FilmSlashTV: ‘Deathly Hallows’ a satisfying bit of magic

Jul. 15, 2011 | 1 Comment

Harry Potter discovers he's not the only one who suffers in the conclusion of the popular film series. (Courtesy Warner Bros.)

REVIEW BY BURL BURLINGAME / bburlingame@staradvertiser.com

This is the end, and the survivors have the battered, weary, wise contours of being shaped by experience. That’s pretty much what growing up is like, and we’ve seen the characters in the Harry Potter books and films, over the decade of the ‘aughts, grow before our eyes, from fresh-faced, shiny, colorful children into grim, drained adults. What has survived is our love for the characters, and their love for each other, and that’s the legacy of J.K. Rowling’s creation.

This is a critic-proof film if ever there was one, and there are certainly nits to be picked and scabs to be scratched, but they all boil down to personal desires of the viewer and tough decisions made by the filmmakers. The only reason this film isn’t a full four-stars is because some lesser characters and some drifty sub-plots are short-changed, and “Potter” is all about the details and the personalities. There will certainly be something left out of the books that you wish would be in the films.

That said, I offer only two core pieces of advice:

» Watch Part 1 of “Deathly Hallows” again before going. This new film is the second half of a greater film, and the epic arc is clearer with a updated viewing of the first half. I mostly remember the first film as a lot of camping and hiking and dialogue, but everything is a set-up for Part 2.

» For God’s sake, don’t see it in 3-D. It is an utter, brain-bruising disaster in 3-D. It’s quite, however, brilliant in 2-D.

This final film is about inevitability, both in terms of mortality and fate. The formerly cheerful halls and spires of Hogwarts have become a brooding battlefield, shattered and crumbled. Still, it’s Hogwarts, and must be defended. As a metaphor for enlightenment, the school, with its zany diversity of personalities and zest for knowledge, can’t be beat. I see the assaults on the hallowed doors of Hogwarts, and I think of religious zealotry being mandated in science classes.

It all comes out right at the end, although there is a price, and the cost, essentially, is the hopeful, trusting nature of childhood. Harry, Hermione and Ron survive into adulthood, primarily because of each other. The series of Potter films have become increasingly canny about the nature of love and loyalty, even when it’s subtext in the flurry of creepy CGI effects and astonishing art design. These films are not about CGI, they are about themes and characters, and the filmmaking tricks are just tools to that end.

The “Harry Potter” films have also become a home for many of Britain’s best actors, and the films have been a keystone in a revival of the British film industry. They take their iconic fantasy seriously, since they invented the genre.

Everyone will have their favorite moments, and I shan’t lard on any spoilers here. My own favorite bit is when Neville Longbottom steps up to the plate after seven films of snarky harrowment to hit one out of the park. In a lesser film, this would be a cheap crowd-pleaser; here, it’s a mini-sermon on potential and an illuminating lightning flash about — yes! — not judging a book by its cover.

I’ve never been a fan of movies that rely on magic to get things done. The solution to everything is to twiddle your fingers and yell abracadabra-oogie-oogie-boogie and it’s handled in a flash of CGI. That’s a cheap, insulting way out. But the Potter universe, magical as it is, is more grounded in the heart and soul than many fictions.

You don’t read Harry Potter to escape, you read Harry Potter to find your way.

‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2′

Rated PG-13

In theaters now

  • Bob Burns

    Good advice to your readers – watch part one first.

    And, very good wrap up, too. thanks – “But the Potter universe, magical as it is, is more grounded in the heart and soul than many fictions. You don’t read Harry Potter to escape, you read Harry Potter to find your way.” very true for me.

    Usually, when I’ve read the source material, an inner critical voice gives commentary as I watch the film….. that voice was silent during HPDH2. Credit the filmmakers for earning credibility and trust.

    Radcliffe was the biggest surprise. Those scenes near the end…. wow.