Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
My wife is the Harry Potter fan, me I've never read any of the books, but have seen all the films. So I accompanied her, but not feeling as though I was being dragged along, rather actually keen to see where the story was going to end. Harry Potter had become darker and more grown up over the last few films and this final film looked like it was going all the way.
Before I go onto the plot let me just point out that this will obviously contain spoilers for Part I, and if you're reading the review of Part 2 without having seen the first part I have to wonder what you're doing here. Go read the first review, watch the film, and then come back for the Part 2 review.
Each of the character quests turn back to Hogwarts for a shattering conclusion which will finally see Harry pitched against Voldermort in the midst of an epic battle where Harry's friends and allies fight against the masses of Voldermort's followers, a battle that won't see all of them make it out the other side the same.
It was a little difficult to leap straight into the film for two reasons, the first was that we're greeted with a number of clear 3D sell scenes, beginning with the Warner Bros. logo itself as we zoom through it. There were some other "in your face" 3D sell moments, the white dragon springs to mind and the obvious ride into the vaults, something which coupled with the broom flying scene during the big fire later on reminded me that they had a great ride built at the studios.
All these thoughts took me right out of the film, and you could argue that Harry Potter fans wouldn't think twice about these things, others could say that it's just me because I see so many films and understand what's happening in the background, but none the less, they knocked me out of the film and made me think of something other than the story, and that's always a bad thing to happen watching a film.
Interestingly on the 3D front, I was watching in a 2D screening almost two weeks after the release in a cinema that was still showing the film every hour alongside the 3D version, and this 2D screening was packed to the gunnels. For those who don't know what that means let me be plain, plenty of people want to see 2D, Hollywood isn't winning forcing that down our throats.
There were a few of scenes where I could see where the 3D would look good. One was when Voldermort's army are firing upon the shield and where there was an ash-like effect in front of the screen, all of which you could imagine would look great on 3D. The reason they seemed to work well was that they were subtle and carried a lot of depth.
Anyway, back on track, the second reason I found it a little hard to get back into was the story. We had a very quick catch-up from Part I and then we were straight into the story moving on, and I was struggling to remember all that had happened initially, now if I had re-watched the first part again or was a Potter fan, this would have been easy enough for me. This didn't spoil anything though; I had to think about the film to catch up, which is always a good thing.
It's a similar theme for the rest of the film, it doesn't slow down and the pace builds upon each previous scene driving forward to the conclusion. It's also got a hell of a lot to tell us, the plot is packed with threads of different characters' stories pushing for time to show you where they're heading and what their conclusion is. This is where Part 2 failed to hit the mark a little, it just didn't have the time to treat some of the characters and story lines with the attention they deserved.
One of the best examples of this is Snape's story, he's one of my favourite characters in the series and from the previous films it seemed as though his character was building up to something big in Part 2. While I wasn't wholly disappointed it did feel very rushed and I was left wanting more time with his story, especially as the film left me feeling something very different than the Potter fans, something that the film seemed to be pointing out but that the book readers were quick to dispute with me. Still, I can't help but think there was a Luke screaming no moment going on there somewhere.
Testament to the film and the writing, I never felt lost in all the different threads or falling behind the story, I followed everything, even if I felt there were unexplained areas we were leaping past or some areas just raced through quickly to give us the salient point of it all.
With this packed story line and the multiple threads David Yates handles the film well. Not only does it look very cinematic and the effects blend well with the film, he manages to keep the film concentrating on the characters and the story, all the time pushing the buttons of the audience to lift up the tension and suspense to deliver multiple times throughout the film.
I do like the way he doesn't overly pander to the 3D, as I said there are a few scenes that are playing up to the format, but for the most part you're caught up with the pace of the story and the action and don't really notice that this is a 3D film.
It's the darkest film of all, and I believe that comes from the book itself which is far darker than we see on screen with more characters dying and more emotion and description around each of them. In the film, and I think this is worth stating for parents who are thinking of taking their children, there are deaths of characters but they are shown more or less off screen. Shots of dead characters are hidden from view or shown with just a portion of them in shot, enough for you to recognise them from their hair colour or clothes, and not much else. Everything is in the character reaction.
This was one of the cleverest aspects of the film, the balancing act of the seriousness of the story and the darkness of the film against the age group that the film is targeted at. It's usually something we only credit to studios like Pixar, bringing together two diverse age groups with one film, filling it with adult humour as well as the younger audience too. Deathly Hallows: Part 2 does it very well replacing the humour with real life.
That feeling is throughout the film but one of the best moments is when we see Harry in the rather unusual station talking with a friend. You'll know the scene when you see it, and this scene contains a number of great balancing acts. Once you see it and you hear the key lines between the two characters about what is happening and you'll understand how good it is, and it's here that I realised just how strong the writing and the tone of the story is.
It's a great package of a film and coupled with a strong soundtrack you'll find it does play with your emotions well, even if you aren't a hard follower of the novels and are caught up with the characters as much as the fans. This film is not just for the fans of Potter and it's a fantastic end to the series.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is an exciting film that does well in all aspects from the story to the soundtrack, from the performances to the cinematography. I was quickly caught up in the story and it never seemed to let up from the ominous and considered pace of the opening building and building to a very strong conclusion. You feel a lot for the characters and the situations in the film, and all in all it works as an individual film, although the opening could have a little more explanation around it for those who aren't following the franchise so closely.
It's been a bumpy road to get to this final film, and even the first part of the Deathly Hallows had some pretty big failings, but this film doesn't have many failings at all, and none of them big. There's something for everyone and it attempts to tie everyone's stories up. It's a big task, but it manages it, even if some of those main characters don't get all the screen time they deserve or need.