Sunday, July 17, 2011

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2 review

I'm one of those late arrivals to the Harry Potter world.  I never read any of J.K.Rowling books about the boy who lived.  I didn't know anything about the wizarding world, or witches, or where Hogwarts was.  I saw the first three films in the theaters, but skipped the rest.  Now?  Now, I love everything about the movies.  A few months ago when Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 1 was released on DVD; I started a Harry Potter marathon from the beginning.  I watched them all in order.  Since then, I've watched all the DVDs, four times.  That's 28 viewings of Harry Potter films all leading up to this.  The epic conclusion to the most successful (critical and commercial) series in cinema history.  Let me begin.

What I liked about the movie:
The Story
If this isn't obvious, I don't know what is.  An orphan wizard, magic spells, and an unknown connection to an evil wizard named Volemort.  The movie is easy to follow as a lot of the set up was done in earlier movies.  This is a balls to the wall action epic.  The final battle between Harry and the wizards against Voldemort and his army.  You really must see the previous films to fully appreciate the conclusions in this film.  The one thing that is important above all else... above all the explosions and magic and spells is simple... friendship.  The story of three best friends and their journey to this epic conclusion is unmatched by any other film I've ever seen.  THAT'S ultimately why these movies are so satisfying to so many people.  I don't want to say too much more, if you were looking for a plot summary, this review is not the place.

Characters / Actors
As with any great story, there must be great characters. And for 10+ years, the world enjoyed these characters.  Rowling has given the world so much.  And what this film has been able to do is showcase them all. 

I believe the supporting cast must be recognized.  The marvelous Ralph Fiennes as the evil Lord Voldemort.  Alan Rickman as the mysterious Snape.  Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange.  Jason Isaacs and Tom Felton as Lucious and Draco Malfoy.  Matthew Lewis as Neville Longbottom.  And the lovely Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonagall.  There are many more.  Maybe they weren't showcased for long periods of time, but every hero, every villain and every wizard in between is included in the story.

Then there are the three main characters, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermoine (Emma Watson) who really shine.  Their character development is key to the success of the film.  They each go through a transition and grow as a character.  It's amazing to think the producers have been able to keep all the same actors in tact for this epic series of films.  The best scenes in the movie involve the three best friends.  Like I've been saying all week... Harry, Ron and Hermione... I'll miss you.

The Score
The theme to Harry Potter was written back when the first film was released, by none other than John Williams.  The same brilliant man that brought us the scores to Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Superman and so many more.  Alexandre Desplat scored HP and TDH Part 1, so it is fitting that he has returned to score the finale.  The score is beautiful.  I actually purchased it yesterday and I am listening to it as I type this review. 

The emotional weight of the score is vital to the story (you're going to read a lot about the emotional weight of the film in this review).  The music alone tells the story.  I was chatting with a friend about the film and told her I could discuss the score alone for hours.  And I really could.  The score was so impressive in relaying the emotion as well has elevating the action.  It was was enough to put me on the edge of my seat, literally.  And never forgetting the original theme created by Williams, it is weaved into this film as well.  Bravo Mr. Desplat.

The Editing / Pacing / Tone
This is something that doesn't get a lot of recognition in Hollywood, but it is so important to a movie like this.  If the editing and pacing is off, the entire movie crumbles.  You know by now there is a lot of emotion and also action in the movie.  How do you work those two together?  The editing is key.  Mark Day did an amazing job of keeping the film nice and neat.  There is no deviating from the plan.  For the most part, the film is told in chronological order, and there was a lot to cover.  The tone was perfect as well.  And I believe it is the marriage of cinematography, editing and score that sets the tone.  Great all around!

The Director
Really, what the score, editing, pacing and tone all come down to is the work of David Yates.  Yates has directed the last four Harry Potter films in the series.  And there is a reason for that.  He understood the material, he understood the world.  The producers of the films understood Yates is a fantastic director.  His work on this film proves you could have a huge Summer blockbuster, and still carry the emotional weight of a drama.  It was perfectly balanced and Yates is the man to thank.

What I didn't like about the movie:
Ironically, this is the shortest film in series.  If only that wasn't the case.  I understood Warner Brothers' motivation for splitting the two films in half.  But in retrospect, I wouldn't have split the movies where Yates did.  I would have included some of Part 1 in Part 2.  Just my opinion.  Maybe it's because I didn't want it to be over I was enjoying it so much! 

The Verdict:
Amazing, what all Summer movies should be
We've come to expect explosions and special effects in our Summer movies.  But what we are missing in most of those films is the emotional weight to make us care.  I know I keep repeating myself, but this movie made us care.  We felt invested in these characters and the final outcome of their stories.  This all goes back to Rowling and her writing.  Without her imagination, none of this comes true.  Brilliant, simply brilliant.

While watching some of the special features, the producers refer to the films as a series, NOT a franchise. This is true; the movies are a series spanning 8 films to tell an overall story. It's not a franchise of unrelated events.  So to see the 8th and final film combine so much was amazing.  There are aspects and remnants of all the prior movies in this film. 

It was difficult to say goodbye to all the amazing characters, but the beauty of cinema is this... great stories and great films stay with us, forever.  Whether it's E.T. and Elliot's remarkable friendship, or Harry, Ron and Hermione causing trouble... we're reminded, through film, of what it was like to be a kid again.  I sat next to a little boy at a sold out screening and was mesmerized by his reaction to the film.  He laughed, he cried and he covered his eyes at times.  But he was so engaged in the film, it was an awesome sight.  Movies like Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2 give me hope for the future of cinema. 

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