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Review – Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part II 3D (12a) [2011]

Star Rating: 3.5/5

So, after more than 1,048 mostly tedious minutes, the boy wizard, Harry Potter, finally comes face to face with his arch nemesis, Lord Voldemort, in this epic final volume of the Harry Potter series. Better than the previous seven films by a considerable distance (not that that is much of a feat), Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part II reaches all expectations in predictable fashion.

Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) secretly leading Harry, Hermione and Ron back into Hogwarts.

Part II follows on from where Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part I finished off. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe – Harry Potter I-VII(i), The Woman In Black), Hermione (Emma Watson – Harry Potter I-VII(i), My Week With Marilyn) and Ron (Rupert Grint – Harry Potter I-VII(i)) must find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes. Only by wiping them out will the trio weaken Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes – Harry Potter IV, V & VII(i), Prince of Egypt, Coriolanus) sufficiently for Harry to stand a chance of defeating him, especially now that the former is armed with the powerful Elder Wand.

But the journey to locate the Horcruxes – not to mention battling it out with the fearsome villains – is fraught with perils. All will end where it began for the staff and pupils of Hogwarts: the school itself. What cost will Harry have to pay for finishing the task set for him by his deceased tutor, Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon – Harry Potter III-VII(i), Ali G Indahouse, The King’s Speech)?

Unlike Part I, the plot for Part II moves at a decent pace without being intense. (Although, one is subconsciously urging the film to quicken so he/she can see how the final duel plays out.) There are flaws in the storyline; however, it would be unfair to criticise director David Yates (Harry Potter III-VII(i)) for these because he has a duty to accurately follow the book, written by JK Rowling, that the film is based upon. Indeed, Yates would have been chastised if he had dared not kept to the book almost to the letter.

Voldemort, Belatrix (Helena Bonham Carter – Suffragette) and Lucius Malfoy (Jason Isaacs) leading the Death Eaters to the perimeter of Hogwarts, ready to lay siege to the school.

Whilst the plot cannot be criticised, the acting certainly can. Once again, the majority of the cast flatter to deceive. One can clearly see that the position for Hogwarts, besieged by Voldemort and the Death Eaters, is dire for much of the movie. But because the acting is by Radcliffe, Watson and Grint is so poor it is hard to empathise with the situation. (The lack of a moving music score does not help either.) Moreover, if Harry’s return to Hogwarts was supposed to inspire hope in the beleaguered school’s pupils and staff, Radcliffe fails miserably to achieve this. (If one thinks back to how well the actors portray the desperate situations in The Two Towers and The Return of the King – parts II & III of The Lord of the Rings series, – or how much confidence Aragorn, played by Viggo Mortensen, arouses in the peoples of Rohan and Gondor just by his presence, it becomes embarrassing to compare the acting by the cast of those two films to that of Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part II.) And what’s with those spontaneous kisses in the midst of combat? Viewing such kisses was awful and cringe-worthy in Pirates of the Caribbean III: At World’s End, and (unsurprisingly) watching them here was just as awful and cringe-worthy. Yates must have been aware of this, so why did he do it? Surely, there were better places to stick in the smooches than at a time when someone’s head could have been zapped into oblivion?

Voldemort

Voldemort and Harry battling it out one last time with their wands in the ruins of Hogwarts.

Nonetheless, the acting was never going to be the most important aspect of Part II. The success of the film was always going to hinge on the CGI and the final duel between Harry and Voldemort. Neither of these let the viewers down and are highly impressive. What’s more, the 3D adds considerably to the spectacle.

So, the Harry Potter series concludes with aplomb. If the acting by the protagonists would have been better, Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part II may have rivalled The Return of the King. Still though, in Part II, one is treated to a feast of CGI as well as an epic duel that ensures eyes remain glued to the screen. Harry Potter fans and non-fans alike have waited ten years for Harry to face Voldemort. Few will go home disappointed. Finales do not often end on such a high.

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Review – Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part I (12a) [2010]

Star Rating: 3/5

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final part of the Harry Potter series (albeit split into two films), was going to have to be a climactic masterpiece if it was to reach the unrealistic expectations of fans and critics alike. That it looked darker and more ominous than the previous six films merely added to the hype.

