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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Posted by Sarah LeBoeuf On July - 12 - 2011

There’s no denying my love for the Harry Potter series, books and films. However, there are times when it seems like the movie adaptations make better companions to the novels than standalone films. Having to condense hundreds and hundreds of pages into a two-hour cinematic experience is no easy task, and inevitably things have to get cut or rewritten. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 may actually have more changes from its source material than any previous Harry Potter movie, which will no doubt incense some die-hard fans. The result is an action-packed second half of a dark, emotional story that’s a fitting farewell, though it suffers from some of the same problems as the previous films.

Don’t worry, this will be a spoiler-free review.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Directed by David Yates
Written by Steve Kloves

It’s odd to be reviewing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 as a separate movie, because it never really feels like one. The film begins exactly where Part 1 left off and jumps right into the action, never stopping to breathe. The majority of the film takes place in and around Hogwarts, which is a very different place. Dementors swarm the grounds, Death Eaters are in the classrooms, and Professor Snape, the wizard who killed Dumbledore while Harry watched helplessly, is now headmaster. During Harry’s absence, Dumbledore’s Army has reassembled and grown stronger, and when they join with the Order of the Phoenix to go to war with Voldemort and the Death Eaters, the result is a movie that feels like it skipped all plot points and jumped right to a 90-minute climax, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Some major divergences from J.K. Rowling’s original story become apparent pretty quickly, which was, at first, a little confusing. Since I couldn’t ever stop mentally comparing movie vs. book, I became fixated on the changes at first, but as the film continued I embraced them—mostly. Some situations have been altered to make them more cinematic, while others were shown where in the book they were only told to the reader after the fact, which I appreciated. There were some sacrifices, though, and a few specific moments I had waited to see brought to life since first reading the book in 2007 didn’t materialize exactly how I wanted them to, or at all. Despite this, the changes work for the movie more than they work against it.

Of course, there are scenes that will seem utterly meaningless to those who have not read the books, due to information that was cut from this film and Deathly Hallows Part 1. For example, a member of Dumbledore’s family is introduced early in the film, but since the extensive Dumbledore backstory was removed, this will no doubt seem all too random. It’s hard to try and see this movie through the eyes of a non-reader, but there were instances in which even I knew there wasn’t enough information to give the situation any meaning. In fact, this has been a major flaw of the entire film series—relying too much on the viewer as a Harry Potter fan, and not treating the adaptations as standalone movies. It’s unfortunate to see this issue arise once again, but it’s only a minor problem this time around, and will probably be long forgotten by the time viewers are engrossed in the epic Battle of Hogwarts.

Watching Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson grow up over the course of the last ten years has been incredible. All three actors fit their parts perfectly in the first movie, and have evolved wonderfully into the more complex characters that Harry, Ron, and Hermione have become by the end of Deathly Hallows. There are some other stand-outs in Part 2 as well, particularly Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange, Matthew Lewis as Neville Longbottom, and of course, Ralph Fiennes in his appropriately disturbing portrayal of Lord Voldemort. Some of the secondary characters’ roles have been greatly reduced, giving them only a few minutes of screen time, which is a shame. Most of the cast have done a fantastic job bringing these beloved characters to life, and my only real complaint is that I wanted to see more of them.

I had the opportunity to see Deathly Hallows Part 2 in 3D, and never having seen a Harry Potter movie in 3D before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. While the film definitely makes better use of the technology than some others in recent memory, it’s often very subtle, and there are times when it’s hard to tell if it’s even there. A few scenes do an excellent job of creating depth, like a haunting exterior shot of Hogwarts with an army of dementors hovering in anticipation, but others present wasted opportunities. The movie doesn’t really present a case for or against 3D visuals—they’re just sort of there, and sometimes they look nice.

With this epic film series finally having reached its conclusion, I could dwell on the plot points that have been changed or removed, but I won’t. Despite its flaws, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 does a wonderful job of creating the intense, emotional tone of the finale of this story, its characters beautifully represented by their on-screen counterparts. When the credits rolled, I was more than satisfied with the conclusion (although the final scene did present some make-up and effects challenges); one viewer shouted an appropriate good-bye: “Mischief managed!” It’s been a great journey, and David Yates, Steve Kloves, and their cast and crew brought it to a commendable end.

88 out of 100 – Good.

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