Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

©2011, Warner Bros. Pictures

(L-R) DANIEL RADCLIFFE as Harry Potter, EMMA WATSON as Hermione Granger and RUPERT GRINT as Ron Weasley in Warner Bros. Pictures' fantasy adventure HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS - PART 2, a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

I agree with my fellow critics.  There isn’t much point in reciting (spoiling) to you the particulars of the film.  Watch it for yourself, either because you’re a Harry Potter fan and need closure, or because it is, in fact, one of those rare instances where cinema transcends a genre and uses ogres, wizards, spells and broomsticks as merely backdrop for telling us a legitimately good, human story about growing up.

It fascinates me that the tendency of Hollywood is to use the locked-in audience of a franchise like cattle to a slaughter, spiting patrons with no more than they’ll merely settle for because studio executives know they’ll see the film anyway.  Director David Yates has done the opposite, and used the assurance of grosses to convince Warner Bros. to allow him what paranoid, insecure, unimaginative studio bosses might otherwise refuse to risk: tell an engaging story.

Offset occasionally by high contrast close-ups of Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) at his most frightened, flat and colorless when exhausted from all the trials this journey put him through, cinematographer Eduardo Serra’s drab patina and near-greyscale palette focuses our attention on the principals—Harry, Hermione (Emma Watson), Ron (Rupert Grint)—even amidst chaotic action sequences.  A lesser director than Mr. Yates (Michael Bay comes to mind) would lose all comprehension of space and time.

I think Mr. Yates has done a fantastic job bringing the series into maturity.  Despite my initial objections along the first three or four installments, I don’t think it would have been as interesting to have been done “right” from the very start.  In the end, I tend to give the highest credit to material that evolves and surprises you not with gimmicks but with the distance it takes you from where you began.

That’s important here, because the series ran so long that fans have grown up with the three principal actors.  Their own tastes and sensibilities have evolved and matured with time.  It would be impossible to hook them in to the story, and make them relate to it, by telling it from the darker, adult point of view in which the series concludes.  It surprised me, and pleasantly so… and it also made me feel good that movies are, despite the rash of remakes, reboots, sequels, and dreadfully-vacant franchises (Twilight), movies still have the power to connect with us as more than just instant gratification action sequences.

Mr. Radcliffe, Ms. Watson and Mr. Grint, have grown up… Ms. Watson is taking courses at Worcester College, Oxford.  Many of the fans of the series are in college now.  Their lives were defined entering a reality of economic uncertainty and zealous terror that other nations have seen, to which America has only now begun to awaken.  For them, Harry Potter began as an escape but cleverly brought them up to the challenge of a world beset by uncomfortable truths they would have to one day be adult enough to confront.

Parents routinely fail at making their children understand what it’s going to be like when they’re older.  You can’t describe it to them.  They must experience it.  The Potter books and films have, I think, eased that transition and can be a great parenting device.  I know that my own brother, with two kids himself, has read the books and discussed the moral lessons with his kids—growing up, confronting your greatest fears, accepting responsibility, looking out for one another, doing the right thing, forgiving mistakes… I could go on for days about the number of themes that a series this long allows time to address.  But you already know all this.

Voldemort is Vader.  Potter is Skywalker.  These films are Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey”… Star Wars to a generation of kids afraid of being thrust so quickly into adulthood—a reality all too close to home for the post-9/11 generation.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 • Dolby® Digital surround sound in select theatres • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 • Running Time: 130 minutes • MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sequences of intense action violence and frightening images. • Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures

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