Friday, July 15, 2011

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part Two

As The Dark Lord Rises, The Curtain Falls

Ralph Fiennes has his finest hour in the "Potter" series as Voldemort, the Dark Lord, in David Yates' adventure drama "Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part Two". 
© 2011 Warner Bros. Ent. Harry Potter Publishing Rights © J.K.R.

Omar P.L. Moore/        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW
day, July 15, 2011

Let's just say that part of your
inner childhood ends.  And let's say it ends because a franchise of characters you've known and grown older with for ten years dies within you after seeing the majestic, sweeping and tender "Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part Two", a fantasy adventure film that opened late last night across the U.S. and Canada, and for that matter at Hogwarts School of Wizardry. 

David Yates executes this final chapter so very well, combining gothic visions with bursts of humor and emotion in somewhat restrained direction.  Mr. Yates plumbs feelings, recollections and life situations among several of the ensemble characters in Steve Kloves' script in a balanced and respectful manner, giving peacefully sparing episodes as much space and as large a stage as he does the film's choicest, most vigorous action sequences.  Mr. Yates neither elaborates nor belabors the film's visions, giving you a discreet, adoring taste of the final battle, letting the audience down gently instead of out of this thrill ride with a bang.

This final film (albeit the second half of last November's "Hallows Part One", released now rather than last year as a combined four-plus-hour road show edition) is more a loving tribute and "thank you" to its loyal, unwavering base of fans than a fast, fresh spectacle for the heretofore uninitiated.  Those familiar will likely chuckle more loudly at characters who do things on emotional impulse, as if sensing that the end of their world (and the film's franchise) is pretty darn well nigh.  There are plenty of winks and nods here for the film's devotees to choose from.

The swirl of menace and magnificence in the opening few shots that envelope "Hallows Part Two" portend something of greatness but the film comes off that early plateau and swiftly settles down, reconnecting with characters past and present.  If you've read J.K. Rowling's books (and I have not), you know what will happen at the end.  During this sweeping, picturesque journey (fine cinematography by Eduardo Serra; grand production design by Stuart Craig) threats to the survival of Hogwarts will come.  Horcruxes will be destroyed.  Wands will be tested.  So will allegiances. 

The trio of Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) will be in for the fight of their lives.  Voldemort will lurk within, without and all over you.  You'll need several showers to rid yourself of Voldemort's skulking, hovering and breathy presence, an evil marvelously concocted by Ralph Fiennes, who this time around has the grand, towering showcase of the entire "Potter" film series, in a playful, hammy and delicious performance as the Lord Of Darkness. 

Alan Rickman is superb as Professor Severus Snape, adding more depth and pathos to his character than in previous iterations.  Mr. Rickman utters Snapisms syllable-by-syllable, aiming for maximum slimy, serpent-tongued creepiness.  The actor's words made my skin crawl yet cry out for more in admiration.  What also made my skin crawl was the disappointing 3D (surely an oxymoron by now) that "Deathly Hallows Part Two" stumbles around blindfolded by.  The extra dimension adds a layer of darkness to a film that already contains scenes shot at night or in places of low light hampers and subtracts from Mr. Yates' film, which must be seen instead in 2D to get clarity, pitch and nuance from Mr. Serra's photography of the night.  Musically, Alexandre Desplat's score is swift, sturdy and as epic as the film itself.

Mr. Yates, whose deeper and robustly darker visions give his editions of "Potter" an adult edge and authenticity, climbs higher here with his brooding presentations, augmented by excellent visual effects (Tim Burke).  And the director also captures the spirit of enchantment well, putting Ms. Rowling's three traveling central characters in their familiar domain of adaptation, improvisation and bumbling errata.  Mr. Grint supplies much of the film's fine comic timing as does Ms. Watson, confident and fearless.  Daniel Radcliffe gives Harry Potter the urgency and vulnerability that underlies this sensational and satisfying swan song.  Ever wise, Harry is still learning life's ropes and remains humble, as does the film's final battle, which is disciplined though no less enjoyable.  The trio of lead characters have grown well, and the actors inhabiting them have too.

I had a whale of a time laughing, smiling and being moved by "Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part Two".  The film is gilded with a sentimentality and abundant humor lacking in Mr. Yates's prior efforts in this series.  "Deathly Hallows Part Two" thankfully avoids excess, going into the night gracefully with a charm, sweetness and beauty that makes it an absolute winner.

With: Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davis, Tom Felton, Michael Gambon, Ciarán Hinds, John Hurt, Jason Isaacs, Matthew Lewis, Gary Oldman, Maggie Smith, David Bradley, David Thewlis, Julie Walters, Evanna Lynch, Domhnall Gleeson, Bonnie Wright, Clémence Poésy.

"Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part Two" is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association Of America for some sequences of intense action violence and frightening images.  The film's running time is two hours and ten minutes.

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