Film seven kicks off where the sixth film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, left off. The time has come for Hogwarts’ prodigal apprentice, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe – Harry Potter I-VII(ii), The Woman In Black), to leave the comforts of his school. Now, he must find and vanquish the Hawcruxes, since this is the only way he will have a chance of defeating his eternal nemesis: the ever-more-powerful Dark Lord, Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes – Schindler’s List, The Reader, Harry Potter IV, V & VII(ii)). Joining Harry will be the young spell-mistress of her generation, Hermione Grainger (Emma Watson – Harry Potter I-VII(ii), My Week With Marilyn); and their goofy friend and below-average wizard, Ron Weasely (Rupert Grint – Harry Potter I-VII(ii)).

Against them stands an awesome array of Voldemort’s allies, including Belatrix (Helena Bonham Carter – Fight Club, Harry Potter V-VII(ii), The King’s Speech), the Death Eaters, Professor Snape (Alan Rickman – Die Hard, Harry Potter I-VII(ii), Alice in Wonderland), Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton – The Borrowers, Harry Potter I-VII(ii), Rise of the Planet of the Apes) and his father, Lucius Malfoy (Jason Isaacs – The Patriot, Green Zone, Harry Potter II, IV, V, VII(ii)); not to mention countless others who are willing to assist the Dark Lord with his evil plans. Voldemort aside, these are the same villains who killed Albus Dumbledore, Harry’s master, in the previous film. Now, it is up to the precocious, but unready Harry to somehow deal with them as they relentlessly hound him.

Harry, Ron and Herminone working out where to next in their search for the Hawcruxes

How Harry and his friends were going to take on the villains was always going to be the key to the plot. But the plot is slow. At times, it is tedious to the point of disinteresting. (Unless, of course, you are a die-hard fan of which I am not.) Just like in the Half-Blood Prince, the director, David Yates (Harry Potter IIIVII(ii)), focuses more on the relationship between Harry, Hermione and Ron rather than the storyline. Again, the film is dominated by the ever-worsening sexual tension/frustration that the three main characters suffer. (One almost wants them to do it and get it over with just so the story can move on.)

But this is not the only thing that Harry, Hermione and Ron have to endure. They look lost away from their safe bubble-world of Hogwarts. Tiredness and helplessness is never far from their faces. But aside from this, the quality of the acting from the three main actors is, in general, far from great. Radcliffe and Grint remain more or less the same poor, two-dimensional characters they’ve always been. Emma Watson, at least, gives a slightly more mature performance than in previous films. She also has more of a leading role this time around; possibly even eclipsing Radcliffe. But apart from looking pretty, the role of Hermione still does not come overtly naturally to Watson. She tries too hard and takes herself too seriously.

Voldemort, the Dark Lord, unleashes some of his frightening dark powers. It is a pity that we see so little of him throughout the film.

In contrast, the villains do not take themselves seriously. For most other films, this would be a source of ridicule for the actors. However, Fiennes, Carter and Rickman skilfully pull off their roles. The great shame is how little they appear on-screen. This is a tragedy, since the Deathly Hallows should be about the villains as much as Harry. One even sees more of the Ministry of Magic, whose interior looks like a larger and more advance form of the Houses of Parliament (with a superficial Orwellian/1984 feel); and Lucius Malfoy’s mansion, which appears to be a real-life version of the enchanted castle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, than the villains.

The choreography of these and other places, plus the special effects throughout the film are well done. Indeed, they are so good one could mistake the computer generated images (CGI) for being real. This is no mean feat for a fantasy film. Many films, and not just from this genre, fall at this hurdle.

The scenery throughout the movie is equally as impressive and well chosen; whether it is of a forest, a hill-top or an open plain. The landscape and weather always seem to fit in effortlessly with the mood of the scene. Yet, unlike for example in the Lord of the Rings, the landscapes and the choreography are not equalised in the Deathly Hallows by the quality of the acting or the grip of the plot. By the end, one only has a rough idea as to how the ‘Deathly Hallows’ is even relevant to the story.

However, despite these flaws, does Part I leave us wanting to see Part II? Without a doubt: yes. After-all, we have followed Harry for so long how could we possibly miss out on witnessing his duel of destiny with Voldemort?

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