Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 - (2011) - Cinema Review (6.5/10)

Is it in B&W?
The Harry Potter franchise finally draws to a close, under the guiding hand of David Yates, who essentially took over directorship of the films since 'The Order of the Phoenix'. This time around, Hogwarts school of wizardry is under attack. In previous instalments we've seen a variety of locations. This time round, apart from a few early events, we're essentially treated to a siege movie.

The big question is, does it succeed at rounding off the story successfully? I'll say yes, but it's a tentative yes. This final film is a very mixed bag. Overall, the film structure feels like a series of ticked boxes. Step by step, covering exactly what needed covering, without any real passion or feeling. Don't get me wrong, the film is technically brilliant. It is slickly made, and highly polished. The acting is sometimes excellent and certainly never less than serviceable, even from the often criticized Daniel Radcliffe, but honestly, I don't know what else he could have been expected to do. Almost all of the characters you can think of, get their little moments, though in many cases they feel shoehorned in for the sake of completeness, without any real care for the characters or emotions involved.

Facing Voldemort
Unfortunately, the films no longer feel like children's films, even though that is their primary audience. Despite the subject matter, there is no 'magic' in Harry Potter any more. The content is dark and tough, but even that could have been managed in a less heavy handed and more nuanced way. You only need to see the way a film such as Super 8 deals with the difficult subject of a child tragically losing a parent in far more raw and realistic way than Harry Potter has ever done, but uses that to accentuate the film's themes and characters without losing its charm or child-like wonder. One scene in Harry Potter even treats its viewers to a bloody foetal figure in a setting reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey's finale.

A grey world
David Yates seems to have decided that the only way to cover the darker subject matter, is to quite literally make the film dark. The final instalment feels as though it could have been filmed in black and white with the projector bulb turned down. They have desaturated the colours and darkened the picture so mechanically, it feels less moody than simply eye-straining. There is a trend for giving modern films an overall tint, such as sepia or teal, which is fast reaching over-use. In this case, Yates has just decided to drain the life from the picture. One shot especially stood out for me. A dramatic panning shot across the embattled bridges of Hogwarts as magical forces faced off against one another. It should have been epic and awe inspiring, but I could hardly make out what was going on, it was so dark and monotone. In contrast, the most moody and sombre scenes in the Lord of the Rings films feel vibrantly colourful, yet those are adult fantasy films. Heck, classic horror films like The Thing, Alien, Halloween, The Shining, feel like they were made in bright day-glow paints in comparison.

Professor Snape
One character and scene stands out in the final film, which I will give it credit for. This deals with the fate of Professor Snape, played by Alan Rickman (Die Hard, Truly Madly Deeply, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves). Without spoiling it for those who don't know, his story is by far the most poignant and moving. In most cases, the demise or success of other characters is dealt with in an almost throwaway manner.

Nearly Forgotten
Another under-developed element was the 'romance'. It was obvious from the first film, that Harry would probably end up with Ginny, yet eight films later, we still have practically no development on that front. It simply 'happened' for plot convenience a film or two ago (I can't remember which one), without being given the screen time to justify it (I presume that the books may have given it more depth).

Under Siege
The ending of the film also feels somewhat rushed. To compare The Lord of the Rings again, those films have been criticized for having too many long endings. The final film covers every character's eventual fate in great detail, and takes plenty of time to do so. After eight films, Harry Potter gets a somewhat forgettable 'The Next Generation' scene.

I know the Harry Potter films were intended to become darker and grittier as time passed and its characters grew older, but there is no excuse for losing the vibrant sense of magical fun that permeated the first few films.

He Who Must Not Be Named
(Otherwise known as Voldemort)
All I can say, is that it is a serviceable film. It works on the most basic levels, even if it never reaches beyond those. If you have collected the series up till now, it makes for an acceptable if lacklustre conclusion. Nothing more, nothing less.


Image Credit: © 2011 Warner Bros. Pictures

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