Friday, July 15, 2011

Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

One of the interesting things about where Deathly Hallows Part 1 ended is, all of the slower story building was put into that. Most of the scavenger hunt was done in that one, the major character beats happened there, leaving the major battle scenes and epic duels for the final part, something the film seems to be aware of and, dare I say it, planned for it.

Do I really need to recap the plot? Blah blah blah, Harry needs Horcruxes, 3 to go when the movie starts, blah. With the exception of the first movie and MAYBE the 3rd one, they've never really stood on their own that well, so if you're not a fan of the series, you're probably gonna end up fairly lost by the end. This one picks up very literally the SECOND the last one ended and maybe has one sentence devoted to recapping what's going on and what they need. This one assumes you know who everyone is, and if you don't well too bad, it's got to get to the big siege of Hogwarts.

Which isn't to say the movie doesn't have acts or structure, just that it moves toward it's big setpiece at Hogwarts with frightening speed. And given that the first act ends with the three main characters escaping from underground on top of a blind dragon, that big setpiece at Hogwarts has a lot to live up to. It's fortunate therefore that it kicks ass.

Look, I'll be upfront, I'm a sucker for that big moment near the end of fantasy stories (sci-fi stories too, but they do it less often) when all the chips are in and everyone's grabbing everything and everyone they can and going at it. And a good portion of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow's Part 2's (christ that's a long title) second act is given over to one of the most grandly realized final battle in a fantasy movie since the Battle of Pelanor Fields.

I could address the acting, but that's ultimately pointless at this stagte. Even the bad Potter movies could count on having some of the best actors and, by extension, acting in British stage and cinema, and every actor seems to inhabit their role perfectly. The cinematography and editing are well used, again using that fantastic washed out filter from the last one to focus heavily on the darkness and gloom that are coming with the final battle, and reminding us that the journey of three of the most well known characters in modern literature is coming to an end.

As is, it must be said, the lives of many of the minor characters. When it first came out in book form, I joked that this one has to be called Harry Potter and the Death of the Minor Characters, but that comes back to bite me in the ass during the film. Beautiful camera work and editing, combined with the music as well as INCREDIBLE acting, makes the simple sight of a single body and the character reactions almost as heart wrenching as an extended death scene.

All of the cinema details rise to the occasion, but special mention must go to the beautiful soundtrack, combining not only fantastic original music, but subtle uses of the original scores. A slight use of the original theme, stripped down, in a single scene had chills running down my spine. The CGI is gorgeous, as is the incredible makeup used to realize a goblin character (don't ask). The action scenes, while treated differently from the slower more character oriented scenes, are still incredibly realized and exciting. The final problem of the action scenes being two characters waving sticks at each other and yelling has been solved by making the spells themselves grander or (at one point) just removing the wizards from the equation. We finally get to see what the teachers at Hogwarts are capable of, and when you get to see it, you'll be blown away.

Okay Elessar, rein in fanboyism, come up with criticisms. Well the 3rd act is one. It's not bad, god no, but it's a step down. It's a little like if they had the Battle of Helm's Deep in the second act and then moved on to, in the 3rd act, the Skirmish at Amon Hen. Christ that was a nerdy analogy. A couple characters motivation and actions get lost in the shuffle, but that might have been me not paying attention. Oh and while most of the CGI and makeup is great, the stuff used in the Epilogue could stand to be better. People who have read the book know what I'm referring to without me having to say.

Look, I was going nuts over the last one too, but this one is fucking fantastic. It nearly unseated Source Code from the best movie of the year and will most certainly be on my best-of at the end of the year. If you're a fan, of either books or movies, then you need to get your ass to the theater and see this movie.

Elessar is a 21 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he's a little disappointed he didn't get a Batman trailer.

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