Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 / ***½ (PG-13)

Harry Potter: Daniel Radcliffe
Hermione Granger: Emma Watson
Ron Weasley: Rupert Grint
Lord Voldemort: Ralph Fiennes
Professor Severus Snape: Alan Rickman
Neville Longbottom: Matthew Lewis
Draco Malfoy: Tom Felton
Albus Dumbledore: Michael Gambon
Luna Lovegood: Evanna Lynch
Griphook/Professor Filius Flitwick: Warwick Davis
Lucius Malfoy: Jason Isaacs
Bellatrix Lestrange: Helena Bonham Carter
Professor Minerva McGonagall: Maggie Smith
Ginny Weasley: Bonnie Wright

Warner Bros. Pictures presents a film directed by David Yates. Written by Steve Kloves. Based on the novel by J.K. Rowling. Running time: 130 min. Rated PG-13 (for some sequences of intense action violence and frightening images).

Well, I guess that’s it then, the end of the most successful film franchise in history. It’s a little hard to come to terms with. If anything can be said about the final installment, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2”, it’s that the filmmakers do a fine job coming to terms with the end of their precious commodity. It’s handled with care and love, and that shows in just about every frame of one of the most thrilling episodes of the series. I’m at a loss as to what to say for a closing on the series, so I’ll revert to the critical standby of synopsizing and see where that leads me.

As expected, Part 2 of Harry’s seventh year starts right where Part 1 left off. Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes, “Schindler’s List”) has taken the Elder Wand, the most powerful wizarding wand in the world, from Dumbledore’s crypt. Harry, Ron and Hermione mourn the sacrifice of Doby, the Free Elf.  Soon, the heroic trio is back on the search for Voldemort’s horcruxes to give them a leg up in defeating the dark lord.

At this point, it is impossible to discuss this series for those who might not be familiar with it. That fact is reflected in this film’s presentation as well. There are no introductory passages to this ultimate episode, no explanations of what a horcrux is, no explanation of who is who. If you don’t know yet, you’re going to have to go back to find out. That’s how it should be, because there are too many loose ends to tie up to waste time with exposition.

For the first time in the series, the events depicted are almost completely filled with action sequences. While Part 1 of this final chapter mostly contained dialogue and dread, Part 2 consists of wall-to-wall action and yet still finds profound moments of insight and contemplation. The dread is still a palpable element of the story, but the heroes make more discernable headway this time. Will it be enough? Will it be in time to save Hogwarts from destruction?

Some characters who played a big role in Harry’s earlier adventures come back to play large roles in this final installment. Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith, “Becoming Jane”) has always been a defender of Harry.  It’s good to see her come on strong as a defender of Hogwarts. Professor Severus Snape (Alan Rickman, “Die Hard”) has always held a mysterious role in Harry’s fate, having worked for both the good Order of the Phoenix and the evil Death Eaters. His role in Harry’s ultimate fate is satisfying without succumbing to sentimentality. Perhaps my favorite minor character, the accident-prone Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis), makes the biggest vie for unsung hero status in this final chapter. He gets together with my other favorite minor character, Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch).

Along with the chance to say goodbye to old friends, this final chapter also satisfies by doing a great job revisiting the plots of the previous films. All the previous adventures tie in to this one in some way or another. The basilisk from “Chamber of Secrets” has a role to play despite the fact that it remains a skeleton in the bowels of Hogwarts. Dumbledore’s pensive bowl, which shows memories stored in people’s tears and first appeared in “Goblet of Fire”, reveals important secrets about Harry’s protectors through the years. And the staging of Dubledore’s death in “The Half-Blood Prince” plays an important role in the resolution of everything here.

Before seeing the final installment myself, I’d heard that it was both satisfying and sad. I agree with the former, but not the latter. I suppose it’s sad to think that we won’t have a chance to return to this world we’ve come to love except by popping one of it’s eight episodes into our DVD players whenever we want, but, to call the movie itself sad, is a bit misleading. Certainly there are some sad elements, but satisfaction is a better description of the overall feeling this last film in the series imparts.

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