Film Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2 (dir. by David Yates)


Well, we all knew it would have to end someday and now, it’s over.  The Harry Potter film series, which began way back in 2001, is concluding right now in a theater near you.  On Friday night, me, Jeff, my sister Erin, and our friend Evelyn went down to the AMC Valley View and we saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2. 

The cinematic story of Harry Potter is over and yes, I did cry as I watched it end.  I didn’t just cry because of the movie, though the movie itself is one of the best of the year and it has one of those wonderful endings that just makes it impossible to remain dry-eyed.  No, I cried because — with this film — an era of my life is truly over.  

When the first Harry Potter film came out, I was only 16 and still trying to deal with the fact that I had been diagnosed as being bipolar just a few weeks earlier.  I felt alone and broken and destined to spend the rest of my life on the outside looking in.  The three hours that I spent watching Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone were three hours when I didn’t have to worry about suddenly bursting into tears and having everyone around me worrying about whether or not I was actually taking my hated medication.  For three hours, I could escape to another world where those who were different were celebrated precisely because they were different.  For three hours, I could imagine that just maybe I had a special purpose for existing too and maybe I had benevolent wizards and witches looking out for me too.  And I’m sorry if all that sounds trite in retrospect but, when you’re 16 and you think you’re too damaged to love, anything that gives you hope and pleasure in the present is a precious treasure.

Over the years, I eventually came to realize that being bipolar was hardly a curse and, as I matured and grew up and discovered new things, there was always a Harry Potter film either playing or about to come out.  Whether I was escaping high school, graduating college, or dealing with just every good or bad thing that makes up life, Harry Potter — this character who I first met (in book form) when I was 13 — was always there.  So, at the risk of sounding overdramatic, the end of Harry Potter is the end of a chapter of my life.

One final personal note: As I watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two, I had three dolls (or action figures, as boys insist on calling them) in my purse.  These dolls — Harry, Hermione, and Ron — came out around the same time as the second Harry Potter film and my mom (who collected dolls) ordered them off of Ebay three years ago, shortly before she entered the hospital for the final time.  Now, my mom was not a huge fan of the Harry Potter series but she knew that I loved it and that’s why she made those dolls her final gift to me.

And those are some of the reasons why I found myself crying as I watched the finale of Harry Potter.  However, there’s another reason why I cried and that’s that this is just a great film and the perfect conclusion to the series.

Essentially, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two starts up immediately after the conclusion of Part One.  Dobby is dead, Lord Voldemort (a wonderfully neurotic Ralph Fiennes) and the Death Eaters are intent on destroying everything, and Severus Snape (Alan Rickman, wonderful as always) is in charge of Hogwarts.  After spending the first part of Deathly Hallows as fugitives, Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger (Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson) return to Hogwarts to take a final stand against Voldemort.  Things end in a surprisingly bloody battle (this film is not for children) that leaves several characters dead and ultimately reveals that one wizard wasn’t the saint we always assumed he was while another is revealed to be the secret hero of the entire series.

Let’s get one question out of the way right now: will non-Harry Potter fans be able to follow this film?  Uhmmm…no.  Sorry.  Then again, why would a non-Harry Potter fan be at a film called Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part Two anyway?  I mean, seriously, if you’re just going to film because everyone else is doing it than who are you to bitch anyway?  This is what you non-Harry Potter fans need to do.  Stop reading this review.  Go watch the previous Harry Potter films.  Watch them in order.  Take your time because Deathly Hallows is going to be in theaters for a while.  And then, once you’ve become immersed in the story, go see how it all concludes.  And then come back here and read rest of this review.

Okay, so is everybody up to date?

Cool.

One of the more interesting features of the Harry Potter series is that so many different directors (each with his own definite, individual style) have been involved in bringing these films to the screen.  Among Harry Potter fans, hours can literally be spent debating the merits (and weaknesses) of Chris Columbus, Alfonso Cuaron, Mike Newell, and David Yates.  My own theory is that each director was perfectly suited for each film he directed.  The audience-friendly vision of Chris Columbus was what the first two films needed, just as Prisoner of Azkaban needed Cuaron’s far darker vision and Mike Newell’s attention to character made Goblet of Fire one of the best of the Harry Potter films.  And while David Yates may not be as well-known (or critically acclaimed) as Newell or Cuaron, he brings exactly the right tone to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, a perfect combination of spectacle and humanity.  It is to Yates’ credit that the scenes in which the characters simply talk to each other are just as compelling as the dramatic sequences where Voldemort and the Death Eaters attack Hogwarts.  Yates understands that this material could easily come across as silly or childish and to his credit, he never allows the audience to simply dismiss this film as a lot of blathering about wands and CGI magic.  As opposed to other directors who have given us summer blockbusters, Yates takes his film seriously.

