Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (Warner Brothers, PG-13)

If in Part 1 Harry and his sidekicks were resistance fighters living off the land, in Part 2 the battle has fully erupted and there’s a real End of Days feel to the story.

 

 

 

David Yates and his team have a lot to live up to with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and fortunately they deliver with a bang, or many bangs and crashes and fireballs to be precise. This film is a study in contrasts with its immediate predecessor, also directed by Yates: Deathly Hallows Part 1 is all brooding and atmosphere while Part 2 is nearly all action with occasional gobs of exposition thrown in to provide information needed by Harry, and by extension his fans, in order to clear up nagging questions and bring the series to a satisfying conclusion.

When we last left Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson), and Ron (Rupert Grint) they were searching for the horcruxes that contain bits of Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) soul and must be destroyed before he kills Harry and takes over the world. This takes them first to Gringott’s Wizarding Bank and then to Hogwarts which by now resembles a prison camp ruled most cruelly by the black-robed Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) more than the jolly boarding school of the earlier stories. Of course Harry can’t remain hidden for long and Hogwarts soon becomes a battleground attacked by some of the nastiest villains CGI can create. If in Part 1 Harry and his sidekicks were resistance fighters living off the land, in Part 2 the battle has fully erupted and there’s a real End of Days feel to the story. Fail now and not only will Harry die but the whole world will be ruled by the Voldemort, who is basically the worst dictator you can imagine times ten.

There are many spectacular set pieces in Deathly Hallows Part 2 but also a surprising amount of psychological depth. Early in the series we could feel that we always knew who was good and who was bad and dispatching the latter while saving the former was mainly a technical problem. Not so in Deathly Hallows Part 2, which provides chunks of backstory demonstrating that those easy judgments were sometimes wide of the mark and that Harry’s world is a more complicated place than we first thought. The Potter films have gotten darker, both literally and figuratively, with each installment, and the predominant tones of Deathly Hallows Part 2 are grey and black.

The usual all-star cast is on hand with Maggie Smith delivering a particularly nice performance as Minerva McGonigall and Julie Walters making a strong impression in a small role as Molly Weasley (believe me, this is one woman you don’t want to get on your case). Fiennes is a bit disappointing as Voldemort—his noseless features look more ridiculous the more you see of them and he seems at this point to be more desperate than all-powerful, to the point where you almost feel sorry for him. Matthew Lewis’ character of Neville Longbottom escapes his role as the butt of jokes and does a nice turn as one of the students who remained at Hogwarts when Harry and company took off.

Deathly Hallows Part 2 is the only Potter film to be released in 3D (converted after being shot in 2D) and it’s a study in how to use that technology in the service of a story. Of course there are the show-off set-pieces (a careening rail car, bodies being blasted into a million little pieces) but the quiet scenes are equally effective and you never feel that the technology is given priority over storytelling. The reason is not far to seek: the 3D technology is not intrusive because Yates makes such effective use of the techniques 2D directors have been using for a century to suggest three dimensions on a two-dimensional plane (lighting, focus, camera angles, etc.), conventions which are enhanced rather than contradicted by the addition of 3D. This blending of techniques has an added benefit: if you see the film in 2D it will work just as well rather than leaving you with the feeling that you’re missing something essential. | Sarah Boslaugh

 

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