(Warning this review contains Spoilers!)
Last week I did something that I don’t believe I’ve ever done before – I attended my first Midnight Screening, not only that but in order to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 at midnight, I had to sit through Part 1 first. As many of you know, I loathe Part 1, as a fan of the books I was looking forward to seeing how this all ends but Director David Yates is a putz who ruined the film franchise and disappointed me every single time. Due to Yates’ track record I thought for sure this would be another disaster.
Maybe it’s because I saw it in a really nice theater but Deathly Hallows Part 1 didn’t piss me off as much this time. I still found it to be too dark, drab and boring, but it was watchable. My problem with Yates is, his Harry Potter films are always “watchable” but they are Harry Potter movies in name only. He sucked the magic and joy out of this world and while I appreciate movies are not books the stories they are based on still need to make some sort of sense. The movies shouldn’t rely on the audience already knowing vital pieces of information that is not on the screen. Instead of trying to tell a Harry Potter story he butchered the last three movies to the point where they were hardly recognizable. I can’t fathom how people who haven’t read the books would even be able to follow the last three Potter movies.
The movie still looks horrible, Cinematographer Eduardo Serra just makes this world look like garbage (literally and figuratively) everything is too dark, drab and there’s almost no color or character to anything that’s on screen. Even the few daytime scenes look dreary. I realize he takes his orders from Yates, so all of this can be laid at Yate’s feet. But still…. Look at the first two Potter films how vibrant and colorful the world was then to how it is now. Don’t tell me it’s because the world has become “darker,” and Harry was an 11-year-old boy then. I just don’t accept that excuse for the last four movies to have no “color.” If Yates wanted a black and white movie, he should have shot it in black and white.
Other than the look of the film, almost everything else works here. The magic here is in Steve Kloves’ screenplay and the amazing cast. Special kudos go to the golden trio of Rupert Grint, Emma Watson and most of all Daniel Radcliffe. We watched all three of these young actors literally grow up on screen, but more importantly become comfortable in their own skin and really inhabit the characters that will most likely define them for the rest of their lives – or at the very least another 10 or 15 years. They go out on top.
Remember how horrible Radcliffe was in the first two films? He was 11 then and his limited acting ability showed. As the series progressed he clearly took his craft seriously and worked hard to improve. His hard work pays off in spades here – I’d love to see him get nominated for an Oscar this year. Harry’s emotional journey is amazing, especially when he realizes he has to die for everyone to live. Radcliffe gives this sequence the emotional punch that it needed – he never would have pulled this off 10 years ago or even two or three year ago, but now…. As bad as the last few movies were, I never faulted the cast. This time Yates really gives everyone their moment to shine, but he never forgets that this movie is about Harry’s journey – to the detriment of numerous other plot threads. A lot of characters don’t get a proper resolution.
For example poor Kreature is nowhere to be found in Part II, so we do not get to see his redemption. There is no resolution to Wormtail’s (Timothy Spall) story. We never find out Dumbledore’s relationship with Gwindelwald or how Dumbledore was responsible for the death of his sister (and why his brother hates him). Why have young Gwindelwald in the movie if they aren’t going to bother explaining all of this “vital” information? I would have preferred they just cut it all together than set the expectation that we were going to see all of this. There’s no mention of the birth of Teddy Lupin and there’s a host of other little details left out.
In Part 2 they give short shrift to the whole Deathly Hallows and do not once mention that Harry’s Invisibility Cloak is a Hallow and that Harry was master of them. It annoyed me a bit that they don’t show Harry using the Elder wand to repair his broken one.
But back to everyone has his or her moment to shine comment, how awesome is Matthew Lewis as Neville Longbottom? Part of the magic of this 10 year odyssey is all of the coordination it must have taken to keep this cast intact for the full ten year journey. Watching Lewis grow from being a short, dumpy, awkward kid to the young adult he is today is amazing. Everyone else looked largely the same, but much like his character he has had a complete transformation. He somehow becomes the linchpin in the student rebellion and Yates gives him several moments where he shines.
Alan Rickman’s Snape is one of the most complex characters ever put to screen and while during the course of the movie he comes across as one note, if you watch the movies again and then watch Hallows Part 2 you will see that Rickman added a lot of “hidden” layers to the character. The flashback moment in the movie where we finally find out Snape’s past was really nicely done. It really shows the tragic nature of Snape’s life but it doesn’t show that he made these bad choices. If I had one quibble, Yates cuts the part where he calls Lilly a mudblood. It’s vital because it’s what completely destroys his friendship with her. It would have taken 30 seconds to show and he just ignores it.
Molly Weasley’s (Julie Walters) moment with Bellatrix (Helena Bonham Carter) was just lame – too short and contained none of the emotion or power that it should have. In the book their battle was so fierce that everyone stopped and watched. Here it was lifeless and pointless. Even her utterance of “not my daughter,” lacked any emotion. I actually think Julie Walters’ performance was probably the worst in the movie.
A minor disappointment was I wanted to see more of the Battle of Hogwarts, Yates does an amazing job of build up but all the fighting happens off camera, although we do get flashes of it when we see the trio running through the castle. But I really didn’t expect Yates to live up to his promise of a one-hour Battle of Hogwarts. He has never shown interest or ability to show a real, honest to goodness extended battle sequence. But the way he does it here, by having it in the background works really well. The books are about the characters and have never been about the fighting – it’s time I accept that. In OOTP the entire book takes place in Hogwarts so the promise of fighting wasn’t shown then, Half Blood Prince is in the background, so yeah….
I give Yates mad props for ramping up the final confrontation between Harry and Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). In the book it was pathetic – lots of talking before finally “fighting” which involved throwing one spell at each other. In the movie Yates made the confrontation cinematic, climatic, and very satisfying. I mean these two had a pitched battle across most of the school. Fiennes actually gave Voldemort a little bit of sympathy in the end and watching a happy, dancing, laughing Voldemort when he thought he finally won was a treat. I know it’s cliched but like the Molly Weasley battle, if he didn’t have the fighters stop and watch that battle, it would have been cool (and, admittedly, cheesy) if there were people around to witness this final confrontation, it just seemed odd that after everything they would end up fighting alone in a courtyard without an audience to witness the end. At the same time it strangely works because their battle was always personal (more on Voldemort’s side than Harry’s), so it was fitting that they end things as it began together, alone, no witnesses.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 ends the series as it began, on a high note, leaving me wanting more of this world and sad to see it go.
Final Grade A
EM Review by
Originally posted 07/16/2011