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Harry Potter is dead, long live Harry Potter.  That statement is less of a spoiler than it seems, but is suitably Byzantine for the twists and turns of the final installment of the stupendously popular film franchise based on the even more adored book series by J.K. Rowling.  Dark, moody, thrilling and yes, utterly melancholy, for the longtime follower, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is one of the best of the eight films.  Those who have somehow never seen a single movie will be partially under a Confundus Charm without a scorecard to track all the characters, connections and lore that lead us to the ultimate showdown between the bespectacled boy wizard and the pure evil of He Who Must Not Be Named.

When last we saw our brave Trio; Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, late of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, they were on the run from the unified forces of Harry’s archenemy practically from birth, Lord Voldemort.  Harry’s team of good guys emerges from a safe house having licked their collective wounds after the previous chapter’s tragic losses.  The film takes a moment away from the hunted teens to show us a little of what has been happening in their old stomping grounds.  We see a looming shot of the back of a cloaked figure standing in a Hogwarts’ tower window observing as the formerly carefree students now goosestep in time to the Dark Lord’s tune.  The subsequent close-up of the new headmaster, one Severus Snape, shows a man not basking in the glow of the prestigious position he’s been granted, but is the face of someone truly worried and conflicted.  One person who isn’t the least bit conflicted is Lord Voldemort.  The nasty Hogwarts alumni has prepped his Death Eater troops for battle on the grounds of his alma mater in the notion that all resistance to his rule of the wizarding world will fall away here with the deaths of Hogwarts’ great defenders, Harry and his tenacious friends.  The Trio make a decision in their line of attack against Voldemort, choosing to abandon the all-powerful Deathly Hallows introduced in Part One for the last few horcruxes; the splinters of the Dark Lord’s soul captured in rare articles known only to old Voldy himself.  Harry’s theory is the destruction of the seven horcruxes equals the destruction of Voldemort’s complete soul and therefore, power.  Nice theory, but can he prove it without getting himself killed?  An entire underground {Dumbledore's} army of Hogwarts students believes he can and are willing to put their lives on the line, not only to protect Harry, but to fight back against the evil that wants to destroy them and their school.  With death and destruction all around him, including that of near and dear friends, will Harry let his allies go on sacrificing themselves or will he live up to the long-foretold prophecy about neither he nor Voldemort living while the other survives?  This is Harry Potter we’re talking about; the answer should be obvious.

Dark, dark, darkity, dark; gray is the prevailing colour of this final chapter.  From the rubble everywhere that used to be large sections of the Hogwarts School, to the permanently overcast skies shrouding everything in mist through most of the film, Deathly Hallows Part Two is remarkable for its gothic beauty.  Oversaturated silvertones fairly coat the air around the floating, wraithlike Dementors, Voldemort’s deadly legion of soul-sucking parasites, that now fly around the school at will.  The aforementioned opening shots of Snape look more like Impressionist paintings than a scene from a kiddie film.  Bruises are everywhere you look; all over the Trio, all over their friends holding down the fort at school and no one is spared.  Seeing the Hogwarts Quidditch field engulfed in flames is surprisingly moving.  Everything is up for grabs in this one and the tension begins right at the opening Warner Brothers logo, shown with no music heard over it and after that, the familiar themes used only sparingly and painfully, ratcheting up the terse mood.  There is far more concentration on action than narrative in this chapter, and as such, scenes like the infiltration of the ultra-secure Gringott’s Bank in search of another horcrux is literally a roller coaster ride, ending with the Trio’s exhilarating flight on a dragon.  A very neat special effect is Professor McGonagall’s protection spell which calls down the Ray Harryhausen-esque stone knights from the very walls of Hogwarts and charges them to defend their school.  The movie improves a lot of the book’s failings this time; it is far easier to see the interpretation of the battles that Rowling’s literary descriptions limit.  One of the hiding places for a particular treasure is now a gigantic cavern and the conflagration of the same space is amazing.  The destruction of one extremely popular character is horrifying even though it’s mostly only heard through a mottled glass wall.  Equally heartrending is the subsequent scene of that character’s revelation and redemption.  We are given a far more impressive Professor McGonagall than was ever represented in the book, as she does what only seems to make sense for the character and holds up the standard raised by her true leader, the late Albus Dumbledore.  The film also minimizes the utter endgame uselessness of the Hallows, which seemed such a weak and frustrating plot device in the book.  The use of clips from the past films to demonstrate things we as viewers might’ve missed or that suddenly make sense when explained or elaborated on here is tremendously helpful.  It also shows us how very far in this series we’ve come from those three oddball mites, who now stand to save both the Muggle and Wizarding worlds, armed only with their wits, conviction and total trust in each other.

