CAPSULE: The final Harry Potter film has Harry and friends searching out the last of the Voldemort Horcruxes for his final confrontation with Voldemort. If you don't know what I just said I recommend you bail out right now. The last Harry Potter film is a very substantial fantasy film, perhaps even beyond the level of one of the LORD OF THE RINGS films. With one major omission the series comes to a satisfying and frequently spectacular conclusion. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10
Someone asked the question, "I have not seen any of the previous Harry Potter films and not read the books. However I hear that the last half of the last story is really very good. Will I get anything out of seeing just the last film?" I can answer with a resounding "No." One virtue a film may or may not have is that it stands by itself. HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART 2 completely lacks this virtue. I have seen *all* the Harry Potter films and read the first book. But I have a poor memory for technical terms and invented names. Last year I saw PART 1 and sat watching it very much lost. So in order to enjoy PART 2, I watched PART 1 on DVD the previous day and followed the plot in Wikipedia, frequently stopping and following links to figure out who such-and- such is and what this-and-that is. It helped a lot, but I am not sure I always understood what was being said. Take with a grain of salt any factual statement in this review that slips out about the plot.
The Harry Potter books adapted to the screen has constituted a massive effort over a decade amassing something in the range of twenty hours of filmed story, considerably longer than the total of THE LORD OF THE RINGS. The Potter series has been British drama's equivalent of the space program. Of major British or Irish actors everyone but Sean Bean is in the film someplace. (Perhaps Sean wasn't checking his phone messages.) While the series started out as a series of children's books, the character of Potter, the sophistication of the stories, the books' readership, and the films all grew up together. In the latest film Potter is quite acceptable as an adult film hero. The problems he, Hermione, and Ron are working out are on an adult level. Many are problems bred of fantasy situations, yes, but many are the sort of interpersonal problems that would keep adults interested. Harry is old enough that he can credibly handle adult problems. Early in the series one had the feeling that the problems that Harry faced were stacked to fall apart easily. The rules of Quidditch seemed contrived so that it would be easy for a freshman to come in and immediately become a most valuable player. Not that it really helped the series to have the hero be an incidental sport hero. In the new film Harry has some really complex and difficult tasks.
There are some problems in the story. The very biggest is that this should have been--among other things--Voldemort's film. This is the final confrontation between Harry and the evil lord. This was where we could expect to learn what Voldemort's story was. Why was he this incarnation of evil? What made him this way? What was his goal? In short, what is his motivation? Instead we leave the series never knowing the wizard who is perhaps the most important character in the series. Through eight films he is the reason why everybody is doing what they are doing. So who is this Voldemort? Minor spoiler: I still don't know. On the other hand, we learn considerably more about the motivations of the perennial red herring Severus Snape who at last becomes a character of some interest. Speaking of things I still do not know, most of my memories of Hogwart's are of the hallways choked with young magicians and stairwells that disintegrate and reintegrate as needed. At Hogwart's you seem to see the staff and only one class of students. It is almost like they admit students of about the same age, and then wait until they are all adults before bringing in the next batch. The fighting we see in this film might have had a very different tenor if there were young students running around. We are never told where all the current students are. In the last few episodes there has been the suggestion that Hermione and Ron are a bit of a number. This is true in spite of the fact that they seem to have no screen chemistry together. What does Hermione see in Ron? I still don't know.
David Yates, who directed the three previous Potter films, again directs. He is largely known for his television work but is doing good things for the Potter series. The production work, designed by Stuart Craig who has created the look of all the Potter films as well as films like THE ENGLISH PATIENT and SHADOWLANDS, has a quality finish to it. Cinematography is by Eduardo Serra who specializes in half-lighting as in the forest in DEFIANCE and the beautiful work he did for THE GIRL WITH THE PEARL EARRING. An expert in handling half-light is extremely important for this film as the film had conflicting requirements. Because of the dark tone of the story it needed screen images to match. At the same time it had to be releasable in high-quality 3D. 3D does not do well with dark scenes. The glasses make it look murky. I will not say that it was not a problem with PART 2, but it generally was well handled.
The loose ends of the Harry Potter series finally knit together in a spectacular and at times profound conclusion the series that involves and resurrects just about every important character in the previous films. HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART 2 requires familiarity with the people and things of the series, but it will satisfy most of the fans, or at least those who do not care to know much about Voldemort. In any case, I rate the film a high +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 8/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1201607/
What others are saying: http://tinyurl.com/void-rt-potter-dh2
Mark R. Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2011 Mark R. Leeper