Two weekends, two summer blockbusters (which means I’m still working on time for my next Kubrick piece – it will be done)! Thanks to babysitters and moms for taking care of the Princess so the Queen and I could actually get out of the house to see a few films. My lovely wife was gracious enough last week to go with me to Captain America: The First Avenger, keeping my tradition of watching Marvel Studio flicks on opening night, so it was my duty to ensure we saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 this weekend.
Like so many of us, I go back a long way with Harry Potter. I recall taking the first three books with me on a vacation in Mexico back in 1999. Quite honestly, they felt like kids books to me, which in many ways they’re supposed to be. But for me in my early 20’s, I can’t say I was terribly impressed. At the time, Pottermania hadn’t become what it would be. It was the release of the mammoth fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, that took J.K. Rowling from kids author to something more significant – a literary icon (not that there’s anything wrong with being devoted to the craft of kids books – the depth and style of Rowling’s fourth book just took her to another creative level, in my humble opinion).
In many ways, those early Chris Columbus directed films (Sorcerer’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets) felt the same way – sure, the casting was great all around, but I didn’t think either film was particularly well made (not too surprising, as Columbus isn’t exactly a visionary filmmaker). In fact, so boring did I think the second film was, I wound up skipping Prisoner of Azkaban in theatres altogether. The irony was, this was the film where Alphonso Cuaron stepped in and brought some much needed style to the franchise. The series definitely picked up after that one for me, much like Rowling’s books did as well. This, as you likely know, all to led to final book and films in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
There’s an interesting conundrum when you watch a film adapted from a novel, especially one as notable as Deathly Hallows, where you pretty much know exactly what’s going to happen – who’s going to win, who’s going to lose and who won’t make it to the finish line. Can you feel shock or sadness knowing what’s to come? In the case of the final Potter film, it’s clearly not the destination, but the journey.
It helps that Deathly Hallows Part 2, as directed by David Yates, is a fairly short Potter film, clocking in at two hours and ten minutes, and it begins by dropping you right into the action from where we left off in Part One. From their, we move along at a brisker pace than some of the previous movies as well, resolving relationship issues between key characters, introducing a few new ones and putting Daniel Radcliffe’s Harry and Ralph Fiennes’ Voldemort in a pretty stellar showdown. Along the way, there are a few questions presented about destiny and decisions which younger audiences may not pick up on at first, but will hopefully latch on to when they rewatch the film when they’re older.
One of the greatest things about the eight Harry Potter films is indeed the cast, and the fact that the majority of all the roles were played by the same actors over the course of a decade. Leave it to the final dance to have some of them give their best performances of the series – most notably Alan Rickman as Severus Snape and Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange. Carter nearly steals the film in the first ten minutes of the film as she plays Hermione morphed into Lestrange, while Rickman is allowed to show his depth as an actor, something he had to keep fairly under wraps throughout the series.
With the final entry of a beloved film series, I think you really want to walk away feeling satisfied, content that the characters and stories have been given a fitting conclusion. That’s how I felt when I turned the final page of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows back in July 2007. I can safely say that same feeling came over me as the screen faded to black on the film series as well.