July 15, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

I entered the movie theater shivering. This was it. The big kahuna. The one I had been waiting for with bittersweet anticipation.

Standing in line to enter the theater, I glanced around to see teenage Harrys, Hermiones and Rons all around me. Even a particularly nasty looking Bellatrix shot me a glance. And then there was the massive Hagrid who seemed abnormally large (costume win of the night for sure).

Hagrid and Luna waiting for midnight!
I sat in my seat as wizards dueled up and down the aisles. "Avada Kedavra!" someone yelled. I turned to my friend and shook my head. "She's dressed up as a Gryffindor," I said, my voice tinged with disappointment (and a British accent). "A Gryffindor would never use an Unforgivable Curse in a proper Wizard's Duel." I shook my head. "Muggles."

Conversations swirled around me but I couldn't participate. I was too excited. And saddened. Harry Potter has been such an integral part of my life. And this was the end. Except not. Thank god for Pottermore (coming soon).

And then the previews started. Some of them looked good, but I was in no state to pay attention or fully remember any of them. And then, without warning, the camera began to sweep across the ocean towards Dumbledore's grave. Voldemort had taken the Elder Wand.

Picking up where Part 1 left off, the Part 2 finds Harry staring at Dobby's fresh grave with a headstone that states, "Here Lies Dobby, A Free Elf." Our heroic trio finds themselves at Bill and Fleur's cottage, recovering from their escape from the Malfoy Manor at the end of Part 1. Still 3 Horcruxes short, they must continue their journey to find the rest of the pieces to Voldemort's soul. And they have a lead. Bellatrix Lestrange's vault at Gringott's. After a moment of hilarity with Hermione awkwardly taking over Bellatrix's identity, they enter the vault and find a golden cup, which the movie unfortunately never mentions is significant because it belonged to Hogwarts founder Helga Hufflepuff.

But they are very nearly caught. Even though I knew how they escape, I still found myself on the edge of my seat as Hermione came up with the brilliant idea to climb a dragon and escape via fire and flight. At this point, Harry has a vision, and realizes that the next Horcrux is at Hogwarts and belonged to Rowena Ravenclaw, another founder.

They get to Hogsmeade (the village outside of Hogwarts) and with the help of Dumbledore's brother, Aberforth, enter the castle. But Voldemort knows. With the help of Dumbledore's Army and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry, Ron and Hermione begin the battle of their lifetime and their quest to find the last two Horcruxes and finally confront Voldemort once and for all.

The direction was quick and nearly flawless. Director David Yates balanced the darkness of the story with some well-placed comic relief, although there were definitely moments in which humor was overused and the tension should not have been broken. Hogwarts has never looked more stunning and powerful than when the rubble around it began to build via incredible cinematography that is only a smidge less beautiful than Part 1 because the plot forces it to be less pretty. And the characters stayed true to themselves, making any fan connect on an even deeper level to the film through their knowledge of the books.

That's not to say that there weren't some flaws in the film. One major flaw to me was that Yates never explored what happened to Dumbledore's sister, Ariana, a point brought up in Part 1 and reiterated in Part 2 but never expanded upon, a piece of information that added so much more to Dumbledore's character and reveals to the viewer/reader why Dumbledore never sought power the way others around him did.  Another flaw of the series, in my opinion, is that Yates never really explained that Harry should have known that Voldemort was obsessed with Hogwarts, which is why he chose three artifacts of Hogwarts Founders (he couldn't find anything belonging to Gryffindor), which makes the Battle for Hogwarts even more poignant. Still, I understand that it would have taken too much time to explain, and the way in which he chose to reveal the Horcruxes and how Harry knew that they were them was perfectly acceptable to me.

But then there's the biggest flaw of the film. Blasphemous even. George Weasley had both of his ears! Remember when he had one of them cursed off in Part 1? He didn't just grow a new one! And to me, that is critical. It makes it even more poignant when we find out who has died during the first part of the battle.

As for the acting, I thought it was spot on. Daniel Radcliffe was pained and emotional as Harry and did a perfectly good job in the role. Rupert Grint was goofy as ever. Emma Watson was, of course, perfectly beautiful and became Hermione. And Ralph Fiennes was a perfectly wicked Voldemort, although there was one moment in which he was just awkward, but I forgive him because he gave the rest of the film such a killer performance.

What really stood out for me was the supporting cast. Dame Maggie Smith was adorable and hilarious and fierce as Professor McGonagall. Helena Bonham Carter was creepy and psychotic as ever as Bellatrix Lestrange and I've never seen Julie Walters stand out more as Molly Weasley than when she fought Bellatrix to protect Ginny, saying "NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!" at which the audience burst into applause. Speaking of Ginny, Bonnie Wright was once again great in the role. Even though I don't believe she was beautiful enough to overcome Emma Watson's beauty, despite the fact that she's supposed to be the better looking one, she is perfect as Harry's love interest, simply understanding him at every point. And the pain in her face throughout the film is priceless.

Despite all of these great actors, the true standout was Alan Rickman as Severus. I don't want to give away anything to anyone who has yet to see the movie or read the books (in which case you probably aren't a real person anyway), but let's just say that when it comes to poignancy, Snape takes the cake.

Overall, I thought the movie was fantastic and I couldn't have asked for a more satisfying way to end what has been a huge part of my life. Having read the first book when I was in first grade and watching the final movie today, at age 19, there has been nothing that has been a bigger part of my growing up. It's had such an incredible impact on my life and I can't believe it's over.

The film was an emotional roller coaster (I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried for approximately half the film) that stayed very true to the book. It was beautiful for both fans and Muggles to watch and while I am saddened that it is over, I'm thrilled that the film series ended on a high note so that I can watch and rewatch and read and reread the movies and the books. The truth is, Harry Potter will always remain a part of my life.

I have no choice but to give it an A+ (an A for being a great film. The plus is because it's Harry Potter).

PG-13, 2 hr. 10 min.
Drama, Action & Adventure, Kids & Family, Mystery & Suspense, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By: David Yates , Various
Written By: Steve Kloves, J.K. Rowling

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