Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Battle of Hogwart's: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, pt. 2

Sentimentalists like me usually have a difficult time with things coming to a close, and this film, the final installment of the Harry Potter series, was no exception. How best to describe the epic to end all epics? With an unsentimental rave, of course, because there are no two ways about it--- director David Yates nailed it. Even the trailer makes me cry a little.

When we last left Harry, he, Ron, and Hermione had just buried Dobby the House Elf after being rescued (along with Luna Lovegood, Griphook the Goblin, and Mr. Ollivander) from Malfoy Manor. Beginning first with a sobering picture of Hogwarts as led by new headmaster Severus Snape, the film continues the hunt for Horcruxes as the three plus Griphook break into Bellatrix Lestrange's vault at Gringotts. After the goblin double-crosses them, they bust out of the bank on the back of an albino dragon and return to Hogwarts where they are aided by Dumbledore's brother, Aberforth, and greeted warmly by a dwindling, battered group of students. McGonagall fumes, Snape flees, and Voldemort---now onto the three's hunt for pieces of his split soul---lays siege on the castle. As the frantic search for the last Horcruxes continues, giants, overgrown arachnids, Dementors, werewolves, Death Eaters, and the Elder Wand all threaten to destroy not only Harry, but everything he's ever cared about.The film succeeds in telling this extremely full and complex story by achieving harmony and balance in all that it does. By focusing extremely well on (and at times, overexplaining) the two secondary topics of wand allegiances and the peculiarities of Severus Snape, the film avoids becoming too convoluted in biting off more than it could reasonably chew from the novel. The differences in overall dynamics, calm and subtle versus chaotic and engaging, were also well matched and kept the film from getting lost in explosions and "Avada Kadavras." The subtlety of Snape's observance (from above) of the Hogwart's students from the film's opening moment, which is all the more meaningful for those who've read the novel; the juxtaposition of Harry's plunge into the lake with Voldemort's realization of what they've been doing, ending with a jarring, silent close-up; the sudden casting of Snape into a tender and sentimental light as Harry looks into his memories---these things gave pause and contrast against the constant action and struggle present in the surrounding scenes.

As this epic finale is quite different from any of the other films, the photography and effects were hugely responsible in its success; many of them were visually breathtaking. The albino dragon in the bank's dungeon, McGonagall's knight-soldiers, and the professors' protective shields over the castle are just a few fine examples but there are many more. The music, while consistant with basic battle and tension in the appropriate places, also set the film apart from its predecessors through a minor, vocal opening theme with an almost Braveheart-like melody. It returns again later in the film at a very emotional time as Harry stumbles through the rubble and it's very effective.
Thematically, it might be dissmissive to narrow down an entire (magical!) series to something as simple as Karma and the good old Golden Rule, but well, there it is. Harry buries Dobby, a house elf, with his bare hands as to show his gratitude for his heroism. He risks his life in the room of requirement to save Malfoy, someone who has treated him with nothing but scorn. And during his interlude in the bright place, Harry obviously pities what Voldemort has become, which Dumbledore acknowledges: "Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living. And anyone who lives without love."
Well said, Albus. And thanks for the memories. (sniff).


Justin Garrett Blum said...

I meant to write a review of these last two films on my blog, but then I never did. I guess because I didn't care that much. I found them to be pretty blah. Say what you will about these Harry Potter stories, at least the early ones were kind of fun. These last two were just drab. But more than that, I felt as though I needed to have read the Harry Potter Encyclopedia or something before watching them. I honestly couldn't keep half the characters straight. It really felt as though these films demanded that you were already a pretty big fan as opposed to just somebody who saw the other films and thought they were okay.

Donald said...

Why would anybody watch all seven (8?) of these films if he or she wasn't a huge fan? I wasn't a fan so I stopped after... I don't remember.

Justin Garrett Blum said...

I don't know. It's not as though I watched them in a marathon or even saw them in the theater. They're okay. The other ones seemed to stand alone well enough and were passingly interesting, and could sometimes be pretty good. It's just these last two films that felt as though I was being given a final exam in Potterology.

Anna said...

Valid. The horcruxes (last 2 films focused only around that) were introduced in the 6th film, and discussed in the books quite extensively for the last 3, together with a look at what Dumbledore's life really was . . . it's something that probably is blah and not all that clear in the film if you haven't read them. I like the last 2 very much because they ended up looking just like I imagined the books, and they were pretty impressive as epics.

Justin Garrett Blum said...

Also, there were too many things that felt glossed over, as though I was expected to have read the book or something. Like that sword that Harry finds in the river. What was that about? He loses it at some point as I recall, and then it turns up again in another character's possession with no explanation of how. There were a bunch of little things like this that bothered me.