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Friday, July 22, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (Release Date: 7-15-2011

        My sincerest apologies to the uninitiated, but Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 doesn’t care a lick about you. With almost 20 hours of Potter films under the series’ belt, Warner Brothers must know that if they haven’t won you over by now, they’re not going to. The new film, which stands as the final chapter in the Harry Potter saga, takes up right where Part I left off, and when I say right where, I mean every one of the story’s players is just wrapping up the scene that we ended on last Fall. If you’re fuzzy on what exactly Horcruxes are, how many have been destroyed, and the explicit purpose of the Deathly Hallows, you might want to brush up on your own time. This movie feels no need to coddle you.
        After the first four flicks (and books, for that matter) all adhered to a distinct structure, featuring both a true beginning and ending, the fifth entry to the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, opted instead to start building up to something. A turning point in the saga on both page and screen, this was also where British TV Director David Yates took the helm, directing the rest of the films from there on out. It’s not the blunder of Yates that has caused the last three Potter flicks to feel less momentous: That’s how the story is structured, leading up to the climax that is offered in this newest and last installment. Finally given his moment, Yates shows a virtuoso’s mastery of epic scale and meaningful moments, almost each and every single important event in the film hitting its mark perfectly.
I’ve always found Yates’ work in the series to be remarkably graceful, and nothing changes here: The effects all look great, and feel necessary to the events of the film, and the intimate, character-driven moments play with just as much elegant grandeur. The acting is fine all around, many series favorites giving one last turn before fading off into movie lore. And finally, at the exact right moment, it’s Daniel Radcliffe who most impresses, adding a bit of stubble and a whole lot of action hero bravado to his earnest and relatable hero. I’ve never been one to call him a bad actor in the past, but it’s evident from the start that the young thespian knows this is his moment. As always, Steve Kloves’ screenplay does an excellent job of summarizing the events of the book without denying the cinematic telling of its own life, but the cheesy moments that he’s been prone to include through-out the series do occasionally take away from the scope and scale of the movie. My complete, unbridled enthusiasm for the film is also damped by the fact that, given that the first half of this individual tale isn’t even attached to the movie, DHP2 is almost all climax, which can feel a bit lopsided. I’m not about to say that it doesn’t merit a non-stop finale of this sort; it totally does. I just can’t quite appreciate the movie as an individual chapter as much as many can. But, in truth, that’s almost beside the point when your dealing with dynamite entertainment like this.
        Good-bye, Harry. You’ve been a loyal friend. Through seven books and eight movies, the boy wizard has never let us down. Sure, some offerings in both series’ have been lesser than others, but J.K. Rowling’s tales never lacked purpose, never lacked a reason for existence, an incredible testament to the depth of the universe that she has created. Though Deathly Hallows Part 2 certainly stands as a triumph in its own right, I can’t really get excited about any one piece of the Potter puzzle without getting giddy about the whole of the thing. Some have and will call it the true prize of decade-running filmic adaptation, but I prefer to think of it simply as an exemplary section to sprawling story that has never once slipped below average, and has frequently exceeded it. Perhaps that holds me back from loving the final Potter quite the same way that many do, but I’m not about to tell you that it’s anything less than excellent. In fact, it’s thrilling, enthralling entertainment, and it wraps up a decade of Potter in outstanding fashion.

Grade: A-

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