It is doubtful that anyone could have conceived of the utter media phenomenon that the Harry Potter franchise would become when J.K. Rowling first set pen to paper. Even the first movie was something of a risky move, featuring a primary cast of then-unknown child actors. In the ensuing years, the filmmakers managed the near-impossible feat of keeping nearly all of the same core actors across eight films. As a result, audiences got to see the story progress in roughly real time, and a whole generation of fans practically grew up alongside its favorite characters. Now, the story is about to conclude, and they've saved the best for last.
Filmed back-to-back with last year's release, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1," "Part 2" starts up right where the prior film left off. The sequence with Lord Voldemort breaking into Dumbledore's tomb is repeated before returning to the beach, where the group landed after escaping from Malfoy Manor.
For someone who's read the books or seen all the prior movies, that should be enough to jog your memory and get you up to speed, but if you've never experienced Potter before, here are the essentials:
- Harry Potter: Hero of the story. Voldemort wants to kill him because of a prophecy that says Potter is the one who can kill Voldemort.
- Voldemort: Super powerful, evil wizard. Wants to rule the world by force. Afraid of dying.
- Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger: Potter's best friends and fellow wizardry students.
- Severus Snape: A master of the dark arts and a teacher at Hogwarts. Killed Dumbledore at the end of the sixth film.
- Hogwarts: School where young wizards and witches go to learn the craft. Big castle.
- Death Eaters: Evil wizards that follow Voldemort.
- Horcrux: Magical item that contains a piece of a wizard's soul. Voldemort cannot die until all his horcruxes have been destroyed.
One of the strengths of the Potter series has always been its richly detailed world, and "Deathly Hallows: Part 2" doesn't shy away from that. If you are intimately familiar with either the books or prior films, there are an inordinate number of small details that will be immediately appreciated. It also speaks to the skill of the director in the movie's ability to stand alone and still be enjoyed by someone with little to no knowledge of the prior events. No matter how you approach it, "Deathly Hallows: Part 2" is sure to have appeal.
Where it differs from the prior films is in the tone. This is partially due to the fact that "Deathly Hallows: Part 2" is at once both the climax of the seventh story as well as the climax of the entire seven-story saga. Most of the exposition has already been done, and everything is building toward the ultimate battle between good and evil. Yes, there are some secrets to be revealed, and there are breaks in between the major set pieces, but by and large, the focus here is on the action.
Not wasting any time, the movie quickly gets to the first set piece, which is when our erstwhile heroes need to infiltrate the secure confines of Gringotts Bank. Run by goblins, the bank is an odd juxtaposition of natural beauty and outrageous greed. The surface level is shiny and polished, with towering marble columns, while the lower vault levels are quite utilitarian, having been carved right into the bedrock. Luxuries of the lobby are also lost in the vault, as transport can best be described as a roller-coaster mine cart. Of course, getting in is easier than getting out, especially when dragons are involved.
The Gringotts sequence is impressive, but the highlight of the film is easily the climactic battle for Hogwarts. With the Death Eaters on one side and a ragtag group of students, wizards and witches on the other, the battle is a visual cornucopia of special effects. Impressively rendered in 3-D, the action quickly builds to a frenetic pace. Spells are blasting, swords are swinging and things are exploding — all while creatures of every imaginable type are fighting for their lives. Even when the focus breaks for a minute to focus on Potter's search for the last hidden horcrux, the sounds of battle are never far. It will be interesting to see how well this sequence translates over to the game.
Despite the constant push for action, the underlying story never feels overlooked or rushed. As mentioned earlier, there are some key secrets revealed in the film, but nothing said or done was completely out of left field. All of the elements leading up to the final moments have been carefully laid out in the prior films, setting the foundation for what happens here. When so many stories end up relying on a deus ex machina to resolve a difficult issue, it is refreshing to see one unfold that doesn't take the easy way out.
With a solid script and beautiful cinematography (spend the extra dollars to see this one in 3-D), about the only complaint longtime Potter fans are likely to have is the film's length. At roughly two hours (not counting credits), "Deathly Hallows: Part 2" is around 20 minutes shorter than the prior films. However, the pacing never feels rushed.
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" is a well-crafted movie that just about anyone is sure to enjoy, Potter fan or not. There is a moment or two at the very end where the actors briefly chew the scenery, but otherwise, this is a rare experience that is top-notch all the way.
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 2 hours and 10 minutes. It is showing in 2-D, 3-D and IMAX.
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