Monday, July 18, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)

Warning: this review contains SPOILERS from the second part of the seventh Harry Potter movie (the final part of the series).

That's it, it's all over. This movie is kind of complicated to review because you can either look at it a) independently, b) as the second half of the full Deathly Hallows experience, or c) as the conclusion to the entire Harry Potter series. As a standalone movie (though having seen the rest of the series), it was very exciting and entertaining. As the continuation of The Deathly Hallows, it was a fitting second half, where all the plotting and running around gives way to the final hefty showdown at Hogwarts. And as the conclusion to the Harry Potter series, well, it's mostly satisfying (more on that in a bit), and certainly you get what you were expecting - the final duel between Harry and the Dark Lord - and everything gets wrapped up neatly in the end.

The final battle was exciting. I really liked that the final showdown ended up being the siege of Hogwarts. Voldemort was somewhat less intimidating in the very end than I anticipated, but I suspect that's due to the fact that he fragmented himself into those horcruxes, and that by destroying them, Harry and friends were able to weaken him considerably even before the final fight. Originally I had viewed those horcruxes as if they were extra lives, but I guess I should have taken the "splinter your soul" (or however it was described) phrase more seriously. Now, I wonder if that was really the best idea. Would Voldemort have been more powerful if he had kept all of his strength within himself? And while we're speaking of the horcruxes, I would have liked to have learned more about their individual significances, though I suspect this may be elaborated on more in the books. They mainly seem to be valuable treasures, which is really cool, and I thought that deserved some more focus.

I stated all the way back in my review of the first HP movie that I like the concept of the wands (and my feelings haven't changed). There's a question, though, of how much power the wands themselves have, and how much of that power is the wizard's own. I like to think of the wands as being conduits for magical power, and that different ones - designed differently and with different materials - will magnify or manifest a wizard's power differently. But then there's also the issue of the wand's will, which is brought up in this film, and turns out to be of critical importance. I expected a more traditional power struggle (like Goku vs. Vegeta) between Harry and Voldemort, with Harry ultimately overpowering Voldemort with the power of his love and friendship, rather than Voldemort failing on a wand-related technicality. But the whole horcrux sidequest seems to suggest that it was always more a battle of strategy than brute strength even from the beginning.

So it turns out I was right in my suspicions about Snape, regarding Dumbledore's death. They were indeed co-conspirators. Though I hadn't imagined Snape's connection to Lily, but it explains a lot. I had wondered how Snape could have been a Death Eater, and yet had later gained Dumbledore's trust. I imagine there's probably more exposition in the books (which I am about to read), as there is a lot in the movies that is sort of glossed over, without going into much detail. I can imagine Snape would have been driven to the dark side due to his experience of unrequited love, yet I wonder how sincere his allegiance to Voldemort ever was, considering that he was able to renounce it, and climb so high as to become a trusted friend of Dumbledore. Was Snape a spy all the way back then, too? Or was it Voldemort's murder of Lily that ultimately turned Snape around? I can see it happening that way.

I talked a bit about Draco in my review of the first part of The Deathly Hallows. I was really hoping that he would come out and do something significant, to redeem his character (either as a reluctant hero or a respectable villain, either way). I guess he's just a weak person. And it's no wonder, his father's a spineless coward. It's too bad, though, because I could really see so much more coming from Draco. If he had been a stronger person, he could've become the next Dark Lord after Voldemort's demise. A true thorn in Harry's side. But I guess that's a story that wasn't meant to be.

I was really moved when it was revealed that Harry's fate was to sacrifice himself to be killed by Voldemort. Maybe it's because I have a bit of a martyr complex. Can you imagine how hard that would be? Coming to terms with the fact that you have to give up your life for the greater good? How could you find the resolve to march willingly to your own slaughter? It's a really heavy development, but I liked it. Though things sort of turned out differently in the end. Maybe the book is better on the details, but I felt a little gypped that Harry came back, after establishing that he was going to have to die. I know, it makes for a good narrative - force the audience to mourn Harry's death, and then give them a happy ending anyway. Plus, seeing Harry come back for the final bout is exciting.

But still, when you make super big decisions like that, you should commit to them. Can you imagine how much different the end of the series would have been if Harry had had to die (and stay dead)? It would have been much darker, yes, but they still could have prevailed over the Dark Lord in the end. It would be a bittersweet victory, for sure, but it would be more emotionally heavy, and perhaps more true to life. Sure, some significant characters did die, but the only one that truly leaves a gap is perhaps Dumbledore, and he was old, anyway. There's no constant memory - "oh, that's right, Harry's not around" - like a memento, of the great battle and just how much was sacrificed.

In fact, that's just the thing. The ending is too convenient. Too concise, too wrapped-up. Nothing has really changed. You get to the epilogue, and 19 years later, you're right back where you started. Almost as if nothing even happened. No real lasting scars or memories. And if nothing else, I was pissed that Harry wasn't the Headmaster of Hogwarts, or at the very least, the Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher. Think about it, not only is Harry Potter the one who defeated the Dark Lord Voldemort, but he's the only guy who was killed, twice, by Voldemort, and lived. That's pretty bad-ass. I mean, what better Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher could you ask for than someone who is immune to the killing curse? And what's more, Harry could have been a Master of Death if he so chose, since all three of the Deathly Hallows passed into his hands (two of which he let slip through his fingers).

Regarding the ultimate pairings, I couldn't help but notice the trend of extraordinary people marrying mediocre people. (And ironically, both of those mediocre people are Weasleys). You got Harry, the boy who lived (and then defeated Voldemort), marrying a damsel in distress, and you have Hermione, the brightest witch of her age, marrying a talentless doofus. When it was first revealed that Harry was going to have to die, I thought that was the reason the author had put Ron and Hermione together - so that they could have some measure of happiness in the long run. Even though Hermione deserves to be with Harry. If there's any good to come from this, it's the reassurance for all the mediocre people out there that you may actually have a chance pairing up with somebody extraordinary. Keep the dream alive!

Speaking of Hermione, Emma was as good as ever in this movie, and actually very cute acting all sweet on Ron, even though I hated that it was Ron that was making her act that way. But as an added bonus, her polyjuice scheme in this part was infinitely more intriguing than the woman she impersonated in part 1 of The Deathly Hallows. Emma looked good dressed up in Bellatrix's goth fashions, and damn if I wasn't convinced at first that Helena Bonham Carter was acting in place of Hermione transformed. Their personalities are so wildly different that to see Helena acting more like an insecure Hermione than a wacked-out Bellatrix threw me for a loop. Well done.

So that's it. I think I've said enough. I'll defer you to some other more dedicated Potter fan to give you more celebration for the conclusion to the series. It's funny to think that I hadn't even been interested in the Harry Potter series until just December of last year - a mere seven months ago - as opposed to those who have been dedicated to it either from the beginning of the film series, or even longer, from the books' original releases. And that's where I'm headed now - to read up on the original story behind this epic film phenomenon.

Emma Rating: Sugary Sweet