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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Posted by on Jul 30th, 2011 and filed under Latest. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

I have oodles of respect for the Harry Potter cast & crew – and particularly David Yates – for pulling this off. You have to. It’s never been done before, and might never be done again.

Eight movies, ten years, one cast, adapting the most beloved series of books in the history of fiction, with the full compliance of the author? Just typing it makes it feel like an outlandish gamble. They rolled the dice when Dan Radcliffe was eleven and slapped over a billion dollars on the table to back him up. The fact that they’ve recouped that stake sevenfold - making it the highest grossing film franchise of all time – is testimony to the skill & enthusiasm of everyone involved. They kept their pledge to us. They took the books and they didn’t f*ck them up.

Consequently, to be overly critical of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2 would feel like an exercise in nit picking. All the elements of the book are there: the Gringott’s raid, the Horcrux hunt, the Snape revelations, and the final battle, all rendered seamlessly in the best 3D I’ve ever seen – yes, you read right, I’m standing up for 3D on this one because it looks like a perfect conversion. You can just tell they’ve worked really hard to create natural focal points that never detract from the drama and, if anything, the drop in luminance actually enhances the cinematography’s bleak end-of-days chic.

Almost every cast member delivers, as you’d expect from the finest collection of British thesps ever assembled. Pop to the toilet and you might miss Jim Broadbent & Julie Walters, but they give solid performances grounded in the series’ history, bolstered by its backstory, unfettered and uncluttered. They provide excellent support for the likes of Maggie Smith & Ralph Fiennes, both at the top of their games, but the stand-out is Alan Rickman’s Snape.

Anyone who’s read the book will know the truth behind Severus Snape, the supposed villain whose heart, at the last, rewrites everything we’ve ever known about him; but Rickman’s portrayal captures all that agony & antipathy so faultlessly that he should be added to at least one Academy’s Best Supporting Actor list. The extended nature of the series makes his an almost unique performance that repays retrospection, and it deserves some reward, even if it’s sold as an all-encompassing nod to the entire endeavour.

The supporting cast’s collective strength is ever-so-slightly double-edged, however. The weak point was always going to be the principals. Even as Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint were cushioned by the cream of RADA & the RSC, their comparative inexperience was always going to be more obvious, and it’s more telling here, at the death, than in any other entry in the series. Here is where they can’t be children, here is where they must become men & women, and it’s a tribute to them, again, that they only fractionally fall short.

I always thought Radcliffe was a brilliant Harry. He created & developed that character consistently on his terms. True, he made me feel very little when he raised his face from the Pensieve after discovering Harry’s true destiny, but Dan goes toe-to-toe with Ralph Fiennes and more than holds his own.   

Like Daniel, Rupert & Emma have defined their characters from the first frame and allowed them to naturally evolve year-on-year. It’s hardly their fault that their story arcs are shorter than Harry’s, but I’m intrigued to see if they can develop beyond Ron & Hermione. Dan has already stretched himself across the West End and Broadway stages, but all Rupert Grint knows is Ron Weasley. His acting instincts have evolved to support the one character, and I’m intrigued to see if he can break out of Ron’s gormless Hogwarts groove. His title role in the upcoming Eddie The Eagle suggests not, but then all three are now multi-millionaires who need never work again so Rupert probably couldn’t care less.

Regardless of the future, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows will always be a triumph - a heart-breaking adrenaline hit that will be a long-standing testament to what you can achieve with the right crew and the right kids. And that’s the greatest thing about the Harry Potter series, for me. It eschews the auteur theory more than any other franchise. Or perhaps it’s more that the directors have allowed their identities – if not their imprints - to be erased for Harry’s benefit. There’s no Peter Jackson figure, no George Lucas overlord. It feels acknowledged that these films were faithfully made by a massive team for our gratification. Thanks to their selfless labours, Harry Potter will always belong to us.

I can’t wait to read the books to Sofia & Pablo, and I’ll be proud to show them the movies. Every year, thousands of children will discover their magic all over again. This may be the final film, but we will be watching it for generations.

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