Harry gets his war on | Rock Candy

Friday, July 15, 2011

Harry gets his war on

Posted By on Fri, Jul 15, 2011 at 2:26 PM

Harry and You Know Who
  • Harry and You Know Who

The family and I braved the dead of night last night to attend one of the midnight showings of the final Harry Potter flick: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2." Turns out it was a Potter film well worth standing in line with a bunch of sweaty, robe-wearing virgins. The darkest film of the seven-episode series, 'Hallows 2' is, by turns, dangerous, suspenseful, funny and moving — unafraid to kill off treasured characters and show on-screen death and battle as befitting war. Best of all, the film gives the ol' heave-ho to a lot of the filler/red herrings of Rowling's text while keeping the stuff that matters. It's a lovely end to a classic series.

Read the full review on the jump...

Sitting in the theater, waiting for the lights to go down, the energy was palpable enough that the audience burst into applause when the management flickered the lights once (that said, I was thinking of the way my too-smart-by-half son said the series should have ended around two films back: "Voldemort has been defeated. The crowd clusters around a smiling Harry. The camera zooms in on his eye, then pulls back to reveal him in a padded room, wearing a straightjacket. In the hallway outside, Dr. Dumbledore frowns at Dr. Riddle and says: 'Poor boy. Hasn't spoken a word since the murder of his parents.'"). Over the years, the Potter series has included all films for all fans — kidflick, mystery, tear-jerker, quasi-political movie and coming-of-age tale. Here, finally, was "Harry Get Your Wand," the wizarding war movie fans had been waiting for, with all the chips held by the Forces of Good and the Forces of Evil on the table.

WARNING: Minor spoilers ahead...

The film starts with Harry just having buried yet another of his heroic friends — the elf, Dobby, who has just saved the lives of Harry, Herminone and Ron from the clutches of the followers of Voldemort. Harry and his friends are still on the trail of a series of hidden horcruxes — pieces of Lord Voldemort's soul, secreted in mundane objects, which allow him to be immortal. Find and destroy all the horcruxes, and you destroy the Dark Lord and save the wizarding world. In the meantime, Harry's old adversary Severus Snape has taken over Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry after the death of former headmaster and Harry's mentor Albus Dumbledore, turning it into a cruel place where punishment and torture is common.

In order to find the remaining horcruxes, Harry, Ron and Hermione have to go on a series of death-defying adventures, including breaking into (and out of) Gringott's Bank with the help of a semi-friendly dragon, and finally going behind enemy lines to bust into the heavily-guarded Hogwarts castle itself. This scheme results in a rather thrilling siege of the castle and subsequent battle that put the reviewer very much in mind of some of the more sprawling warmaking in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. In the midst of the conflict, of course, comes death for both old enemies and dear heroes, revelations about an unlikely ally and a new understanding about a person Harry thought of as one of his closest friends. It all culminates in a final showdown between Harry and Lord Voldemort, who holds the Elder Wand, the most powerful magical object in existence.

If there are failings in "Hallows 2" they mostly come from the filmmaker and screenwriter being forced to cram in a lot of the things that J.K. Rowling herself probably would have left on the cutting room floor had it not been the Going Out of Business Sale for Harry Potter, Inc. (as a series, anyway — something tells us the cash registers will keep ringing for years to come). Chief among these are the Deathly Hallows themselves, three powerful magical objects that are rumored to give the holder dominion over life and death. In the books, the Deathly Hallows seem like an afterthought, while the horcruxes are a better and more workable plot device. Why Rowling decided to shoehorn them in is debatable, but the filmmakers wisely chose to divert attention away from the Deathly Hallows in this film, with only the Elder Wand playing a big role, the Resurrection Stone only playing a minor part in one scene, and the fabled Cloak of Invisibility not really mentioned at all.

By focusing on the horcruxes and their destruction, "Hallows 2" becomes a thrilling race to the finish — with the finish being an equally-thrilling battle. In the midst of that battle, Harry comes to a lot of new conclusions about both himself and the people he thought he knew, including some truly heartbreaking insight about professor Severus Snape, his connections to Harry's mother, and Snape's true motives since the moment Harry's parents were killed. The moment Harry discovers the truth about Snape is moving, and Alan Rickman — like the rest of the cast — handles his big moment in the spotlight brilliantly, bringing several of the folks around the reviewer to tears. The Big Three — Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson — also bring sensitivity and a real sense of sacrifice to the characters. It's Radcilffe's Harry, though, who winds up the magical Christ-figure, willing to give up his own life to save the world, and selling you on the gravity of that choice every step of the way. It probably won't spoil anything for you to hear that Harry and his friends wind up triumphing over the forces of evil. The film ends on an two-decades-in-the-future coda that put the perfect cherry on the whole cycle.

In short: a lovely end to a fairly decent series. You shouldn't miss this one, if only so you can tell your grandkids that you saw it in theaters. Like "Star Wars" and the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, it's kinda destined to be a big thing for generations to come.

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