Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (2011)

Rating: ★★★★½ 

    

Starring:  Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Felton, Jason Isaacs, Alan Rickman, Julie Walters, Michael Gambon, Robbie Coltrane, Evanna Lynch, Kelly Macdonald, Warwick Davis, Clemence Poesy, David Thewlis, Matthew Lewis, John Hurt, Ciaran Hinds, Bonnie Wright, Maggie Smith, Jim Broadbent, Mark Williams, James Phelps, Oliver Phelps, Emma Thompson.
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Director:  David Yates
Rating:  PG-13
Running Time:  130 Mins.
Release Date:  July 15, 2011
DVD Release Date:  November 8, 2011
Box Office: $378.8 Million
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Heyday Films and Warner Bros. Pictures.

Written by:  Steve Kloves, adapted from the novel, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” by J.K. Rowling.

 

“Only I…can live…forever”- Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes).

After a decade of consistently entertaining films, the landmark and historic “Harry Potter” franchise has reached its end.  With the arrival of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2″, arguably the most anticipated finale of all time, we finally learn whether Harry can avenge the death of his parents, defeat the sinister Voldemort, and save not only himself, but all of the wizarding world.

Most everyone seeing this final chapter will likely be aware of how J.K. Rowling concluded the Potter story.  However, one of the most refreshing elements of this final film is that it simply does not matter.  Director David Yates, screenwriter Steve Kloves, and the entrenched cast of actors are all so dialed in to these characters, their individual fates and motivations, that the film is as impressive and satisfying as anything in the franchise.

This conclusion, which was notably cut into 2 parts due to a nearly 5-hour running time, picks up immediately where the first film ends with Voldemort leering over the corpse of Dumbledore.  Harry, Ron, and Hermione, who spent much of the first film on a coming of age journey together, shedding their youthfulness for a transition into maturity and adulthood, are resuming their efforts in acquiring the final four Horcruxes.  As a reminder, Horcruxes are the devices containing elements of Voldemort’s soul which must be recovered to ensure the end of the Dark Lord.  Desperate to find the remaining Horcruxes, the three protagonists seek to break into a Severus Snape-run Hogwarts and in turn, they stumble across Dumbledore’s estranged brother, Aberforth.  Determined that they must return to Hogwarts to continue their quest, Aberforth begrudgingly grants their wish.

Arriving at Hogwarts, classmates cheer uproariously at the return of Harry, Ron, and Hermione.  Quickly however, the realities set in as to why they are back and Professor MacGonagall prepares Hogwarts for the impending battle between Harry and Voldemort.  Everything has built to this moment, and everyone is prepared for what may transpire.

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2″ is not just a brilliantly conceived action film.  The screenplay by Steve Kloves, who adapted each and every one of J.K. Rowling’s novels for the big screen, has taken great efforts to allow everyone to have their important moments.  Ron and Hermione are not reduced to the background here thankfully, and while they are largely absent in the sequences leading up to and involving Harry’s final showdown with Voldemort, their individual stories, both separate and together, are given succinct and acceptable resolution.  Long simmering romantic tensions bubble over in one scene, brilliantly delivered and timed, and their chemistry could not be more believable.

Characters from the other films return, often with a signature moment or two, to have a proper sendoff.  For those that have read the source material, not everyone survives this final film.  And the film is equipped with some rather intense visual battles, which show bodies laying around the makeshift battlefield in and around Hogwarts.  Standouts include Matthew Lewis’ joyous return as Neville Longbottom, a captivating and pitch-perfect Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort and Radcliffe, Watson, and Grint are as good as ever, helping steer this film to its thrilling and memorable final moments.

However, the most surprising and affecting performance comes from Alan Rickman, who provides a moving and stunning final turn as Severus Snape, the ominous professor who has tracked every move Harry Potter has made in his seven long years at Hogwarts.  Rickman has always made Snape a commanding presence and he finally hits a layer of emotional depth that is surprisingly affecting.  The noted actor strikes a powerful chord, especially in a vignette near the end of the film which is simply quite moving.

While my favorite film in the franchise is Alfonso Cuaron’s third entry, “…Prisoner of Azkaban”, one area where this film may have all the others beat is the technical proficiency on display.  The sound mix is extraordinary and the visual effects are as crisp and seamless as anything you have seen yet in the Potter series.  The art direction is again as good as you’ll find in a film of this genre, and director David Yates should be justly praised for how perfect this film looks and feels.  All the loose ends are brought together and come awards season, this film should absolutely be remembered for its technical successes.

Watching everything unfold, I was so appreciative of this entire series.  At the time of this writing I am near the end of my mid-30′s and I have seen several thousand films in my life.  I have been excited for the “Star Wars” franchise prequels, thrilled and nervous watching the “Lord Of The Rings” trilogy play out in three subsequent years, and have veered into downright geekdom for Christopher Nolan’s rebooted “Batman” series.  But taking in “…Deathly Hallows Part 2″ I was struck by the notion that “Harry Potter”‘s final moments on screen were something I suddenly wanted to avoid.  I thought back to how each film has a distinctiveness, a memorable quality about it, a uniqueness that has frankly changed cinema internationally forever and for always.  The “Potter” films are often conveniently dismissed as kids fare or young teen pop culture films, have been notably snubbed by the Academy, and are often not taken seriously for being the accomplished films they truly are.  Somewhere and at some point in critical circles, it became cool and hip to dismiss the franchise or proudly show a disinterest in even acknowledging their presence.

As bittersweet as it is for me to see this all come to an end, I can proudly share with you that “Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Parts 1 and 2″ is a staggering achievement and at this writing, “Part 2″ is the easily the best experience I have had in a theater in 2011.  I am not sure if this is the best film of the year thus far, but it absolutely belongs in the conversation; better and more rewarding than any action film from this year and deeper and more heartfelt than I could have ever imagined.

All is well indeed.

** NOTE FROM MY WIFE, A TEACHER **

Parents and kids should be aware that although these films are simultaneously thrilling and touching, the books should also continue to be read.  Many humorous and touching details don’t make it into the final cut of these film adaptations, sacrificed somewhat for the sake of putting out a quality product under three hours.  For example, the Deathly Hallows is really Dumbledore’s book, where we find out about his past misdeeds on his way to securing his power and fame, his fall from grace, and how he dealt with past losses.  These details are only eluded to in the movie.   To really understand the complexity of these characters and get the full depth of their humanity, the books should be read and discussed.  Kids, and those young at heart, will enjoy these tales in book form and cinematic form for many years and generations to come. 

Should I See It?

YES

Read above.

Even if you left the series a film or two back, you simply cannot miss this incredible conclusion to the series.  When viewed back to back with Part 1, I have the sense that this film will be remembered and praised long after the fans have grown up and moved on to other things.

What more can I say?

Sure they made changes to this or that, but save perhaps “Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King”,  I cannot think of a film that beats expectations for its franchise finale than this one.

NO

You have avoided the series altogether or somewhere along the way, something angered you about all of this and you shut yourself off to all of this.

The film is extremely intense for younger viewers.

You are a hipster and think you are too cool or highbrow to slum it up with some kids movie.

I mean…you have a moral objection to magic, wizards, and related subject matter.  Odds are you have not seen any of these films if that is indeed the case, but I mean…I am grasping at reasons here.

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