Reviewed by Ian Forbes, Sobering Conclusion
116 Months. 10 Years. 1 Decade. I’ll spare you the potentially terrible math regarding days, hours, minutes, etc. and just get on with it: It’s so bittersweet to say goodbye to Harry Potter.
Film audiences flocked to see Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in 2001 and now, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 brings J.K. Rowling’s saga of a boy wizard’s remarkably dramatic maturation process to an end.
At this point, the only people who aren’t familiar with the series are those too young to understand the intricacies behind their uncle saying he’s “got your nose”. And strictly speaking, writing a film review about the last chapter in a franchise that’s spanned so many chapters and quite literally allowed millions of kids to “grow up with” Harry, Ron, and Hermione, doesn’t make a lot of sense. No sane individual would start watching the series at the eighth film and anyone who’s followed the books, the movies, or both, probably pre-ordered their tickets online weeks ago.
For those wondering if the last film lives up to expectations, the short answer is yes. Both parts of The Deathly Hallows were shot concurrently, with the same director, producers, cinematographer, composer, etc., etc. More to the point, director David Yates has been calling action since the 5th film, The Order of the Phoenix, so the tone and fundamental look of the last few films has matched up spectacularly.
For those who felt that the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 dragged on a bit too much (although I’m told that’s a product of being relatively faithful to the book), you shouldn’t have that problem here. After a particularly beautiful and melancholy rendition of the Harry Potter theme by composer Alexandre Desplat opens the proceedings, the last installment hits the ground running and the only stopping points are to give brief bits of exposition or to allow key moments to sink in.
All of the actors are once again up to snuff and it’s truly remarkable to look back on the path the cast has undergone over the last decade. As is customary, I got together with a few friends and re-watched the entire franchise prior to seeing the latest (and in this case, last) in the series. Seeing Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint mature and grow from wee children into full-fledged adults is a special and rare privilege for filmgoers. This kind of stability in a film franchise isn’t common and, despite any rumors or allegations, everyone (from the lead actors on down through the supporting cast who also are blessed/cursed to see themselves go through puberty on-screen) made a wonderful account of themselves.
Most of the technical elements providing the backbone for the film are once again handled beautifully. The special effects, costuming, and production design are all astounding. And Desplat’s contribution to the final two films’ scores added subtlety when it was needed and complemented all of the big action scenes just as ably.
I’m still not a huge fan of cinematographer Eduardo Serra’s work on both parts of the Deathly Hallows, however. While much of both films takes place in dark environments, it still felt like there could have been better use of shadow and more definition to the darkness to separate out the characters from their surroundings. In short, things were often too dark and for much of Part 2 especially, all handled within a very limited color palette.
Some may try to blame the 3D for dampening the color scheme, as Warner Bros. elected to release the final chapter in the third dimension (with visions of dollar signs in their eyes no doubt). However, in flipping the tinted lenses off and on throughout, there was of course some loss of color but nothing that drastically altered the presentation – thanks to such dark and flat choices to begin with.
And for those of you wondering whether or not you should avoid Hollywood’s latest fad, the good news is that there are some scenes that work well even though they were converted into the third dimension and not originally shot using 3D cameras. However, there aren’t enough moments that make shelling out those extra bucks necessary. The technology didn’t get in the way this time, but you can live without it … unless, as you can see from the picture I so poorly took below, you must have these snazzy 3D glasses made especially for the film (that don’t fit too comfortably over glasses if you’re visually challenged like myself):
The bottom line still comes down to this, are you a fan of the Harry Potter series? If so, then I have no idea why you’re reading this but I thank you for doing so. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 closes the book, so to speak, on a rich and engaging franchise that has continued to impress as it evolved. If it weren’t for some almost laughable attempts at aging characters via hairstyles, a touch of make-up, and frumpy clothing, there wouldn’t be much to nitpick about.
For anyone who never got into the franchise, or gave up after the first two films (which were squarely aimed at the demographic of the actors themselves although there was more for fantasy fans to grab onto), I’d say that you ought to give the first three a shot. At that point, cinematically, you’ll know if this is a journey you want to take or if things are distinctly not your cup of tea.
And so, it is with both joy and sadness that I say goodbye to the franchise. They’ll live on in my Blu-ray collection but there’s still something so wonderful about seeing them on the big screen. At least now I can open up the books and see what led to the films. After a self-imposed ban on reading Rowling’s novels, in order to concentrate on how the films delivered rather than worrying about dropped sub-plots and the like, I have thousands of pages to keep the memories of these characters going strong in my head. “Chapter One: The Boy Who Lived” …
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 hits theaters on July 15, 2011 and is rated PG-13 for some sequences of intense action violence and frightening images.
More on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2:
– Daniel Radcliffe on finishing up the Harry Potter franchise
– Alan Rickman on Snape’s agenda
– Emma Watson on growing up with Hermione
– Ralph Fiennes on evil people
– Photo gallery