Wednesday, 20 July 2011

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2 (2011) - 4 1/2 STARS

"It all ends"


After 10 years of dominating the box-office and spell-binding audiences (and critics), the Harry Potter (film) series comes to an end with the thrilling conclusion to one of the most entertaining franchises in film history. After the sheer build-up to Part 2 of The Deathly Hallows from Part 1's mature and intense installment, it allows Potter fans a-like to shed a tear as the fantasy series closes with plenty of action, intensity, emotion and revelations that wrap up this wonderful collection of films which have gone darker year by year and allowed us to join the wizard Harry Potter (the boy who lived) on his many adventures in his quest to defeat the dark lord Voldemort. However it is here, where it all comes to a head as an epic showdown between good and evil takes place as the many heroes and villains of the story tackle each other in the most memorable film in the series. This review will contain some spoilers so anyone who hasn't seen the film or the book needs to be careful here. Expelliarmus!


Following the end of Deathly Hallows Part 1, with Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) having found the Elder Wand, Part 2 sees Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) attempt to find the remaining Horcruxes in order to stop the Dark Lord from plotting the downfall of Harry. The trio of friends seek the help of the goblin Griphook to try and break into Gringott's Bank (with Hermione disguising herself as Bellatrix) to find one of the Horcruxes which ends up with them escaping via a vicious dragon. In the meantime though, Voldemort and his army prepare to confront Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry with corrupted teacher Snape (Alan Rickman) being involved in the search for Potter. However the trio manage to sneak back into the school where they round up all their friends including Neville, Luna and Ginny to take back control of the school with the teachers also determined to fight off the dark army which ready themselves for attack. A ferocious battle takes place where heroic characters perish while others rise to the challenge with Harry trying to find one of the remaining Horcruxes but then facing revelations about Voldemort, Snape and his family that prove crucial for Harry as he aims to achieve his destiny by tackling his nemesis in a fiery duel that could decide whether good or evil will triumph....

Whereas the first installment of Deathly Hallows emphasized the sense of loss and isolation through Harry, Ron and Hermoine, screenwriter Steve Kloves and director David Yates leave behind the moody atmosphere of the previous movie for new found excitement. This is all about that final battle where only one can live, and from start to finish, and for once in a Harry Potter movie, the action is swift and relentless. Kloves has done a terrific job in splitting the final story from the book into two films which Yates carries off well, as a lot of detail is given with regards to certain stories throughout. There are many exhilarating scenes which are mixed together brilliantly with action, humour and emotion being the main factors including the Gringott's bank scenes, the battle sequences at Hogwarts which are superbly made with several characters producing their finest hours in the series, and of course, the final showdown between Harry and Voldemort, not since Luke Skywalker vs Darth Vader had there been a more intense showdown on the big screen. However some of the emotional stuff is solid too with the Prince's Tale (which reveals more about Snape's background) being beautifully constructed and well acted by the always flawless Alan Rickman. So many other great performances are given throughout this outing particularly from the elder actors with Ralph Fiennes all-evil as Lord Voldemort, Maggie Smith having fun as McGonagall plus the likes of Michael Gambon (Dumbledore), Gary Oldman (Sirius), Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid) and Julie Walters (Molly Weasley, who gets the best line of the film) all doing their bit to assist in the climax of this enchanting series.
However it is the younger cast which excel and show the potential they'll probably give for other projects in the future after the long, hard work they've given to these films. They are possibly the only set of actors that you have seen grow up on the big screen and as the actors grew up on a personal level, they added their maturity to their characters. Radcliffe truly shines in this instalment- his usual understated performance allowing his audience to appreciate the enormities of the challenge before Harry with Grint and Watson just as good. Many have criticized their kiss but to me it was great to watch, one of the cheery moments of the entire series and there are certainly more of those fist-pumping moments throughout this one. Another person to give credit to is Matthew Lewis's Neville Longbottom who ends up being the Samwise Gamgee of the film as he goes from clumsy buffoon in the earlier films to brave warrior in this one by producing some memorable moments to show his heroism. That we can be so fully immersed in Harry's world is testament to the craft of each and every one of the technical team. Production designer Stuart Craig does a masterful job portraying the devastation around Hogwarts, complimented nicely by Eduardo Serra's beautiful cinematography and Mark Day's skillful editing. Alexandre Desplat's evocative score, which combines his own elegant work with the John Williams theme, works magic with the visuals. And most deserving of credit is none other than director Yates himself, who has matured movie after movie to deliver a crowning achievement for the series.

However having read the book a couple of years before, I was disappointed with a couple of aspects which Yates missed out here and this has disappointed some Potter fans who'll think of this as deja-vu. Certain scenes are missed out which are only briefly mentioned then quickly forgotten after being focused on a lot in the book. Though the battle scenes are thrilling and action-packed, there isn't really as much action as expected and there are times where younger fans will be bored by certain slow scenes which drag the film a bit e.g. Harry and Dumbledore's meeting. Plus there isn't much focus on minor characters who we know and love, the deaths of a couple of key characters are brushed aside with hardly enough emotion for us to dwell on, and one hopes that an extended version of this film will be released in the near future. Talking of future, the epilogue scene is poignant enough but the aging makeup for certain key characters doesn't come off well but it still adds irony to that scene. As well as that, the only real addition to the cast, Scottish actress Kelly Macdonald, isn't really given much to do as Helena Ravenclaw but her involvement still proves how well the Potter production team have done in attracting huge names to the cast over the past decade.
VERDICT: Not quite on the same scale as Lord of the Rings: Return of the King in terms of a hugely emotional climax but it still packs a punch and pulls itself off as the best of the series. J.K Rowling and David Heyman have crowned off a marvelous film franchise with a majestic finale terrifically made by Yates and his hard-working team. Generations of families will be enchanted by this series for a long time to come and it is to great testament that this truly was a fitting end for the boy who lived. Magic!

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