|Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
****Directed by David Yates
Screenplay by Steve Kloves
Rated PG-13 for some sequences of intense action violence and frightening images
Reviewed by Lamar Kukuk
7/17/11Some movie franchises are meant to just go on and on as long as we can stand them: certainly one never wants to imagine a day when James Bond or Indiana Jones would retire, die or both. But others have climax built into them, and that’s rarely been truer than with the eight-film epic crafted from JK Rowling’s iconic fantasy book series about boy wizard Harry Potter. The Potter franchise is, of course, a movie saga like no other, closer in truth to a really big-budget TV series than a movie one because of its insanely dense and interlocking storyline shot while an ever-growing cast that included about 2/3 of the famous English actors of its era became so large Oscar-winners turn up in non-speaking roles. And from the moment we first learned about Harry’s charmed/cursed existence as “The Boy Who Lived” after his childhood confrontation with the evil Lord Voldemort, all roads led to a final battle that would settle the question of whether good or evil ruled the magical world. It’s been an amazing ride, but it was always one with a destination, and that final stop arrives with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, David Yates 4th turn behind the camera (and writer Steve Kloves’ 7th at the keyboard). It’s epic as all get-out, and the mature and realistic style Yates has brought to a franchise originally conceived in the more crowd-pleasing but less dramatically potent style of Chris Columbus serves the finale as well as any of its predecessors. There are issues with how the Is are dotted and the Ts crossed, but at its best, Hallows is a grand finale indeed, and even at its worst, it remains true to the spirit of one of the most engaging collections of fictional characters ever created.
It’s down to the final days now: Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Heroine Granger (Emma Watson) must find the final Horcruxes, pieces of the soul of Lord Voldemort (Ralph Finnes) that must be destroyed to make the evil wizard mortal. Voldemort’s forces are on the march and the battle is all but lost: his man Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) now runs Hogwarts as a police state and Voldemort himself now weilds the Elder Wand, the most powerful magic wand ever created. Our heroes persuade the goblin Griphook (Warwick Davis) to help them sneak into the vault of Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter), where one of the Horcruxes is stored, then make a beeline for Hogwarts to find another. But once they’re there, the school becomes the site for a final stand against the army of Voldemort. Secrets will be revealed, lives lost, courageous stands made and allegiances tested. And Harry Potter will face his destiny.
The first 2/3 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 are just about perfect. The three young actors so perfectly cast as Harry, Ron and Hermoine all those years ago have aged beautifully in the roles and now effortlessly inhabit them. This is Radcliffe’s show, and he’s nothing short of sensational as the man who’ll stop at nothing to live up to his responsibility to a world that’s revolved around him all his life. That duty weighs heavily on him, but he never cracks because Harry Potter, the adorable little kid we met living in Dickensian misery ten years ago, has grown into a great man, thanks in no small part to his brave friends and wise teachers at Hogwarts. And the supporting cast, most of which gets only a few moments to do their thing, is similarly entrenched in their skillful performances. It’s a chance for three of the original Hogwarts Professors to shine; Rickman most of all as he finally brings Snape full-circle and lays the enigmatic Dark Arts instructor’s final cards on the table. Flashback sequences that fill in gaps in his backstory also showcase some of the finest de-aging special effects I’ve ever seen. Maggie Smith gets to kick some wizardly ass as she takes the reigns in the defense of Hogwarts against Voldemort’s army. And Warwick Davis is superb in what is now a dual role as Professor Flitwick and that nasty goblin Griphook. Among the students, Evanna Lynch is once again a delight as the slightly batty Luna Lovegood and Matthew Lewis, who has been reduced to single lines in some of the previous films, gets some big moments as Neville, who rises to the occasion like we’d have never imagined when the franchise began.