I’ve not made my feelings towards this film franchise any secret. The first two films are among the worst in fantasy. The third one is among the best. After that…well, I never saw the others, to be honest. I was content to reading the books and preserving that image in my imagination. Still, the last film is going to be a cultural phenomenon and it would be foolish to miss out. I was not a gigantic fan of Part One, and I was not sure what to expect from this film.
So, how does the final film in this franchise stand up? Is Part Two a significant improvement over the lifeless, boring Part One? Yes – it feels like an adaptation rather than a multimillion dollar book reading. But is this the grand finale that most fans feel the franchise deserves?
That is a much more difficult to answer.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (Subsection E, Row 12, after 6 PM ask for Jim) continues exactly where Part 1 ended. I did a lot of research to establish that fact. You’re welcome. Anywhere, the world sucks because the Dark Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes in a Michael Jackson mask) has re-emerged and has taken over the government. But Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his friends may have a way to stop him. Specifically, they are seeking a few mystical objects called MacGuffins. Sorry, that’s Horcruxes, which contain pieces of Voldemort’s soul and, if they are destroyed, Voldemort can be killed. Also, they are seeking something called the Deathly Hallows which are weapons they can use to defeat Voldemort. Voldemort found one of the weapons (a wand) at the end of the last film. He goes to make a stand at Hogwarts, but Harry is right behind him and has vowed to eliminate him once and for all.
The reason my sarcasm got the better of me in the previous paragraph is because it feels useless to make a plot summary. This is also where I would talk about casting, effects, mise en scene, and whatever else came to mind, but that feels useless as well. The Harry Potter series never had a problem with casting (the series is pretty much a showcase for the best British actors) and this film looks exactly like the previous one. This film is in 3D, but most of it is so dark that it will be hard to tell what is going on. That is more a complaint about the 3D though than about this film (it’s dimmer than 2D). People definitely wanted to go all out with every piece of new technology, knowing they were not getting another chance to use it. Want to see Harry Potter cast particle effects in 3D? Now was the time, even if it doesn’t help the plot.
Instead, this review will try to answer that above question that I poised to the readers.
My original answer to that question above, for most of the run time, was “not really.” The first two acts are missing that warmth and human touch that Prisoner of Azkaban had at its best moments. Most of the film seems to think that it is better just to throw bigger and better effects and explosions.Some people die in these moments, but there is not really any FEELING in it (despite the Pavlovian response of sobbing that the person two seats down from me gave). They were shown, and then the film moves on to show the next big effect. Yes, I know the temptation for “grand” to mean bigger things have to explode, especially in a summer blockbuster. But it is hard to get the emotion out of that.
I was almost, almost, ready to call this film an improvement from the previous films, but still say it was not enough to make up for the drastic problems the first part had.
And then the third act comes along, and all of my doubts were erased.
One character (most can probably guess, but I won’t say who) gets an enormous send off, and then, using a spell, reveals to Harry everything about his past and gives him an honest moral choice to make. Yes, these moments were in the book, but the actors (especially Radcliffe) do not treat the outcome as though it is “written.” They actually become the characters, and feel like there stakes are high. Even Fiennes’ villain no longer acts like just the embodiment of evil, but an actual being that was once a person. These moments are what any good legend are all about. These dilemmas and choices were what has been missing from the previous films. They still felt like characters rather than like actual people. But not only did they at the end of the film, but they did so better than they had in previous films. In the end, every single actor manages to find humanity in their characters, and keep it.
When the epilogue comes up (you know the one), and the characters have all gained a history and act like old friends, I gained a feeling that I never thought I would ever have watching a Harry Potter film – satisfaction.
In some ways, this still disappoints me. The ending is so effective, and so (dare I say) emotional, it makes me wonder why the series never started out like this. Why did I have to sit through two insufferable films at the beginning, and tread through the boring Part One just to get to the good stuff? The producers and filmmakers had the ability to be good all along, and waited till the last possible minute to make a satisfying film that everyone who grew up reading the books should honestly see.
All I can say is, better late than never. I am glad that the filmmakers finally arrived there.
Oh, one last little house keeping thing. It was widely rumored that the trailer for the new Batman film would be attached to this. That was not the case at my screening. Instead, I got the see the teaser for Happy Feet Two. Thanks a lot, Warner Brothers.