Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Movie Review: HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART 2 (Warner Bros., 2011)

The last installment of the Harry Potter film franchise has been packing 'em in all around the globe, but, when Nicky and I went to see it this past Sunday night, the theater wasn't close to being full. Make of that what you will. It can't be because people were mourning the U.S. women's loss in the World Cup final... I don't think.

Unsurprisingly, this climactic movie uses the Battle of Hogwarts as its central set-piece, and the set-to is pulled off splendidly, though I take issue with the one critic who described the battle scenes as "elegant." Mashed masonry and panicky dashing to-and-fro are not exactly the stuff of martial ballet. Likewise, the scene in which Professor McGonagall animates the school's statuary and sends it into combat is impressive, but hardly "elegant." I will give the creators full credit for refusing to pull punches. (Presumably) dead bodies of students are seen everywhere, and all of the major characters who were killed in the book get their share of solemn screen-time.

For all of the death and despair, the movie is far less moody than the angst-laden Part One. This is probably because the characters must pull together in order to turn back Lord Voldemort's challenge, with each having his or her own important role to play. The renewed theme of cooperation is why I didn't have much of a problem with the slight alteration that was made to the ultimate fate of Voldemort. Sure, it would have been nice had Harry pulled everything off by himself, but when has Harry NOT had plenty of backup during J.K. Rowling's cycle of stories?

Thankfully, Voldemort came across as less of a malevolent CEO here and as more of the Sauron figure that Rowling presumably intended. The giggling and cackling following Harry's apparent demise (accompanied by similar laughter from the Death Eaters) were a little overdone, but Voldemort's vicious dealings with Professor Snape served to balance that moment of goofiness out. I wonder whether Voldemort's signature "NYAAAAGGGHHHH!" is fated to become the 21st-century equivalent of The Big No?

All things considered, I don't believe that any of the Potter movies improved or "disimproved" to any considerable extent on their written source material. The weaker books made for weaker movies, the stronger books for stronger movies. Deathly Hallows, of course, is rather different because a conscious decision was made to divide the narrative into two parts. The back-loaded nature of DEATHLY HALLOWS the book meant that we had to pay a price in terms of a slow-paced, rather unsatisfying Part One, but Part Two was strong enough to make the overall "seventh-book movie experience" a good one. I'm sure that, at some point in the future, the two parts of Deathly Hallows will be "glued together" in some manner for home-video consumption.

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