Monday, 15 August 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 – reviewed by Douglas J. Ogurek

Ten years ago, an orphan with circle framed glasses and a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead found his way into the hearts of film-goers the world over. The young man discovered a school for wizards, where he made two new friends: an awkward red-headed boy, and a rather determined little girl.

This summer, Harry, Ron, and Hermione finish the saga that has ushered millions of children into adulthood, and bonded generations. This film, the eighth in the series, broke international box office records, raking in $476 million worldwide during its opening weekend.

In HP7 Part 1, the friends had to overcome some conflicts amongst themselves. This time, the reconciled trio and their Hogwarts schoolmates set out to vanquish Harry’s nemesis Voldemort, who, armed with the all-powerful Elder wand, has his sights set on the destruction of Potter. For those who prefer non-physical conflict and the subtleties of individual relationships, Part 2 falls short of its immediate predecessor. For those who prefer a good old-fashioned good guys versus bad guys rivalry, Part 2 is the film to watch.

The once-vibrant halls of Hogwarts, now controlled by Voldemort and his clan, have deteriorated into dreariness and despondency. Severus Snape, the Voldemort ally responsible for the death of the beloved [spoiler removed!], has taken over as headmaster.

Harry and friends must penetrate the dementor-guarded walls of Hogwarts, then find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes, which house parts of Voldemort’s soul and safeguard his immortality. The challenge is clear-cut: if Harry and friends succeed, Voldemort dies and evil is vanquished. If they fail, Voldemort attains ultimate power and the world rots.

Most of the film takes place at Hogwarts, where the oppressed student body and faculty reclaim the campus and strive to resist an impending onslaught by Voldemort’s Death Eaters. Potter must also find a Horcrux. There are two things known about this Horcrux: it is small, and it is somewhere within the mammoth school. Not very promising.

Though the action and special effects were in line with what one would expect of a big budget film, one of the most enjoyable aspects of HP7 Part 2 was Ralph Fiennes’ portrayal of Voldemort. Fiennes gets more screen time to show his skills than in other Potter films. With his gyrating movements, exaggerated facial expressions, and emotional instability – he whispers, he screams, he laughs – Voldemort earns a spot among cinema’s most memorable super-villains.

The film is far from perfect: It begins with two lengthy expository conversations with minor characters. The most disappointing shortcoming involves the key battle scene. One would expect the inhabitants of a wizardly world to fight in a wizardly way. Such was the case with previous Potter films. However, the climactic battle of HP7 Part 2 resorts to Lord of the Rings-style hand-to-hand combat, replete with ogres hacking away at knight-like figures. But because of their high emotional investment in the series, viewers will likely forgive these flaws.

As a stand-alone film, HP7 Part 2 does not merit the record-breaking figures it has achieved. However, when viewed through the lens of the Potter franchise, the records begin to make sense. Video games. LEGO figurines. Even a theme park in Orlando, Florida. Harry Potter is nothing less than a worldwide culture juggernaut. What a thrill it must have been for those who grew into adulthood with Potter over the last decade. Undoubtedly, many of them will step onto Platform 9¾ and board the Hogwarts Express with their own children to relive the journey.

Despite its magical foundation, the Potter series reveals many real-life lessons. It shows that there will be cowards, and there will be heroes. There will be those who give up, and there will be those who, despite many naysayers and seemingly insurmountable odds, will continue to pursue their goals. It teaches us about the power of friendship.

The Harry Potter story and the phenomenon our world has made it suggest a hopeful thought: that there is a human longing to connect, and to do good. All aboard! – Douglas J. Ogurek

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, directed by David Yates. Warner Bros, 130 mins.

The eight Harry Potter films total nearly 20 hours. What is your favorite Potter scene in the series? This reviewer's came in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002), Potter tricks Lucius Malfoy into freeing the house-elf Dobby. Enraged, Malfoy raises his sword extravagantly, curls back his lips, and says “Potter” in a cross between a hiss and a growl. It is the most hilarious cinematic moment I’ve ever experienced.

1 comment:

  1. For me the standout moment of the films has to be the dementor on the train in The Prisoner of Azkaban - thinking about it still gives me the collywobbles!

    With the books, there were two key moments for me. The first was in the first book, when Harry gets into a fight on the train, sticking up for Ron (I think?).

    The second, and my favourite bit of the books so far (haven't finished Deathly Hallows yet), was the ending of The Prisoner of Azkaban, where all the clockwork plotting falls into place so perfectly.