Two things not so well explained are the inclusion of Professor Dumbledore’s brother, Aberforth, who protects the Trio and their Hogwarts friends and has conversations with Harry as if they’ve been in communication through the whole series.  I only recall seeing Aberforth chase a goat in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, though there’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment in the previous film regarding a special piece of glass, it’s not enough to justify the in-depth dialog the two share.  It was awkward, like a big expository scene had been cut.  The other whaaa moment is pretty much the same as in the book, where a certain character is killed, but is given a choice whether or not to come back to the world of the living.  Those who’ve read the book might get a better grasp on it, but for the casual movie viewer, it doesn’t make much sense.  Despite the spectral appearance of Harry’s mentor, Sirius Black during one tearjerking scene, on screen, that moment still plays as cheesy and solely meant to wring a few more drops out of your hankies as it was in the book.  Recalling the multitude of characters that you only get an inkling of is also a challenge as things are so much faster paced in this movie.  Even I needed a refresher on a couple of the faces.

Back to the good stuff, and by good stuff I mean a good lot of this paragraph dedicated to singing the praises of Alan Rickman as Severus Snape.  This is really the actor’s moment to shine after over a decade in the black wig, working that cape like America’s Next Top Model, increasingly alluring visual-kei, Jrock star styling and short appearances in each of the films.  With Snape, Rickman has played a character nearly Shakespearian in the depths of his tragedy; heartbreaking in the choices he faces and the things he must endure for the sake of promises made and the remembrance of a secret love.  To be seen on all sides as a villain and harbour an aching love/hate for the man -- and later, child -- to whom he must entrust all his endeavours even if they may lead to his demise.  Pathos, fear, anger, hopelessness and heartache are all captured in this final movie’s Snape and I’m calling a Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for Rickman based on the power and scope he achieves in this relatively small role.  Other great stuff is the entire Malfoy clan, at the loosest of ends, and like so many others, not doing very well in the thrall of Lord Voldemort.  Helen McCrory is a canny enough Narcissa; a loving mother to her rotten son, Draco, and one who knows enough - even more than her bedraggled, humiliated husband, Lucius - to get when the getting is good.  Matthew Lewis comes into his own as the brave and unexpectedly mighty Neville Longbottom, cutting it pretty close to my adored Rupert Grint in terms of arch comedic timing.  There is also a great line that undoes what I thought was a silly non-development in the books, that author Rowling dismissed as “too obvious” (Yeah, because nobody ever predicted Ron and Hermione would get together.).  Speaking of the Trio, doesn’t Miss Emma Watson look fabulous in Goth gear?  Good gravy, she’s even got cleavage.  Yep, those kids are certainly grown up and the not-very-spoilery payoff of Ron and Hermione, while gratifying, does actually seem “too obvious” and only makes the viewer wonder what took them so long?  Sadly, Rupert Grint does not rock the Goth clothing (or dodgy facial hair) with quite the same style as Miss Watson, nor does his shirtless scene agree with him as it does his leading man.  Daniel Radcliffe is all grim determination that still manages to take the breath away as he plays a seventeen year-old boy who was ever on the sticky end of life’s lollipop, stating he is ready to die.  There are some characters missing from the final battle, which in the book was pretty much a review of every living person left in the series, but seeing old standbys like schoolmates Seamus and Dean Jordan are a welcome connection to the series’ history.  So, too, are moments like Ron and Hermione’s arrival at the serpentine entrance to the Chamber of Secrets.  I actually would have liked even more self-reverential moments, though I’m sure with a film as packed with visual miscellany as this, I’ve missed a few.

So very good this and so very sad: Not only because of the outcomes of so many characters we as viewers may have cherished, but to know we’ll not see them again or know their adventures.  And no, the patently laughable face merkin-filled flash forward doesn’t do much to alleviate the melancholy.  Even so, it’s been a good ride for the Harry Potter film series with only a few real bumps (Deadly Hallows: Part One, I’m looking at you.).  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 might indeed require a scorecard for the uninitiated, but for those in the know, it is a more than suitable ending for a decade-long journey that was truly magical.


~ The Lady Miz Diva

July 15th, 2011


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Click here for our review of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Click here for our review of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Click here for our review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One

Click here for our coverage of the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One DVD release NYC Press Conference, including exclusive pics of The Phelps Twins, Bonnie Wright, Robbie Coltrane, Michael Gambon, David Thewlis, Helen McCrory and more.



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