SUMMER MOVIES: Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2

There seem to be three types of Harry Potter fans; movie fans, book fans, and those who are fans of both.  I have heard many people claim to love the movies having never read the books.  I don’t think it’s necessary to read all the books in order to enjoy the movies, although it sure can’t hurt (when’s the last time that reading was a bad thing?)  I fall into category three.  I have read all the books and began doing so out of curiosity, which later blossomed into a genuine love of the books and the series as a whole.  I got it.

A stigma is usually assigned to any adult who adores this series (in either form), usually having them relegated to being someone of childish taste and a passion for magical, whimsical folly.  Well, I call bullshit, especially to those who have never seen or read anything from the series.  Judging from afar is probably the most ignorant practice one can undertake and yields you no basis for authenticity in your opinion.  In sum: Pick up a book, pop in a blu ray, or shut the fuck up.

Okay…*dismounting soap box*…let’s all gather round and talk some Potter.  First off, one of the true strengths of this series is that it’s not built around situations, but rather around characters and how they deal with situations.  One may assume, initially, that it’s all about one magical event to the next.  Well, that may be true to an extent, but it’s never without the journey of those involved at the forefront of the adventure, which sets the Potter series apart from every other “franchise” series (ahem…Twilight).

Author J.K. Rowling has created not only a truly magical and vivacious world within Potter-verse, but has created defining characters who we, the audience, genuinely want to see advance, live, love, die, or be redeemed.  To me, that is the absolute best factor in the Potter series.   As I finished each book, I didn’t want to stop reading.  I wanted the story to go on and if I’d had the next book in the series at my side I would’ve kept going.  Alas, I had to wait.

I was reading The Deathly Hallows while serving in Iraq, sitting in a remote patrol base in the middle of fucking nowhere (Jurf As Sukr, to those few who share my sentiments of that location) and it was such a great escape during that time.  For one rotation out at that patrol base, I couldn’t give a shit about anything, but getting back to that book.  Well, staying alive was priority, but next up was The Deathly Hallows.  I remember finishing the book and just sitting there astonished at how J.K. Rowling had pulled off an utterly and completely satisfying ending to the series.

When you talk about the wrap up of a long-running series, be it a book, TV show, movie trilogy, etc., you usually find that there is a massive divide in the satisfaction levels of the fans who supported the series.  Look at shows like Lost or movie series like The Matrix. I’m sure everyone could rattle off a number of series’ and recount what they loved or hated about how it all came to a close.  I am no stranger to this.  Obviously, if you’re reading this, you know I’ve got an opinion about such things.

With The Deathly Hallows, Rowling knocked it out of the fucking park.  Yes, I have to swear.  Earmuffs if it bothers you.  I sat in that shitty patrol base and just stewed, feeling at once inept at my own creative endeavors and humbled.  This was an author that not only knew how to deliver a satisfying finale, but knew herself and her writing and her characters and everything in between so well that she simply could not fail.  I thought about The Deathly Hallows over and over again for many days, even weeks, just baffled by how well the whole orchestra of the series, from start to finish, was conducted.

There is utter brilliance in the way Rowling grew these books with their audience.  Starting the lead characters, Harry Potter, Ronald Weasley, and Hermione Grainger, as first year students at Hogwarts at age 11 and advancing them, obviously, in each book, Rowling found a true balance in recreating the thoughts, feelings, emotions, and general process of growing up in each book.  As an audience/reader, you could easily relate to each one of these characters, often attributing yourself to one of them, as they were so diverse in character and action.

Tonally, the books and films, gradually progress from a state of wonder and magical awakening (much like the innocence of being a child) through the turmoil of adolescence and finally into the journey of adulthood.  The themes grow darker and darker, as the childhood wonder and innocence is broken and the harshness of reality and growing up are thrust upon these characters.  It is such a metaphoric journey, one that signifies the same trials and tribulations we all face in life, regardless of the fact that none of us have gone to a magic school called Hogwarts.

I think each film is strong and I enjoy them all for varying reasons.  However, I think the tipping point for the series was Order of the Phoenix, as the tone superseded dark and went bleak.  As life and death began to truly hang in the balance for these characters and the evil of Voldemort began to climb, the films launched themselves into an awesome maze of intrigue, adventure, and suspense that bests some of the most nail-biting films of the past.

