Windows into the Imagination

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I (...Image via Wikipedia
When we reached the final episode of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, it felt like an imminent parting with old friends was just around the corner. It was sad, bittersweet, full of tears and yet a feeling of satisfaction. This was storytelling and movie adaptation at its best, capturing the spirit of the tale and splashing it on the screen in brilliant, heart-lifting and heart-wrenching Technicolor.
That's the expectation I brought into "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2." High expectations, lots of questions and a need for fulfillment and closure. Perhaps it was unfair, but after 7 movies, they should know what their audience wants.

I went with a couple of friends. An odd group, since none of them were Harry Potter fans and most had only watched one of the movies, but they wanted to be there at the end to see if they missed anything.
First of all, I did like the movie. It was a fitting end to a beloved series with all the right epic moments and special effects to make your heart pound. I loved the building of tension and resolution between Harry and Voldemort.
I should have seen it coming; it made a lot of sense and was satisfying, though cheapened a bit by what came after. I would have preferred it to go out with a bang rather than a candy-sweet whimper, but I suppose that at its core, this is a YA story and needs some kind of ending that won't make the youngsters leave in tears.
The kids have matured nicely and they've become fine actors. Daniel Radcliffe particularly was wonderful and you just want to hug Matthew Lewis, the actor who plays the increasingly heroic Neville Longbottom.
Despite splitting the last book up into two, I still got the impression that there was too much story to fit into the movie and it was bursting at the seams, causing some of the meat to squish out. It's a shame really. Apart from Harry's story, there are two other threads that carry a strong emotional thread, at least for me, and they get the short end of the straw, leaving it unsatisfying as a whole experience.
As an author, I have the same problem with density of story and ensemble casts. You try to build characters that people will love and identify with, or at least who draw the audience's attention, even if it's a secondary character, but you end up with far too much story to tell.
For me, that's the problem with most of the story threads. Neville Longbottom, Abeforth Dumbledore, the Weasley twins, Draco Malfoy and most of all, Snape.
Neville, from back story to his final emergence as an epic hero, travels a classic journey that deserves a story all its own.
Without giving away any spoilers, what happens to the Weasley twins is almost glossed over and had no emotional impact on me. It made me feel like someone dropped the ball there.
I loved the appearance of the teachers of Hogwarts and they were given some great little scenes that made me cheer. I understand why more focus wasn't given to them, it was never about the teachers, except for Dumbledore and Snape.
Now, I love Snape. He's my favorite character of the series. Such a deep, dark, mysterious character with that hint of something much more. Even more than Harry, the entire story hangs on what happened to Snape and the decisions he made, and despite the back story scenes we are given, which were sprinted through without giving us time to breath, I felt gyped. It felt like Snape was acting out of character in those flashback scenes and we lose the subtle dignity of his character. His history was what I had suspected from the first book, but it wasn't as satisfying in the end because we were never given time to appreciate the gravity of his life.
Instead we get numerous, pointless scenes of Harry running up and down the winding stairs of Hogwarts. Once. Twice maybe. We get it already. No need to belabor the point. That's where editing is a godsend.
And spending time introducing a new character whom Harry talks to at length. I get that she holds a vital clue, but that is her only function in the story. Spending valuable minutes developing her character when it's not about her seems a waste of time when more important characters, ones whom we have an emotional investment in, get such short shrift. It seems that more time was spent on her than on the twins, which feels wrong. I don't care if the writer has spent time building a rich history for her. Get the clue and move on.
Action can be quick paced, but sadness, suspense, tragedy, all those things that require an emotional commitment, they need time. The audience needs to be able to breathe it in and soak in its power. The only storyline that was given that consideration was Harry and Voldemort, and rightly so, but Snape was the counter story to Harry and it formed the heart, the real reason for why the main story line had such great depth. It provided the pathos, the tragedy and underlay the emotional scenes between Harry and his parents.
So, while I enjoyed the movie and it provided closure, and the main story was well told, to me it wasn't as good as it could have been…should have been.
Four out of five from this reviewer and fan.

P.S. By the way, the friends who came with me, the ones who were not Harry fans, they found it very boring.

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