And, fortunately, so does his cast.

One of the great pleasures of the Harry Potter series is that it’s given American audiences the chance to discover (and rediscover) some of the great British character actors and a lot of them show up (some for only a matter of minutes) here in the finale.  Maggie Smith, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane, Gary Oldman, John Hurt, David Thewlis, Emma Thompson, and Jason Isaacs all put in appearances.  Kelly MacDonald has a great scene playing a ghost, Helena Bonham Carter is perfect as the evil Bellatrix Lestrange, and Alan Rickman is brilliantly ambiguous as Severus Snape.  (And yes, Snape’s actions are explained in this film and yes, I did cry.)

Ralph Fiennes plays so many villains that I now find myself expecting him to show up killing people in every movie I see.  He’s like a British Christopher Walken.  Still, it’s easy to take an actor like Fiennes for granted.  For the entire Harry Potter series to work, Lord Voldemort can’t just be an ordinary villain.  He’s got to be the sum total of all things evil and deadly.  You’ve got to believe that people would be scared to speak his name.  Great heroes need a great villain and Fiennes’ Voldermort is a great villain.

Ultimately, however, the true credit for the success of the Harry Potter series belongs to three actors who have literally grown up on the movie screen — Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson.  The producers are fortunate indeed that the cute kids that they cast over a decade ago have all grown up to be talented, attractive, and likable actors.  If the first part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows seemed to showcase both Grint and Watson (almost to Radcliffe’s expense), part 2 is most definitely centered on Harry Potter.  That doesn’t mean that Watson and Grint aren’t good in this film.  They are and they get to share one of the best movie kisses of 2011.  (As well, for those who keep count, Grint says “Bloody Hell,” three times in the film.)  But, for obvious reasons, this film is all about Harry and Radcliffe’s performance as Harry.  It’s a challenge for Radcliffe and it’s a challenge that he more than succeeds at conquering.  As the film ended, I realized that I was sad to know that the adventures of Harry Potter were done but I was excited to see what the future will hold for Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson. 

Incidentally, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 has been released in both 3-D and 2-D.  We saw the 3-D version and if you have any knowledge of how I feel about 3-D (and how motion sick I tend to get while watching 3-D films) then that should show you just much I love the Harry Potter series.  I loved it so much that I was even willing to overlook my hatred of 3-D.  The 3-D here (which was added after the film has already been filmed) doesn’t really add much to the movie.  There were a few cool moments where I was all like, “Look, I can reach out and grab a piece of Voldemort,” but otherwise, the 3-D was a negligible factor as far as the overall film was concerned.

Still, there was one interesting thing about the 3-D.  The theater we saw the movie in was half-way empty.  At the same time, the neighboring theater — in which the 2-D version was playing — had a line of people waiting to get in.  They were not only waiting to see the 2-D version, they were waiting to see a showing that wouldn’t even begin until a full 90 minutes after the 3-D version started.  I mention this because, in the wake of Avatar, so many people have taken it for granted that 3-D is the future of movies and soon, as long as a film is in 3-D, we won’t have to worry about the difficult stuff like an interesting plot or compelling characters.  However, 3-D has become an overexposed gimmick.  For every film like Cave of Dreams that uses 3-D to craft an actual artistic statement, there’s a 1,000 films like Priest which use 3-D just because it’s an easy way to trick sucks into spending an extra dollars to see a crappy film. 

What so many filmmakers seem to forget is that the majority of film goers are not looking for 3-D.  We’re just looking for a good film.  And sometimes — like with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — we get lucky and we find a great film.

(Oh, and one last thing: I know everyone always expects me to claim to be just like Hermione but actually, I’ve always related more to Ginny Weasley.  Like her, I’m the youngest of four siblings, I’ve got red hair, and I always get my man, in the end.)

10 Movies I’m Looking Foward To and 5 That I Am Not And 1 That I’m Kinda Sorta Undecided On


I had all six of my wisdom teeth extracted on Tuesday.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Not only where my all my wisdom teeth impacted but I had two extra ones as well.  I was passed out during the operation and, to be honest, I wish I could be passed out for the recovery as well.  I’m bruised, puffy, and it hurts to talk.  In short, even with a healthy supply of Vicodin, I am miserable.  Boo hoo.

