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HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2
(****)
Reviewer:  Jim "JR" Rutkowski
Director:  David Yates
Writers:
Steve Kloves. Based on the novel: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
Starring:
Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, 
Rupert Grint
Length:  130 minutes
Released:  071511
Rating:
PG-13 for some sequences of intense action violence and frightening images
"...a stirring, magnificent conclusion to a marathon wizarding odyssey." 

When we look back upon the phenomenon that was the Harry Potter series, it will be one of the most unique accomplishments in both literary and cinematic form. Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy will always be one of the most extraordinary efforts in film history. The Star Wars films may have set the bar but, in at least one way, actually regressed in its manner of storytelling (some would say several ways) while the Potter stories actually adapted to the ages of its readers and viewers. If you were a boy or a girl when Sorcerer's Stone was first published, you were a teenager or young adult by the climax of the Deathly Hallows ten years later. Whatever age or life period you were when it first began, to keep up with the series you were experiencing the same growing pains along with the characters. A Hardy Boys adventure series with magic and wizards turned into a legitimate passage through the ages where love and friendship were as difficult to maneuver as countering a Cadavra spell. While passed from director-to-director over the course of its first four films, the Harry Potter franchise found its true headmaster in director David Yates. Unquestionably delivering the best films in tone, structure and progression in Order of the Phoenix and the Half-Blood Prince, the combination of the Deathly Hallows' two parts may have just outdone them both.

When we last left our heroes, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson), they had just escaped the clutches of Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) and the wizarding world's nemesis, Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), had just obtained the Elder Wand, the most powerful and coveted among them. The trio are continuing to uncover the mystery and location of Voldemort's horcruxes, pieces of his evil soul split apart to grant him immortality. As long as they remain uncovered and intact. This will take Harry into the acquaintance of wand-maker Ollivander (John Hurt), the devious goblin Griphook (Warwick Davis) who must lead them into the deep, dark recesses of Gringotts' vaults and none other than Dumbledore's brother, Aberforth (a terrific and unrecognizable Ciaran Hinds), who is hesitant to lead Harry down the path that his longtime mentor had planned for him. All of this is naturally leading to the epic battle for Hogwarts where we will lose many of the characters, bad and good, we have come to know over a decade.

Readers are already well aware of the plot - and could likely point out each and every change or omission from text-to-screen. Diving back into pages 477-759 may not be the best way to experience the second half of the split film, but a fresh viewing of Part 1 immediately before picking up exactly where it left off last November must not be passed up if possible. It seemed odd at the time that the first film ended with the promise of a "to be continued" or "concluded" the way Back to the Future Part II and The Matrix Reloaded did (even if we knew the final part was a mere months away.) Now, it should be looked upon as somewhat of a blessing as the continuous flow of the two movies will hopefully be molded into a single four-hour plus viewing experience on Blu-ray (where the cinematography by Eduardo Serra will really pop even without the 3-D) and solidify its place as one of the best final chapters of any movie franchise ever.

One of the elements that should be remembered about the Deathly Hallows, something that helps set it apart from many wrap-ups is that it is not just settling debts and paying off conflicts. Throughout both parts of the film, the characters (both major & minor) have grown in stature through new information about their history and subtle moments of behavior as they are forced to wait around or react to an immediate threat. Hermione's hesitation in how to comfort Harry by putting her head on his shoulder in Part 1, Ron becomes a decision maker in Part II and everyone, but especially Harry, learns what it means to sacrifice for the greater good in protecting your loved ones. Greatest of all may be the clarified arc of Professor Severus Snape. Alan Rickman, even in small bursts, throughout these stories has been a stand out. But even in a moment where exposition appears to be low on the agenda while death and destruction rarely takes a break, Rickman and David Yates deliver a montage of Snape's history that emotionally puts into perspective a life and relationship as wonderfully as Carl & Ellie's was in Pixar's Up.

