Sunday, 17 July 2011

REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II

Dir.: David Yates
With: Daniel Radcliffe, Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes

Who knew that on that summer’s day, 12 years ago when I went to look for something new to read in a little bookstore near my grandmother’s house, my reading habits would be defined for the next decade. I’ve picked up a random hardback I’d never heard of before entitled “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”. On that day I’ve learnt what true fandom meant. The wonderful world created by Ms Rowling was so encompassing that I, having just turned eleven like Harry and gotten a pair of spectacles, began to half-expect a letter from Hogwarts. Sadly, it never came. So, in those pre-internet days, I’ve scoured through pages and pages of newspapers and magazines in search of any information on Harry Potter. I remember obsessively waiting for the new books to come out, getting really disappointed by some of the characters and absolutely adoring others. Gosh, the number of family holidays I’ve spoilt by becoming non-communicative until I’d finished a new volume… Ah, those were the days. And then came the films. I detested the first two, quite liked the third, snored through the fourth, fifth and the sixth and semi-enjoyed the seventh. Finally, I was thoroughly satisfied by the eighth film.

WARNING: SPOILERS! If you have no idea what happened in the last book, do not read on.

The new movie can be split into several thematic parts: Gringotts, battle at Hogwarts, Snape’s revelation, Harry’s death, the climax and ‘19 years later’. I really liked the first part, the whole break-in into the bank sequence was brilliantly macabre and reminded me strongly of Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil” in its décor and mad absurdity. The battle was a bit of a downer – I feel that epic fights between fantastic creatures should be left to Peter Jackson and Peter Jackson alone. Snape’s moment of glory was just…unbelievably good. I am not saying this just because he was and remains my favourite character; Alan Rickman has done a tremendous job portraying the aloof, seemingly unemotional man with a rich soul and gnawing inner turmoil. Here especially, he elevated his level of acting to completely new heights, there was something almost Shakespearean in the magnitude and drama of his secret second life. Our first glimpse of him on top of a tower, hovering in his long, black, Grim Reaper-like robe, is a definite bad omen from the start. Snape’s murder by Nagini is perhaps one of the scariest moments in the film and his last gift of memories to Harry was heartbreaking. Seeing his usually expressionless face contort with grief made me and everyone in the ten-meter radius sob like complete sissies. 

The waterworks continued with Harry’s realisation of what he had to do. Once he sacrificed himself and then came back to life, the tone of the film changed slightly. The climactic face-off between Harry and Voldemort did not seem as epic as it was in the book, although the brief moment when the two wizards’ faces were superimposed onto each other was a nice little touch, just reminding us how intertwined and similar their fates were, only that one of them used his gifts for the good and the other for evil. It was also a good decision to make all other characters, apart from Snape, peripheral to the storyline. Ron and Hermione had a few moments in the movie, as did various teachers and students, but overall, Harry and Voldemort shared the most onscreen time. Ralph Fiennes was superb in this film. I always thought that he did not take his job as You-Know-Who very seriously and looked more like a freaky scarecrow than anything else. This time round he was full on. It was amazing how he managed to bring out Voldemort’s humanity and vulnerability through the thick prosthetics and CGI. You really felt that this deformed man was just Tom Riddle who simply made too many bad choices in life. Daniel Radcliffe was also surprisingly on top form; his acting has clearly evolved in the past few years. He could hold his own opposite Ralph Fiennes and Alan Rickman and definitely outshone Rupert Grint and Emma Watson.

The so-called epilogue was a bit cheesy and quite funny, Ron cut the most believable middle-aged figure with a double chin and a beer belly; poor Hermione indeed.

The film is well-paced, full of suspense and has many great moments. Editing was professionally done, I am sure those who haven’t read the books would not be confused by the plot. It generally stayed true to the book, but there were also a couple of discrepancies that I thought weren’t necessary. The tone of the movie is very bittersweet, underlining how much the characters have grown, as have their audiences. This is the end of an era indeed, an era called childhood and it is time for us to say goodbye to Harry Potter, the boy who lived.

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