Thursday, July 14, 2011

Review: "Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows: Part 2"

Harry Potter's epic journey ends with power and majesty. For 10 years and seven previous films, we've waded through oceans of exposition and endured ever-burgeoning layers of new characters and mythology to absorb. All building to: This.

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" does not disappoint. It is easily the best film of the series, mainly because we no longer feel the filmmakers stringing us along to set up yet another movie. People die, many of them central characters, and the audience recognizes the finality of these events.

In the final showdown with the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes, in still-creepy bone-white makeup) there are several sequences that will last with me.

A terrifying chase through a maze with serpents of fire in pursuit. An assault on Hogwarts School by an army of Voldemort's Death Eaters, complete with lumbering trolls and wraith-like Dementors, that approaches the battles of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. A sad but illuminating journey through the mind of Severus Snape (Alan Rickman), the Hogwarts professor of shifting loyalties.

And, of course, Harry's final toe-to-toe magical battle with Voldemort. Daniel Radcliffe has grown so much in this role, and he brings it all together in this last movie, showing us the character's bravery and contradictions, his rage and grief. The Harry Potter of "Deathly Hallows" is no longer a young boy excited by magic, but has turned out much like LoTR's Frodo, aged before his time and regretful of the events in which he's been chosen by fate to play a pivotal role.

There's also an element we haven't seen out of Voldemort before -- fear. Early in the story he realizes that Harry, Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) have stumbled upon the secret to his forbidding dark power. By splitting his soul into hidden objects called Horcruxes, he's given them a chance to destroy him.

For those like me who have not read the series of books by J.K. Rowling, it can be a little difficult at times to keep up with the spinning narrative. At one point Harry pulls out some little golden doohickey that acquired somewhere in his travels, which I could summon no memory of. And then the thing it contains, which we had been told was the secret to Voldemort's downfall, ends up playing no role in their confrontation.

Contrastingly, diehard fans may complain about the film not containing every morsel of detail from the books. Such a thing is impossible -- even when director Peter Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves split the last book into two movies.

In that sense, this final film may be more satisfying to those who are innocent of Rowling's novels than the untold millions who have voraciously consumed them.

("Part 2" is being released in 3-D, and a more worthless and distracting use of that technology I have never seen. It adds little depth to the action, and dims the movie unnecessarily.

3.5 stars out of four

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