February 20, 2012

Rabid Rewind: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Alan Rickman, and Ralph Fiennes
directed by David Yates
screenplay by Steve Kloves
based on the books by J.K. Rowling
Warner Bros. (2011)

I'm not much of a fanboy, so it was with some perplexity that I looked at the devotees of the Harry Potter franchise as they lined up for days outside theaters to see this movie. There's never been a franchise that's affected me anywhere near that level, not even my favorite TV/film franchise, Star Trek. Granted, you can count on one finger the number of Star Trek movies to inspire that level of excitement. But I will say that with each successive Harry Potter movie, I've looked forward to them more and more. Mind you, I've always been content to wait until they're out on DVD, even waiting for them a couple times to be broadcast on TV. With Deathly Hallows Part 2, this is definitely the most I've looked forward to watching one of these movies ... but was it worth the wait?

It's been over six months since I saw Deathly Hallows Part 1, and even longer since I read the book, but it was pretty easy to get right back in the thick of things. I'm pretty sure any newcomers to the story would be utterly lost, but who the heck would jump into a long-running film series by starting with the very last one? This was purely for the audiences who had already invested a lot of time into these characters, and I was really impressed with how well the movie stayed true to the style and the tone of the book.

One of the most striking things to me was the flashbacks to the previous movies. My god, those kids literally grew up on a movie set. I'll bet if you listen closely to one of those mid-point movies, like Goblet of Fire, you can hear Rupert Grint's balls drop. Enjoy that mental picture, ladies and gents.

The movie is basically the action-saturated payoff for the entire series. Every movie has worked well enough as a stand-alone, most of them anyway, but there's been that prelude to the big showdown between Harry and Voldemort in each of those movies, and fans have been chomping at the bit to see it with their own eyes. Well, the final movie delivers and then some. As far as coherent plot and concise storytelling, the movie isn't exactly textbook, because it's not meant to exist as its own film. So much of the movie is hinged on stuff that's already been said or happened that loyalists to the franchise risk getting lost early on.

The special effects are top notch and trump just about anything Michael Bay could cook up on his best day, due in no small part to how expertly the fantastical aspects of the movie are used to accentuate the story rather than distract from the lack of one. It's an epic farewell to a world of characters that have captivated audiences for a decade or more on the silver screen and living rooms. Some scenes play out almost exactly as I imagined them while reading the book, more so than any of the other movies, with a few surprising approaches to key scenes. It's a bit early for me to say this is a classic film, as I'll need to see it sometime down the road again, but I felt very satisfied with how it all came to pass.

If you haven't seen the Harry Potter movies yet, they're worth watching, and now that they're complete new viewers can tear through the entire series at their leisure. And seeing those characters grow up might seem even more drastic that way.

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