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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) confronts his fate
in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.

3.5 Stars

All good things must come to and end, even Harry Potter. The eighth and final film in the enormously successful series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, lives up the promise of its immediate predecessor, Deathly Hallows: Part 1, and provides the series and its fans with the send-off they deserve. It's a briskly paced film full of excitement. Every actor in the massive ensemble is at his or her best, and the sense of closure brings a great deal of emotion to the table. It's quite an achievement, one of the best in the series, the best film of the summer, and totally deserving of the record-breaking box office and overwhelming praise it has received.

After burying the loyal house elf Dobby at the end of the last film, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) decides he must continuing pursuing the hidden horcruxes, pieces of Voldemort's (Ralph Fiennes) soul, in order to finally defeat his enemy. This quest takes he, Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson), to Gringotts, the wizarding bank, and Hogwarts. Once there, he reconnects with this old teachers and friends for one final stand against the forces of evil on their doorstep. But the end to this tale has already been written, and to see it through, Harry is going to have to make one last sacrifice.

The film disposes completely of exposition; If you haven't seen the previous 7 films, you might as well sit this one out. But for those of you, like me, who've taken in every word on every page of J.K. Rowling's novels, you'll find yourself immediately swept up in Harry's quest. The lack of a true beginning to this film means we get right into the action extremely quickly, and while that might seem like a negative, it ultimately contributes to the film's biggest asset: it's breakneck pace.

I'm not sure I've ever felt a two-plus hour film go by so quickly. It's strange because the film only covers about a third of Rowling's book, and there are a handful of scenes that feel a bit overextended. In fact, much of the finale is plotless. It's just a big battle with a bunch of different characters and whole lot of chaos. It shouldn't work as well as it does, but I've got no complaints.

The action is both good and bad. I thought the Gringotts break-in was tremendous. The fiery escape from the Room of Requirement was great. And the final confrontation between Harry and Voldemort was incredibly intense. But most of the other battles—both wizard duels and fights with other magical creatures—seemed generic. The only duel in the series that I remember fondly was between Dumbledore and Voldemort in Order of the Phoenix. I guess they just didn't translate too well from the page to the screen.

I still think Daniel Radcliffe gave a better performance in Order of the Phoenix, but he's excellent here as well. Rupert Grint and Emma Watson have less to do than in the other films, but they're both solid. Alan Rickman gives the film's best performance as Snape. The conclusion to his story is tragic, and Rickman proves himself more than capable of pulling of the difficult transformation his character must undergo.

The Harry Potter series has been a constant over the past ten years, something we could consistently rely on, and now that it's done, I know I'll miss it. With eight films in the can, most of them quite good, and billions and billions of dollars worldwide, we might never see anything like this again. The hardest thing to do for any series, however, is to end on a high note. Harry Potter achieves that with this film. Director David Yates, screenwriter Steve Kloves, and the rest of the team behind this film and the 7 others should be proud of everything they've accomplished. They had a tough task on hand and were under a great deal of pressure, but for the most part, they did a magical job.


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