this...the last chapter in the Harry Potter film saga. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2," as I'm sure you know, is the 8th and final film adaptation of the famously popular book series be reknowned author, J.K. Rowling. But if I had to guess, I'd say you are all set and ready to dive right in to "Deathly Hallows Part 2," one of most highly anticipated movie of 2011, or any year for that matter.
In a scene about midway through "Deathly Hallows Part 2," the camera sweeps overhead as we see the Hogwarts Quidditch Stadium engulfed in flames. This boyish childhood game was a big part of Harry's youth, but in this scene it will soon be a faint memory. And with this image in mind, the entire theme of the film is established...the past is long gone, innocence is lost...as is the whimsical, child-like spirit of the early Harry Potter films, as we enter a mature, dark ending chapter.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, let's go over where we're at heading into the theatre. When last summer's "Deathly Hallows Part 1" ended, Harry was in search of lost horcruxes...objects that the evil Lord Voldemort infused with his very soul so that he could ensure his eternal life. Destroy all of the horcruxes, and Voldemort will be destroyed. The very last scene of Part 1 had Voldemort locating the famed Elder Wand, the most powerful wand in existence. This wand plays a major role in Part 2.
So if you are not clear as to what a horcrux is, or have forgotten just what the Deathly Hallows are, don't look for answers in this film. As promised, this film picks up and leaves no room for explanation or exposition. It (rightly so) assumes that the viewer has seen all of the previous movies.
And if you have seen all previous 7 Harry Potter films, be prepared for a breath-taking, emotional and somewhat bittersweet ending to this forever-classic saga. "Deathly Hallows Part 2" is fast-paced without feeling rushed, ties up all loose ends, and from what I hear, stays fiercely loyal to the book. I was personally filled with pride that having never read one word from J.K. Rowling's books, I was able to stay spoiler-free these past 10 years, so seeing how the story unfolded was truly a fantastic experience. It is easy to see why the books have amassed millions of beloved fans.
But not being a "Potter-head" has also granted me a bit of clarity in which to remain un-biased in my criticism. As a whole, the 8 Harry Potter films will go down in my book as one of the best series of films ever. By itself however, this final chapter was not a masterpiece. In "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King," for example, we had a final chapter to an epic saga that also stood on it's own as a complete and utter master-stroke of filmmaking (landing it as #1 on my Top Films of the Decade.) Just as I pointed out in my review of "Deathly Hallows Part 1," it doesn't quite stand on it's own. A minor criticism to be sure, but one worthy of noting.
To continue my nit-picking, I was upset that they decided to go 3-D with this film...the first time a Harry Potter movie has done this. The cinematic wonder of Hogwarts and of the whole Potter-verse has such rich depth and detail, I already felt immersed in it before having to put on my 3-D glasses (special Harry Potter-shaped 3-D glasses, no less.) You would think that the extra dimension would transport you further into this world, but for me I found it distracting, especially in the early scenes of the film.
Fans of the book are at a clear advantage when watching the films, as they have all the needed backstory to fill in the gaps. But to those who haven't read the books, the "major revelations" that come late in "Deathly Hallows Part 2," should have come with it's own Marauder's Map, to aide us layman-folk in making sense of what we just saw. When these scenes occur, it seems as if 150 pages of content are flashed up in a 90 second montage of important information. It took the length of my car ride home to piece together what I had seen.
As movies go, there will not be a bigger blockbuster this summer, and swarms of fans will flock to theatres across America to get their final fill of Harry Potter and the gang on the big screen. And they should. Despite my grievances, "Deathly Hallows Part 2" was a very rewarding experience, and a satisfying ending to this mystical journey. The payoff of following young actors through 8 films over the course of 10 years...from children to full-grown actors...is the likes of something we may never experience again...period.
Better movies will come along, but it will be hard-pressed to find a more rewarding, meaningful...and magical...cinematic experience this year.
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