However, one thing never fails to cheer me up and that’s watching, discussing, thinking about, and writing about film.  Since Tuesday, I’ve had a lot of extra time to think about some of the films that are due to come out during this year.  Below, I’ve listed 16 of them.  Ten of them are movies that I’m looking forward to seeing, five are movies that I know I’m going to end up seeing and hating, and finally, one is a movie that I’m genuinely undecided on.

The Ten I’m Looking Forward To:

1) Iron Man 2 — Iron Man 2 is opening tomorrow and I’m exciting for several reasons.  First off, I loved the first movie.  Super hero adaptations usually bore me to tears but the first Iron Man was actually a lot of fun.  Traditionally, sequels are disappointing but most of the people behind the 1st movie — director Jon Favreau, Robert Downey, Jr. and Gwynneth Paltrow — are returning.  As well, you’ve got Mickey Rourke chewing the scenery and blowing things up, Sam Rockwell (who I love! love!  love! — go and rent Moon if you haven’t seen it!) as a villain, and Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation is one of my all time favorite movies) kicking ass in black leather.  

On a personal note, my friend Jeff once referred to me as “the Black Widow.”  At first, I was a little taken back because I thought he was suggesting that I devoured my mates but fortunately for him, he then explained he was referring to a comic book character who, like me, has red hair.  Anyway, for the longest time, that’s been an inside joke between the two of us.  I’ve always been the Black Widow even though I have no idea who she actually is.  So, imagine my delight when I found out that this is apparently the same character that Scarlett Johansson is playing in Iron Man 2!  For that reason alone, I have to see this movie. 

Finally, when I’m not obsessing on films, I work as a receptionist/secretary/file clerk/personal assistant and there are times when I’m sitting bored at my desk and I start to think about myself as if I were the character played by Gwynneth Paltrow.  I’ll sit there and wonder if maybe my boss is secretly a costumed super hero.  (I’m fairly sure that he’s not.)  Strange as it may seem, Iron Man has become the fuel for my fantasies. (Release Date: May 7th, 2010 — T0morrow!) 

2) Robin Hood — When it comes to English folklore, I tend to gravitate towards stories involving King Arthur accidentally sleeping with his half-sister and thousands of cocky knights vainly searching for the Holy Grail and getting killed in various macabre ways as a result.  As a result, I really don’t know much about Robin Hood beyond the basics.  I know that he was apparently some sort of socialist and that he liked to hang out in the forest with a bunch of “merry” men.  To be honest, the whole idea of Robin Hood has always struck me as being childish and the character bores me.  But I’m still looking forward to this latest Robin Hood film and I can explain it in 2 words: Russell Crowe.  If anyone can make Robin Hood into an interesting — even compelling character — it would be Crowe.  Director Ridley Scott also seems to be the ideal director for this movie and then toss in some speeches about taxation without representation and you’ve got the potential for the perfect Libertarian film. (Release Date: May 14th, 2010)

3) The Expendables — Yes, I am usually not a huge fan of action films and I’ve never quite understood how Sylvester Stallone ever became a star but I’m still looking forward to this movie.  Why?  Just judging from the trailer, every actor on the planet appears to have a role in the this film.  I find Jason Stathan to be about as appealing as Sylvester Stallone but Jet Li and Mickey Rourke should both be fun to watch and who wouldn’t jump at the chance to see Eric Roberts play yet another villain? (Release Date: August 13th, 2010)

4) Splice — I nearly included Splice on my list of films that I’m not looking forward to because, I swear to God, the trailer for Splice is so dull that it could be used to torture prisoners at Gitmo.  Add to that, I’ve never quite seen the appeal that Adrien Brody supposedly possesses as an actor.  However, I’m willing to take a chance on Splice because 1) it also stars one of my personal role models, the wonderful actress, director, and activist Sarah Polley and 2) director Vincenzo Natali has promised to take a very European approach to the film’s horrors (i.e. lots of casual sex with the monster serving as a symbol for something deeper than just box office receipts).  I’m looking forward to seeing if Splice can overcome Adrien Brody and live up to that promise. (Release date: June 4th, 2010)

5) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One — Okay, I admit it.   I’m a fan.  Don’t judge me.  (Though I will also say that I think J.K. Rowling needs to get over herself in a major way.)   It’ll be interesting to see what Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson do with themselves now that their indentured servitude is done with.  Radcliffe, in particular, is capable of playing a lot more than just Harry Potter.  (Release Date: November 19th, 2010)

