Friday, July 29, 2011

BuboBlog Reviews 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2'

(I told you I would get back on the movie-review horse — this is my third in the past six weeks. As always, I post my reviews just slightly too late for them to be of use to anyone. To wit, here's "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2," after everyone has already moved on to "Cowboys & Aliens.")

Well, this it. I've now read the seven Harry Potter books and seen the eight Harry Potter movies. I think on balance it was time well spent, though I never felt like the movies quite captured the excitement of the books. The early films were too hurried, and the later ones seemed to struggle to hide J.K. Rowling's endless contrivances (where's the suspense if every problem can be solved with magic?).

It also occurs to me that there isn't a single line of dialogue from the series that's a bona fide catch-phrase. Eight movies, and no "Show me the money," "Luke, I'm your father," "I'll be back" or "Go ahead, make my day." I suppose at least young people can entertain themselves by reciting the names of spells: "Avada kedavra!"

That said, the final installment came about as close to perfection as the series ever did. It was gorgeously shot, and the special effects finally seemed to catch up with Rowling's imagination. The dragon crashing through Gringotts, the hovering Dementors, the stone knights protecting Hogwarts — they all looked amazing. I recommend seeing the film in 3-D, even though it was a "retrofit job" like "Clash of the Titans." Many of the death scenes involve characters exploding into bits, making good use of the 3-D visuals. Even Nagini the snake — poorly rendered in the earlier films — looked passable here (it helps that the filmmakers cleverly shot Nagini attacking a character from the other side of a frosted window).

At the outset of the film, Professor Snape has seized control of Hogwarts and is running the school with an iron fist (wand?). The children are in uniform and march in perfect formation. It occurs to me that this "Harry Potter" could be reedited to make it seem like Snape is the hard-driving principal in "Lean on Me."

Harry Potter returns to campus after his extended camping trip in the previous film, setting the stage for a showdown with Voldemort and his army of Death Eaters. (Question about the costumes of the Death Eaters: Some appear to be wearing menacing robes, but others are dressed in cheesy street clothes? It gave the impression that a group of soccer hooligans had wandered onto the set.)

Ralph Fiennes finally gets some decent screen time as Voldemort, and he puts in good work. I'm not sure why he had to hold his wand at such a dainty angle, though. He might have benefited from dual wield or at least a "Menace II Society" sideways style. The close-quarters fight scene with Harry Potter didn't help. At one point, it really looked like they were going to make out. I also was waiting for Ron or Neville to shout out, "They're breakdance fighting!"

When it was all over, the film took a very faithful approach to the book's epilogue. In fact, it might have been too faithful. The last line is something fairly specific about the sorting hat. I wasn't sure that was quite the right thought to sum up all eight films and the journey we've taken. But it was a great trip nonetheless.

BuboBlog Rating: 3.5 asterisks (out of 4)