Thursday, July 14, 2011

MOVIE: HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2


I saw it 4 nights ago, and as I emerged from the theater I heard a sniffling 17 year old girl in Potter garb exclaim through her tears, "My childhood is over and nobody cares." That sums up the fantastically successful Harry Potter series for a generation of fans who came of age along with Harry, Hermione, and Ron as they struggled with their identities, the dark forces within-- but mostly without in the form of Lord Voldemort. In that sense, the last installment is more than a movie; it's a rite of passage for millions who won't care so much if the final chapter is visually murky and dramatically tepid. I also read all the books-- but as an adult who has several rites of passage behind her. And I'm a movie critic, and so will evaluate according to more specific criteria.

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2 is a dutiful, dark, somewhat disappointing film. The movie held my interest without stirring my soul, or even tugging at my heart. Technically, the 3D version washed over me like a damp cloud-- not the vibrant emotional and physical extravaganza I'd hoped for--perhaps too much? 3 D should have packed more of a wallop considering much of it is spent on a long-awaited battle between the intrepid three hot on the trail of horcruxes and The Dark Lord, not to mention every character left at Hogwarts and their enemies, from Minerva McGonagall and Neville Longbottom, to Bellatrix Lestrange and Draco Malfoy. The film is also the culmination of the romantic longings of our young protagonists, which director David Yates attempts to play off against the mounting danger and tension. The results are underwhelming. A soggy kiss here, an awkward hand holding there.

There are some powerful and remarkable moments-- Snape's gruesome and poignant demise, McGonagall's prim courage just when it was needed, Voldemorte's spectacular disintegration. But Ron's part is so underwritten he practically disappears. Hagrid suddenly comes out of nowhere and we have to recall where we left him off-- which pulls us out of the movie. Ditto for Tonks and Lupin, Mrs. Weasley's standoff with Bellatrix, and the death of one of the Weasley twins. More time needed to be spent bringing these moments to life, rather than ticking them off like a to-do list. The film surely needed more dramatic detail, less spectacle.

And then there's Harry. He's always seemed a bit muted onscreen to me-- and here once again he performs appropriately, but not stirringly. Hermione remains the most expressive of the three actors, but the final chapter is not her moment. I was, however, very glad the movie includes the epilogue-- so lovely in the book and a chance to see our aging heroes launch another generation of witches and wizards into a magical future that someone has yet to imagine.

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