It is a revelatory sequence in many facets. For one it puts into perspective all of Snape's motivations and deadly secrets. Secondly, it is a notable summation that in this universe everyone matters and every decision, secret and promise affects another. The twists and turns in J.K. Rowling's text never feel like new ideas meant to superficially shake up things, thus negating the circumstances of the past - as we often see on television cliffhangers. That reevaluation of what brought these characters to this final battle only raises the stakes higher and provides a greater pain in our chest as Harry walks into the great Hall to peruse the lives that have been needlessly snuffed out because of one evil, egotistical power monster and his legion of blind followers.

This is not to say that the climactic final battle, which goes on in fits and spurts, is full of just the doom and gloom. It is magnificently exciting in a way that someone like Michael Bay with all his technical prowess could never pull off. Because we care. Every magical light bolt, incantation and path through Hogwarts spells danger for somebody we do not want to see in that position. Still, Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves have structured the climax with every bit of the fantastic multiple objectives that audiences have loved from the return of jedis and kings. There are a couple hero moments and villain vanquishes that do not exactly rise to our expectations of grandiose posturing, but in retrospect there is an appropriateness to not relishing every death in war.

Part 1 of the Deathly Hallows was left off the ever-increasing money grab of extra 3-D dollars - surprisingly for artistic merits in that the conversion process would not be up to standards in time. Part II is not so lucky, but audiences may find for a change that the process actually compliments the film rather than detract from it. The frequent washed-out colors may be unnecessary in the dark murkiness of the death-intensive finale but there is also a depth and scope to many of the shots that brings to mind the best moments the format has offered in animated pictures, where 3-D receives more praise than scorn, just like in Avatar. The real 3-D of Harry Potter though has always been at the level of characters and storytelling, particular as the series progressed from the child-like simplicity of Chris Columbus to the wondrous visual mind of Alfonso Cuaron and experience with British actors of Mike Newell.

Eventually though it is the mature braintrust of David Yates who really deserves to take a personal bow after the seemingly never-ending final credits listing all the commendable production mentions. Harry Potter was an easily dismissible fad when it first appeared on bookshelves and Columbus' first adaptation was enough to bring out the "big deal" in all of us. When you consider all the wannabe book-to-film adaptations that have tried to capture that same Potter magic (Columbus' Percy Jackson, Shyamalan's The Last Airbender and the Narnia films to name just a few) in the ensuing years, it only makes the accomplishment by Rowling, Kloves, Yates, Radcliffe, Watson, Grint and everyone else you can fit into an awards speech, all the more special.

What began as the story of a boy’s wondrous introduction into a limitless world of magic ends in an epic display of war, death, and desire for peace. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” is the final chapter in the longstanding fantasy series and it’s a fitting conclusion to the legend, marrying the extensive exposition of “
Part 1” with an intermittently furious finale that satisfies and rouses in all the proper ways. I'm certain few will want to say goodbye to the admired franchise, but the production has secured a superb finish that’s elegant and carries significant emotional heft. It’s hard to believe we’ve had Harry Potter on screens for a decade now, with each feature finding its shape and purpose through an unbelievable level of artistic surprise. Rarely has a film series enjoyed such success and consistency, creating an epic arc of maturation, heroism, and friendship to savor for decades to come. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” is the end of an extensive journey, hauling a weight of finality that’s bittersweet. Still, there’s much to celebrate here, with the picture a stirring, magnificent conclusion to a marathon wizarding odyssey.

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2 © 2011 Warner Brothers Pictures
All Rights Reserved

Review © 2011 Alternate Reality, Inc.

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HP AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS

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HP AND THE HALF BLOOD PRINCE

"...contains more dramatic depth and recognizable human emotions than most allegedly serious-minded films of recent vintage that I could name." (JR)
HP AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX

"No other franchise in movie history -- from "James Bond" to "Star Wars" -- has managed to retain its inspiration so well after this many episodes."  (JR)

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