Sunday, 24 July 2011

“Of course it’s happening in your head; why should that make it less real?”

Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows II: directed by David Yates; written by Steve Kloves
I imagine that writing a review of the latest Harry Potter is in the technical sense akin to intellectual masturbation – I’m probably the only one getting any gratification from it. This is probably why reviewing it is wrought with so much difficulty, approaching it without taking note of its zeitgeist aspects is impractical. I’d wager that any critic – pseudo or otherwise – went into the film suspecting what they were going to think of it, what grade they’d give it. After seven films there isn’t much that can drastically change about the series, the things that you loved have endured into the aspects you look for and the things that annoy you’ve learned to contend with – and ignore, if possible.

The marked difference between this instalment and its previous encounters is the time it covers. Save for a few minutes of what functions as a prologue, and a scene of memories the film covers a few hours which makes the film seem as if it’s hurtling towards its close and it turns into more of an exercise in all things visuals than anything significant story wise. Essentially, a final two Horcruxes must be found which requires breaking into the Gringotts vault and then Hogwarts. With the particulars of the story stripped to the bare essentials the visuals aspects become principal – a sort of the medium becoming the message sort of occurrence; and it looks fabulous. It’s a battle for the ages and the film looks better than any of the previous instalments.

I always wished that the Harry Potter films had stuck to a single director over the tenure of the entire series. This sort of fantastical fare is the type that places greater emphasis on style than substance and if one were to talk into account the hours devoted to these characters prior to this one, the film surprisingly lacks that emotional profundity that you’d hope for in a final instalment. It’s probably unfair to expect Yates to manage that when previous directors have brought their own flair to project, and it’s doubly unfair because this instalment is a film in itself and not just a glorified epilogue – which, in my defence, it seemed to be at times.
It’s where I have to divide my de facto appreciation from the series from the actual worth of the entry. I’m conscious that it’s not a wholly brilliant endeavour, even though in my mind it’s as good as I could hope for. I devoured, yes devoured, those novels from the moment they came out and I’ve been following the films since they came out so in my mind the situation is probably a whole lot more majestic than it would be for a non-believer. I can point out the shortcomings like an abysmal use of every single supporting character, but I can just as easily make experiences for them because more than any other of the films this is Radcliffe’s show. It seems like such a facetious thing to criticise Radcliffe's acting, especially now when he seems to be the indelible Potter. Acting wise, I'll always say he was at his strongest in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. It's the single installment which depended expressly on the work put in by the child-cast, but here Dumbledore's Harry's is relegated to random moments, some which work more than others. The opening at Shell Cottage isn't as searing as you'd hope, but bigger things like Harry's final walk to Voldermort manage to come off splendidly. There's a moment where Ron and Harry's eyes interlock and you can grasp the importance of the moment. You really can't can't force that sort of rapport, even if Yates places little emphasis on it overall.
Still, I just as easily don’t place as much credit in the things that the film does right like the Pensive, for example because I expect no less. In the same way that I expect nothing less than great Britons to turn up and give great performances from the sidelines in the form of Maggie Smih, HBC and Kelly MacDonald (who is shockingly effective in only a few moments). It’s one of those damning effects of being inextricably linked to a film and its source. So, when that camera panned out and we got that shot of the trio looking out from the ruined castles it wasn’t so much a sigh heaved after a thrill, but a quiet contentment. And sure, in my head I pretended that those last four minutes didn’t happen, because that’s how I wanted to remember it. It was, after all, my party.


Red said...

I think content is the word that is becoming more and more the proper word to describe this film. I really liked it, but it does have it's fair share of flaws.

As a huge fan of the books, this gets my seal of approval.

Castor said...

I think you are under the impression that Cuaron is directing this movie? Of course David Yates directed the last 4 films.

I just went and saw this a second time and I think it holds up quite well. This is no masterpiece but still a one of the best, if not the best entry of the entire saga. I think the emotional climax happened a bit too early in the movie (basically the 20 minutes or so beginning with the trio running into the courtyard with the big battle as a backdrop up until "I'm coming with you" as Harry is about to go into the Forbidden Forest alone)

Walter L. Hollmann said...

I actually liked the epilogue, and I *hated* it in the book. I think it's because it's the same score and shot used for the end of the first film and it got me all nostalgic and teary and realizing that THIS WAS IT.

And yet, I think the movie would have been more effective had it not been broken up into two parts. This one just kind of leapt right in, and since I don't rewatch all the previous films the week before I see the next one, I was sometimes left floundering. There's so much to remember!

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

red it gets my seal of approval too. perhaps not vociferously, but i approve. b/b- is good territory, for me.

castor i didn't realise that i'd cited cuaron, and twice too. no, i meant yates. i can't admit to it being the best of the series, it's a bit too one-track, which is because of the ground it covers. i don't find it nearly as emotionally resonant as some previous installments.

walter i wonder that too, the good thing about the breaking of the two was that EVERYTHING happened but the film does seem like one massive action sequence without the requisite "human" moments. but, nitpicky i guess. in ten years time they'll just make an HBO series for seven years which will be awesome.

Simon said...

I just couldn't figure out who Ron was supposed to be disguised as in Gringotts...

Robert said...

I had the same issue, Simon! But I actually loved this movie and felt it was a worthy end to the series (I loved the books before the movies and was severely disappointed by the past two cinematic installments). I loved HBC and especially Maggie Smith - so fantastic. Thoughts on Alan Rickman?

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

simon i don't think he was really disguised as anyone...i think they just used magic to make him appear older and scruffier.

robert rickman is fine, but i've never been on board the massive snape love. the character's great, but he doesn't really DO much. but the flashback with dumbedlore was GREAT, naturally.