A large part of this transition and ultimate visionary success belongs to director David Yates, a British filmmaker who was able to capture the vast, epic scope of the Potterverse with magnificent clarity and wit.  Yates simply gets it.  He gets Potter, he gets the story, and it’s as if he has a connection from Rowling’s brain to the books and finally to the screen.  Yates films all the sequences in his films (which includes all the films from “Phoenix” to “Hallows”) as if ripped straight from the page.

This is to say nothing of how well the actors, who have embraced the Potter journey as much as the fans, in embodying these timeless characters and bringing them to life in such a genuine way.  Daniel Radcliffe, as Harry Potter, Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley, and Emma Watson as Hemione Granger, have put a definitive face and charm to these characters that will stand as a testament to their dedication as actors in remaining so consistent and bright throughout this long-standing series.

All of the supporting cast members, who are too many to name here, have all done brilliant work in their roles, from start to finish.  Pretty much if you were British and had any kind of clout in Hollywood then you were likely to find a role in one of the Potter films.  And there were so many great actors involved; Jason Isaacs, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Ralph Fiennes, Brendan Gleeson, Alan Rickman, John Hurt…the list goes on.  Simply an awe-inspiring cast that has created a truly memorable film experience.

So, after waxing poetic on the series as a whole, what did I think of the finale?  Was the film version as epic as the books’?  The short answer is: Yes.  Absolutely.

I saw the film in 3D, which isn’t necessary, but was a fun way to see it through.  The effects were cool and Yates gives more of the epic, iconic moments that make the 3D much more useful than the wimpy ways it’s been used in other films.  What I loved about the film is that it is so utterly grown up.  It’s the pinnacle of Potter’s quest and it feels like an endgame, which it is.  There are some great sequences of editing paranoia that Yates thrusts on us, that I found myself thinking how cool it was that they would take those types of risk in what is, in all actuality, a fairly formulaic (but in a good way) franchise.

One caveat to the whole thing: If you are just walking into Potter for the first time with Deathly Hallows 2, it is highly likely that you will be very confused about what’s going on.  Much like Kill Bill vol. 1 & 2, they are best viewed as a whole to reach the full circle of the story.  Without seeing Deathly Hallows 1, an audience member may feel alienated from the story entirely.  Talk of horcruxes and wands and Gringotts, etc., will have heads spinning.

Deathly Hallows 2 really does feel like the final third act of a film stretched out to just over two hours.  However, that’s not a problem, especially when viewing the film in the context that it has a first half, which is the previous film.  Like the Lord of the Rings theatrical version vs. director’s cut, there is no competition.  Director’s cut is the way to go.  Deathly Hallows, parts 1 & 2 are the same movie and follow each other in a linear fashion.  You could bridge both together and never notice the break.

Seeing as that’s the case, Deathly Hallows finale is just as epic, emotionally-charged, and suspenseful as its source material.  Seeing all of the characters we’ve come to know and love at the precipice of their journey, literally fighting for their lives in the final showdown is what makes a series like this worthwhile.  It is near impossible to walk away from this film without complete satisfaction, although I am sure some will, because you simply can’t please everybody all the time.  But damn, if this one doesn’t challenge that notion, I don’t know what will.

There are so many great moments, both touching and shocking, from first kisses to courageous acts to secrets revealed, and to final goodbyes.  There’s no use in diving into the details.  If you’ve read the book, then you know what you’re in for.  I would be seriously surprised if you were anything but utterly amazed at the finished film.

The Harry Potter series is a rare bird; an adaptation that not only compliments the source material, but breathes new life into it and does so consistently.  What an amazing thing, to remain steadfast in churning out these films with the same amount of passion and creativity as the one prior and build to a finish that allows you to close the book with a satisfying smile, rather then a grimace of what could or should have been (save that for Star Wars fans).  As a fan of not only films, but the books that spark the imagination, it is a tremendous feeling knowing that every now and again a faithful adaptation can open the doors to hope.  That may sound like cheesy hyperbole, but as a creative individual, I fear my own work as much as I love creating it, and it fills me with inspiration when I see something transcend beyond its bonds.  And Harry Potter certainly does that.


2 Responses to SUMMER MOVIES: Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2

  1. DO July 18, 2011 at 7:29 pm #

    This reminds me of a moment of Gilmore Girls, when…

    • Paul Shirey July 18, 2011 at 7:39 pm #

      …they talked about boyfriends. HA! This could be worthy of making your yearly trip to the movies. Although, I’d save it for Captain America if that’s the true case.

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