(Originally published at Press Plus 1)
(SPOILER-FREE, BUT YOU WILL PROBABLY HATE ME ANYWAY)
I’ve lamented before, often at great length, about the inherent difficulties that lie in attempting to review something so beloved as Harry Potter. That difficulty is only compounded when taking into account the fact that this is indeed the last film in the series. There seems to be such an outpouring of grief and/or relief over what many are calling the end of an era. As a fan, I can understand the emotions at hand here, even though the term “mourning period” seems rather ridiculous when one takes things in perspective.
Is this just a sign of the times? Is this “and the heavens wept” type of reaction just another result of an arts and entertainment world that revolves around fandoms and franchises? Whatever happened, I wonder, to the one-off wonder? I remember reading many books in my childhood that I loved to death and read repeatedly, never begging for a sequel, never begging for a film version. If anything, the sequels that did exist seemed underwhelming and best left ignored. (I think most of Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. Oh, how that disappointed me.) Alas, I am starting to rant now.
Inevitably, truth be told, it is a little sad. The story has come to an end… albeit rather anti-climatically for those who have already devoured the books and know how this all shakes down. How much time must pass now before we can take the entire film series as a whole? Should it been seen that way?
This is a question beyond me, but I bring it up because Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two simply cannot be taken alone. In splitting the films based on the seventh book into two, it seems logical that the two films rely entirely on each other to make sense. Where I think Part One stood well on its own (and might even take the prize as my personal favourite in the series), Part Two requires its mate for satisfactory viewing pleasure.
I understand. I really do. All this film encompasses is the climax. I know that. I do. Where Part One was a road movie, glistening with a slow-burning tension likened to hanging on the edge of a precipice, Part Two is straight-forward action. It is a page taken directly from Die Hard: action, blood, gore, witty one-liner; wash, rinse, repeat.
Again: I understand. I really do. We do not need to waste time building character or tension or establishing location or any of that “boring” stuff. All the great internal struggles of the characters are already resolved, so let’s just go in for the big bad! But, quite frankly, this makes it boring. As much as we care about external black-and-white struggles, it is the internal ones that connect us emotionally to any story. Perhaps this is why I found Part One more emotionally fulfilling. By Part Two, all character motivations equate themselves to “Don’t Die.” But characters do die. Many, many characters die. Many beloved characters die.
Yet the deaths are handled in such a fast-paced way that we don’t really get a chance to wallow in the emotion of it all. It’s quite shocking, actually. Just as you realize, “oh, hey, what the hell happened?” we cut away to another chunk of action. I can imagine for someone who has not read the books, it is quite a lot of take in all at once. For someone who has read the books, it is emotionally unfulfilling. Even the rewards, such as the much-anticipated kiss (you all know which one I mean), and Mrs. Weasley’s much-heralded Best Line Ever pass by without fanfare.
A perfect example of how well these all-important plot points could be handled is the grand reveal of Snape’s true nature. Without giving any spoilers, all I will say is perhaps this just showcases what a fantastic actor Alan Rickman is. In even a simple quiver of his lip, the man conveys everything Snape is feeling. The emotions spring forth from a tiny wrinkle in his brow like gold cups multiplying over and over again in Gringott’s bank. It was fantastic. I cried.
I must also note the unconvincing attempt to remind us the good old days: how things were before Voldemort crashed the party, when all Harry cared about was Quidditch, when Seamus kept blowing himself up. Wow, those were good times. We get subtle jokes and nods towards these light-hearted moments of earlier films, but it does not have the full-circle effect I expected they intended. Rather, it seems a step backward when really we should be reminded just how far the series has come. Perhaps in their last chance to enter the world of Harry Potter, things were played a bit too safe. The film could stand to take a few risks.
Now, this review makes it seem like I did not enjoy the film at all. That is a lie. I did. I loved it. Watching it on its own, however, it kind of like watching the last disc on the extended edition Return of the King DVD. You get a resolution, but it feels a little hollow out of context.
But I guess that’s to be expected. Also, don’t see it in 3-D; that only makes it more difficult to take seriously.
Please hand me my tissues now.