Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II
Director: David Yates
Writer: Steve Kloves. Based upon the novel Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling.
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman, Matthew Lewis, Tom Felton, Michael Gambon, Evanna Lynch, Helena Bonham Carter, Maggie Smith
The final chapter in the Harry Potter movie saga provides a satisfying, although not great, conclusion to the adventure started in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone.
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), along with his frineds Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson), is on the final legs of his mission to hunt down and defeat the dreaded Lord Voldermort (Ralph Fiennes). To do this, he must find hunt down and destroy the final horcrux's (magical objects that allow Lord Voldermort an immortal life) that Voldermort had hidden away in dangerous locations. But not only do Voldermort's henchmen control Hogwarts but he also has possession of the Elder Wand, one of the the three Deathly Hallows and the most powerful wand in the world, thus making him potentially invincible even if his horcrux's are destroyed.
First off, I must say that whatever individuals decided to convert The Deathly Hallows Part II into 3D using post conversion techniques are morons. The beautiful cinematography that David Yates had brought to the previous Harry Potter episodes he had directed is ultimately ruined by a cheap gimmick. Most of the imagery is dark and blurry and the majority of the action sequences were impossible to make out. I ended up leaving the theater with a splitting headache. Anyone who sees this in 3D will ultimately end up paying more cash for an inferior product.
As for the movie itself, I think the biggest problem (other then the stupid and greedy idea to convert it to 3D) is structural. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows could not have been an easy book to adapt and the decision to split it into two parts has yielded mixed dividends. Considering where Deathly Hallows Part I left off, I was not surprised to find Part II to be plot-lite. I think ending Deathly Hallows Part I with Harry, Ron, and Hermione still trapped in Malfoy Manor would not only have made for a better cliffhanger for Part 1, but would have given Harry Potter more to do this episode then rob a bank before the Battle for Hogwarts and the final confrontation with Lord Voldermort.
Also, while I know that the camping sequences, both those in the book and the previous movie, were reviled by most fans, I personally appreciated them. There is a desperation to them as the trio searches for nearly impossible to find hidden objects while being hunted by Lord Voldermort and his Deatheaters. That desperation is missing from the later chapters of Rowlings final novel and therefore from Deathly Hallows Part II. The last few horcrux's were both the easiest to find and the easiest to destroy, making the struggles and trials of this film seem trite, at least in comparison to what the characters went through in the previous episode.
Of course many people I imagine are interested in Dumbledore, who was never explicitely revealed to have been gay in the books although there were plenty of subtle clues and Rowling later outed him after the books were published. The biggest hint came from Dumbledore's backstory and the relationship he had with Gellert Grindelwald, a dark wizard who preceded Voldermort. In this backstory, Dumbledore failed for too long to realize that his close friend Grindelwald was really evil, thereby allowing Grindelwald to gain power. Rowling has stated that this blindness was because Dumbledore developed romantic feelings for Grindelwald.
Unfortunately, the biggest clue to Dumbledore's sexual orientation was a minor plot hole that was eliminated in the films. Granted this is hardly the greatest straightening out a film has received, as a great deal of backstory has been eliminated in order for the novels to fit into the medium of film.
The strongest themes running througout Rowling's series was about the evils of bigotry. Lord Voldermort was obsessed with magical lineage and his followers condemned those who entered Hogwarts who were from non-magical or muggle families. However, Rowling always took the time to point out the prejudices that many wizards in the magical world, even those who were not among Voldermort's followers, harboured against magical creatures such as Goblins, Centaurs, and House Elfs. The wizarding worlds poor treatment of House Elfs even inspired Hermione to create S.P.E.W (The Society for the Protection of Elfish Welfare) in the fourth novel.
The wizarding societies prejudices were not the only morally nebulous elements either. In The Order of the Phoenix for example, Harry Potter's dad is revealed to have been a bully who mercilessly taunted the nerdy Snape when they were at Hogwarts together. Outside of experimenting with some dark magics in Half-Blood Prince Harry Potter could never have been considered anything other then the noble hero and Lord Voldermort never stopped being the most wretched of villains. The world that these two fought in though, occupied a plane that was composed of more interesting shades then pure black and white.
Looking back at the earlier films, I cannot help but notice that most of this moral ambiguity was eliminated. Granted we see bits and pieces here and there but only the most parched skeleton of Rowling's original themes remains.
At least there is nothing worth complaining about when it comes to the acting. The three leads who gave variable performances in the first two movies, have grown into their roles and their experience shows. Rickman, I would argue probably does the best work overall in the series, nailing the character from the day the Potions Master was first introduced. Ralph Fiennes manages to give life to Voldermort and make him one of the most baddass wizards to be shown on the silver screen. No one can do crazy quite like Helena Bonham Carter. The rest of the cast is not given a lot to do, but many of them manage to give memorable performances with even only a few moments of screen time. Take for example, Maggie Simith's Prof. McGonnogal showdown with Snape or when Mathew Lewis's Neville gives a resigned speech about not giving up in the face of ultimate defeat.
One of the underlying subtexts here is the power of a mothers love. It is love that made Harry's mom give up her life for him and thus prevented him from being murdered by Voldermort at the beginning of the series. It is also a mother's love that caused Narcissa Malfoy to defy Voldermort at a key moment in this episode for the purpose of protect her own son, Draco, thereby allowing Harry Potter to live long enough for the final confrontation. Also, the most memorable scene, both in the book and movie, is Mrs. Weasley's Terminator impression after Bellatrix Lestrange made the fatal mistake of trying to kill one of Mrs. Weasley's own.
All in all, this is a decent movie, that I believe could have been much better had the film made a more sincere effort to retain the complex themes established in the books and more thought given to the how it was structured with the previous movie.
Strongly recommended for those who have familiarity with the previous incarnations. Novices will be completely lost and everyone should stay the hell away from the 3D version.
The Rating (at least until I can properly assess it in 2D)
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