6) Howl — James Franco as the late poet Allen Ginsberg?  Strangely enough, I think the idea might work.  (Release Date: September 24th, 2010)

7) Machete — Robert Rodriguez finally makes a film for someone other than his kids.  How can you not be excited about the chance to see Robert De Niro and Jeff Fahey on-screen together?  Plus, Lindsay Lohan (who really should just be allowed to live her life) gets a chance to remake her image playing a socialite with a gun.  My hope is that if Machete finds success at the box office, Eli Roth will make Thanksgiving.  (Release Date: September 3rd, 2010)

8 ) My Soul To Take — Wes Craven has had an odd career and, to be honest, I struggle sometimes with whether he’s truly a great horror filmmaker or if he’s just a journeyman director who has occasionally gotten lucky.  Looking at his career, it’s hard not to wonder how the same guy who made the original Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes could also be responsible for something like Cursed?  Regardless of how the actual film turns out, My Soul To Take will add another piece to the puzzle.  This will be the first film to be both written and directed by Craven in 16 years.  Hopefully, as in the majority of his better movies, Craven will be able to balance his commercial side with his sadistic side. (Release Date: October 29th, 2010)

9) Inception — My tastes usually run more towards horror than sci-fi but I find myself growing more excited about Inception with each passing day.  Not only does the plot sound like it could have easily come from a long-lost book by Philip K. Dick (one of the few sci-fi writers that I enjoy reading, A Scanner Darkly being my personal favorite) but the film is being directed by Christopher Nolan who proved with Momento that he can make the surreal compelling.  And just check out that cast — Leonardo DiCaprio, Cillian Murphy, Ellen Page, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who I’ve been crushing on ever since (500) Days of Summer). (Release date: July 16th, 2010.)

10) Salt — I love it when girls get to kick ass in the movies and, when she’s at her best, nobody kicks ass like Angelina Jolie.  (Release Date: July 23rd, 2010)

One That I’m Kinda Looking Forward To But I’m Kinda Not

1) Sex and the City 2 — Why are they in the desert?  How exactly can you have Sex without the City?    (Release date: May 27th, 2010) 

The Five I Am Not Looking Forward To

1) The A-Team — Yay!  It’s an action movie based on a show I’ve never heard of.  I love Liam Neeson and it’s good to see that Sharlto Copley’s underrated performance in District 9 has led to him getting more work but, sorry, I think I’ll pass. (Release Date: June 11th, 2010)

2) The Social Network — I know a lot of people are looking forward to this movie about the founding of Facebook and it is true that it’s being directed by David Fincher.  However, there are a few things that lead me to fear that this is not going to be the movie that so many people think it will be.  First off, it was written by Aaron Sorkin who is probably one of the most overrated screenwriters working today.  He may be best known for The West Wing but most of Sorkin’s work resembles the heavy-handed sermonizing of Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip.  Remember how Sorkin reacted when a few bloggers criticized his show?  This is not a guy who is comfortable with the Internet.  Secondly, the film is being produced by Kevin Spacey, another overrated talent who doesn’t so much act as much as he smugly pretends to act.  Third, and most important, The Social Network has got to be one of the worst titles I’ve heard in a long time.  Everything about this movie just screams “misfire.” (Release date: October 1st, 2010)

3) Paranormal Activity 2 — Because, you know, the first one was so good. (Release Date: October 22nd, 2010)

4) Twelve — I loved Nick McDonnell’s novel and I usually enjoy movies about decadent rich kids destroying themselves with lots of drugs and promiscuity.  I mean, if you’re going to self-destruct, you should at least look good doing it.  Unfortunately, Twelve is directed by the American Umberto Lenzi, Joel Schumacher.  Schumacher’s films aren’t even enjoyably bad.  They’re just bad.  Interestingly enough, Joel Schumacher tends to turn up in just about every movie star biography and Hollywood history book that I own.  He’s someone who has obviously been around for a very long time and who has cultivated a lot of friends.  I imagine he must be very likable in person.  But, seriously, isn’t it time to revoke his DGA membership? (Release Date: July 2, 2010)

5) Saw VII — Sorry, I got bored with the Jigsaw Killer about five movies ago.   The film’s in 3D so I’m sure we’ll get to see a severed limb fly directly at the camera.  (Release Date: October 22nd, 2010)