Thursday, July 14, 2011

Welcome Back, Harry!

Tonight’s the night! Harry Potter returns for the 8th and final movie in this record-shattering series based on the books by J. K. Rowling. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II hits theaters tonight at 11:59 p.m. Long lines are assured. Will the faithful come away satisfied? I believe they will.

Wizards Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) continue their search for Horcruxes - objects that hold pieces of Lord Voldemort's (Ralph Fiennes) soul, which they must find and destroy in order to render the dark lord mortal. 
First, know that this final film, part two of the seventh and last book in the series, presumes that by this time you know the characters (even the minor ones), so director David Yates plunges right into the story without undue exposition. The more you remember from the previous movies, the more you’ll understand. But never mind that – you’ll be able to follow most of it even if your memory is shot.
As the youngsters have aged, the  challenges and dangers have escalated. So too has the violence. While this PG-13 film may be a little intense for the young ones, at least there’s nothing else objectionable in it (language, sex, gore, drugs – well, there are spells). I find it refreshing.
But I digress. While I have loved all the previous films – some more than others and most of all the first one – this one may be the most sophisticated of them all. Not only is it vintage Harry Potter, it now deals with some very heavy and adult themes, the most important being life and death.
Fortunately the acting ability of the young cast,  completely intact through all eight films, has grown with each film, leading up to this delicious ending.

So, what can you expect? Many, many of the cast members return, some we haven’t seen for several films. All are a welcome addition. We even get to see Albus Dumbledore again (those who have seen other films can understand the sweetness of this) as well as Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) and Mr. Ollivander (John Hurt). In fact, Dumbledore utters one of the best lines in the movie: "Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
Besides the awesome acting of those three kids who have carried the series, especially Daniel Randcliffe who is just amazing, the veterans deliver powerful performances as well. Harry is called upon not only to be the moral and sympathetic center of the film, but in this one, also a buff action hero. He delivers. 
I (and the audience) especially loved Maggie Smith as Prof. Minerva McGonnigal and Julie Walters as Ron’s mum. Matthew Lewis does a terrific job in his role as reluctant hero Neville Longbottom.
If you want creatures, you won’t be disappointed. There are some truly awe-inspiring ones, including a huge dragon. Oh, there’s just so much eye-candy and so much action is this, I can’t possible begin to describe it all.
So let me go about this another way. I love the way they bring things back; it’s so satisfying to know they haven’t lost sight of the many things that charmed and enthralled us from the beginning. I was especially delighted by the music, which brought back wonderful memories of the first film. The special effects are so amazing, created by a large contingent of geniuses. Many of them are merely throw-aways, there just to delight us. The cinematography is beautiful – especially in 3-D. Yes, this is one you will want to see in 3-D. (The glasses are Harry Potter glasses!) In this case, 3-D did what it is supposed to do – enhance the experience. Everything had so much depth.
The climactic battles scenes were a little over the top, but after all, it was a battle of good and evil with the outcome of the human race (I presume) on the line. And magic plays a great role in making those scenes new and fresh.
I can’t tell you the ending (in case you haven’t read the book) but it’s a wonderful, satisfying, if bittersweet denouement to a great story.

For some inexplicable reason, the series has not gotten much love from the Academy (Oscars) or even from the foreign press (Golden Globes). I am hopeful that this final film will not be snubbed, but will be accorded the accolades it deserves.
I am very grateful to J.K. Rowling and all the powers that be who decided to be true to the books when translated to film. As millions of children and adults will attest, it was a magical, wonderful ride that has cemented its place in history. Gotta love it.
This film deserves all 4 reels (out of 4). 

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