Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Film Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two
After having to wait almost a full agonizing week to see this film, I finally went last Wednesday to experience what many are calling "the end of an era." While I can't say that I personally believe that the Harry Potter "era" is ending, I can admit that I was quite emotional throughout the entire film. I knew that this was the last time I would see a Potter film in theaters. I knew that it was, in a sense, the capstone to a journey that I had taken with a young wizard named Harry from the time I was in middle school. So, knowing that I'm a huge Harry Potter fan and knowing, also, that I wasn't a huge fan of the last book in the series, what, exactly, did I think of the film?
To quote Ron Weasley, it was "bloody brilliant." This review could be a blow-by-blow account of the film; it could be a comparison of the book and the film in minute, obnoxious detail. But it won't be. Instead, I want to talk about the things that stood out for me. There are probably hundreds of reviews of Deathly Hallows II on the internet, so if you're looking for something deeper, you've come to the wrong place. Here you will find only the highlights of what was a much more satisfying film than DH Part I.
1) Snape: I won't go digging around on my blog to find all of the times that I've talked about Snape, but those of you who regularly read my posts know that he comes up quite a lot. My favorite character since I first read Sorcerer's Stone, Snape has a special place in my black little heart. Alan Rickman has always been an actor that I highly admire, so the fact that I was always impressed by his portrayal of the surly potions master came as no surprise to me. What did surprise me, however, was how absolutely blown away I was with Rickman's performance in the last Harry Potter film. I wasn't a giant fan of the Snape/Lily storyline, but seeing how the flashback sequence was done in the film may just have changed my mind about it. Rickman is much more capable of portraying emotion and deep, anguished love than J.K. Rowling will ever be. I also want to thank the film's creators for taking out that whole bit where Harry blabs all of Snape's secrets to the whole world while he's fighting Voldemort.
2) Neville Longbottom: More so than Harry, Neville is a character that grew and changed over the course of the novels and the films. He goes from being a shy, scared young boy to being a strong man who is unafraid to stand up for what he believes in. The film did a fantastic job of showing this, especially when it came to the speech that Neville gives after Voldemort brings Harry's body back to the castle. Neville stands out in that scene as a sort of William Wallace. It's the kind of speech that would get a slow-clap-that-turns-into-thunderous-applause if this were a 90s teen movie. The only thing that really bothered me was the way in which Neville killing Nagini played out. It was supposed to be more dramatic because all of these people are trying and failing and because Ron and Hermione were being chased by the snake. It was supposed to put the audience on the edge of their seats going, "Oh my God, I wonder what's going to happen." Considering that most of the audience presumably knew what was going to happen, it just sort of dragged. At one point I started thinking, "Oh, no, don't tell me that they're not going to let Neville kill the snake." The only sigh of relief I breathed when he finally did was caused by knowing that now I wouldn't have to spend an entire blog post ranting about how Neville had been robbed of his spotlight.
3) Bellatrix Lestrange: While not usually a character that I really liked (or an actress, for that matter), I loved Helena Bonham Carter's scene with Ron and Harry at Gringott's. The absolute uncertainty that was written on her face, coupled with the tripping over her own shoes, made for a much better Polyjuice Potion scene than I had anticipated.
4) The humor: It was nice to see the dark tone of the film lightened by some really great comic moments, including the way Tom Felton's Draco tells Harry that his mother's wand "doesn't understand [him]." While some of the humor in the other films felt a little forced or flat, DH Part II used just the right amount and level of comic relief and the actors delivered the lines in an almost off-hand and very convincing way. It's been said that one of the greatest things about these films was that we as the audience have been able to see the actors grow and become more comfortable in their characters' skins. I think their timing and their delivery has improved ten-fold since the first film, which gave the film a much more authentic feel. These weren't actors; these were characters. I once heard Michael Caine say that he felt that if you were in a theater and you leaned over to your friend and said, "Isn't that Michael Caine a marvelous actor?" that he had failed at his job. You weren't supposed to see Michael Caine; you were supposed to see the person that Michael Caine was portraying. In this film, even more so than the rest, I saw the characters, rather than the actors.
There were, of course, some things about this film that I felt could have been better. Fred's death could have used a bit more screen time (and, I think, even a glimpse of Percy), the epilogue was still awful, and there were a few parts of the movie that I felt could have been shortened. Overwhelmingly, though, it was a spectacular end to the franchise. There are so many more things I could gush about--how kick-ass Minerva is, the fact that Neville and Luna may have gotten romantically involved after the battle, etc.--so I think it's safe to say that this was a great film and a decent adaptation of the book. It was, I think we can all admit, much more loyal to the text than, say, Half-Blood Prince.