Monday, July 18, 2011

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

My husband and I just got back from watching what is probably the movie of the year, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2.  Like watching Toy Story 3 last summer, it was definitely a bittersweet experience.  Who wants the wonderful world of Harry Potter books and movies to come to an end?  But I have to say, if it has to end, I think they did an excellent job putting the series to rest with this movie.
(Note:  If, by some chance, you haven't read the book and don't want to know any spoilers, then stop reading here.  And I wouldn't advise trying to see the movie without reading the books, or at least seeing all the previous movies; I think you would be completely lost if you came in blind for this one.)

As always, the movies leave out so much about the nuances and the details and the relationships, and like all the movie before it, there were scenes from the book that I was really disappointed not to see in the film.  But the two medias are different, and we have to embrace them for their strengths, rather than complain about their weaknesses.  There were scenes that presented themselves much more dramatically on the screen than I had ever imagined when reading the book, such as the scenes that showed Hogwarts students being marched in en mass that was chillingly reminiscent of Nazism.

But I think this movie does a great job ending the series because it has that good old archetypal feel of inspiring heroes rising to the call and a pretty black and white good triumphing over evil.  By separating the last book into two movies, this last film shows everyone at their best.  Gone are the jealousies and petty behaviors that our three main protagonists exhibited at times in Deathly Hallow, Part 1(and in the previous books); they are brave and true and clever throughout this movie.  And even the bad guys are kind of at their best this time, gathering for a straight-out test of their strengths rather than the political maneuvering or the simpering, sneaky nastiness shown in the earlier films by characters such as Delores Umbridge or Wormtail.

But for me, I think this movie really works because after it all--after all the years of magic and fantastical creatures and flying sports and all the other imaginative flourishes J.K. Rowling has packed into her work--this movie really centers on the two things that make the Harry Potter books so outstanding:  story and characters.  The biggest scenes are not the one with CG effects or new imaginative animals (in fact, the ones that appear, such as giants and dragons and giant spiders and Cornish pixies have all been seen before), but the ones that complete the stories of all these people we've come to love over the years.  FINALLY, we get to hear Snape's story.  FINALLY, we discover Dumbledore's grand plan for Harry.  FINALLY, the obvious couple gets together.  FINALLY, the disrespected underdog has his big hero moment.  FINALLY... lots and lots of plot lines get tied together in a way that brings us to a very satisfied place about these characters that have been developing in our heads and in our hearts for over a decade.

And I have to say, I really like this movie because I can also see it as the Triumph of the Mothers.  When Hogwarts is preparing for attack, it isn't the Aurors or active leaders of the Order of the Phoenix (who have pretty much been men the whole way along, let's face it) who take charge, it is the "in loco parentis" grandmotherly-looking Minerva McGonagall.  It isn't the handsome and talented Sirius Black who defeats the horrible Bellatrix Lestrange, it is the frumpy, domestic, and usually sidelined Molly Weasley who battles Bellatrix to the death when she threatens Molly's only daughter.  And it is Narcissa Malfoy who helps set up Harry's surprising resurrection to his supporters at Hogwarts when she betrays Voldemort to ensure the protection of her son.

So this movie, like the book on which it is based, offers a lot of life lessons about love and friendship and loyalty and the things that are worth fighting for.  But I think it also offers one other key bit of advice:  Don't Mess with the Mamas!

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