Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

While I enjoy going on vacation, the parts I dislike the most are the driving there and the driving back.  Long journeys in a car are very boring to me.  Some people enjoy a long car trip because they like looking at the passing scenery.  Not me.  I’m one of those “it’s not the journey, it’s the destination” travelers.  If I wanted to spend my entire vacation on the road, I’d own a motor home.  Nope, I want the journey to be over just as soon as the trip begins so I can enjoy the destination.  But what is true about a car trip isn’t true about the decade long journey I’ve just finished with a group of British students at their boarding school in the English countryside.  With the release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2,” we’ve come to the end of what was the most enjoyable expedition I’ve experienced in a theatre.

Picking up where Part 1 left off, Harry, Hermione and Ron (Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint) continue their mission to find all the Horcruxes containing bits of the soul of the Dark Wizard, Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), and destroy them.  As long as one exists, Voldemort is immortal.  Their journey takes them to Gringotts Bank to search for an item in the vault of Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) as well as in the Ravenclaw house back to Hogwarts.  The group has to sneak in through a secret tunnel, guided by former classmate Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis).  Through the tunnel, Neville tells Harry and the others about the brutal discipline used at Hogwarts by new headmaster Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) and his assistants.  Snape brings in all the students and warns anyone aiding Harry will be severely punished.  Harry steps out of the crowd and tells everyone it was Snape that killed Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon).  Snape and his guards draw their wands to attack, but Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith) steps between them to defend Harry, knocking out the guards and forcing Snape to disappear.  Snape goes to Voldemort, telling him of Harry’s arrival.  Gathering his evil troops, Voldemort makes an ultimatum:  Give him Harry Potter or everyone in the school dies.

The story in “Deathly Hallows Part 2” ties up several loose ends from the previous films.  We learn of secrets and true motivations.  We discover the meaning of mysterious visions and overheard thoughts.  Relationships that have been bubbling under the surface finally burst forth into the light of day.  We also discover for which side some characters are really fighting.  Some of these revelations come as no surprise while others are true shockers.  I have only read the first book of the series and knew what happened in the other books by word of mouth or by looking up their synopses on Wikipedia, so I am not an expert in Potter lore and philosophy by any stretch of the imagination.  For those who have only seen the films, one discovery about Dumbledore will be a real surprise. 

The film, while very serious in tone for most of its two hours, occasionally drops in the unexpected bit of humor to keep it from becoming completely dour.  These laughs are like raindrops on a hot day, providing brief relief from the doom and gloom; but the next threat is never far away.

As much as I enjoyed the movie, I do have two small quibbles.  First, the final showdown with Voldemort seemed somewhat anticlimactic.  While I don’t want to give away any specifics of their battle, the ending felt far too subtle.  Again, I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know how it appears on the page; but, on screen, it didn’t deliver the emotional rush I expected.  My second complaint isn’t with this movie, but Part 1.  While I don’t begrudge a movie company making as much money from a franchise as possible, splitting the last book into two films seems like an even bigger cynical money grab than it did after I saw the first film.  Much of what happens in Part 1 is the trio of heroes on a camping trip.  Much of that could have been cut, making the last movie closer to three hours instead of two.  If they had been willing to put up with the whining of fans on the Internet, the filmmakers could have probably cut it down to a doable two and a half hours.  Perhaps the DVD release of the entire series will have the last two films cut together, making it painfully obvious that Part 1 was full of filler and very little else.

Besides those two things, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part2” is a great fantasy/action film and a fitting conclusion to the 10 year cinematic saga for the boy wizard.  As the final scenes played out, I’ll admit to a little moistening of the eyes and a small lump in the throat.  Even though these imaginary characters live in a pretend world, they were very real to me and millions of fans around the world as evidenced by a record-setting domestic opening weekend gross of over $168-million and a worldwide take of $475-million.  With numbers like that, perhaps author J.K. Rowling will write about he adventures of the children of Harry Potter.

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” is rated PG-13 for some sequences of intense action violence and frightening images.  We see piles of dead, bloody goblins in one scene.  Voldemort’s snake Nagini is shown killing a character, although the worst of the scene is blurred by textured glass.  There are numerous battles using blasts of light from magic wands that cause people to fly backwards.  An out of control fire consumes one character.

Probably the most remarkable thing about the “Harry Potter” film series is its consistency.  While I haven’t always loved each film equally, they all have been constructed using the utmost care and highest technical standards.  Much of this consistency is probably due to the common source material for all the movies.  J.K. Rowling’s books, and her involvement in the scripts and production, provided a solid base on which to build this wizarding world.  While I missed the wonder, awe and lightheartedness of the first two films as the story became increasingly dark, I realized they reflected the life of the characters as they grew up and faced ever more mature and dangerous problems.  Now that the actors have nearly outgrown their roles, the series is ending just in time and with a rousing final act.

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” gets five guitars, as does the entire film series.

An American icon (played by a Canadian actor) and a couple of boot-knockin’ buddies take to screens this week.  Vote for the next movie I see and review.

Captain America:  The First Avenger—A scrawny volunteer participates in an experimental program that turns him into the star-spangled superhero Captain America.

Friends with Benefits—Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis are close friends who learn that getting physical always leads to complications.

Stan’s Choice—Stan sees and reviews any film of his choice currently in theatres.

Release dates are subject to change and not all films may be shown in Knoxville, TN.

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