Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

Cast:
Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter
Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley
Emma Watson as Hermione Granger
Ralph Fiennes as Lord Voldemort
Alan Rickman as Severus Snape
Matthew Lewis as Neville Longbottom
Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood
Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy
Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonagall
David Thewlis as Remus Lupin
Natalia Tena as Nymphadora Tonks
Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange
Ciarán Hinds as Aberforth Dumbledore
Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid
Warwick Davis as Filius Flitwick/Griphook
Bonnie Wright as Ginny Weasley
Julie Walters as Molly Weasley
Mark Williams as Arthur Weasley
James Phelps as Fred Weasley
Oliver Phelps as George Weasley
John Hurt as Olivander
Kelly Macdonald as Helena Ravenclaw
Jim Broadbent as Horace Slughorn
George Harris as Kingsley Shacklebolt
Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy
Helen McCrory as Narcissa Malfoy
David Bradley as Argus Filch
Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbldedore
Gary Oldman as Sirius Black
Geraldine Somerville as Lily Potter
Adrian Rawlins as James Potter
Emma Thompson as Sybill Trelawney
Domhnall Gleeson as Bill Weasley
Clémence Poésy as Fleur Delacour
Devon Murray Seamus Finnigan
Afshan Azad as Padma Patil
Scarlett Byrne as Pansy Parkinson
Josh Herdman as Gregory Goyle
Louis Cordice Blaise Zabini
Alfie Enoch as Dean Thomas
Katie Leung as Cho Chang

Review:
The length of the cast alone should tell you just how long this has been coming but after 10 years the “Harry Potter” series finally comes to a close with an extended bang.

Mainly because that’s pretty much all it has. It should come as no surprise that “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2″ is not a movie in and of itself. Picking up immediately where Part 1 ends, we find Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and friends holed up on the sea shore planning how to get their hands on the evil Lord Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) next Horcrux and bring him closer to final defeat. Little do they realize that Voldemort himself has gotten his hands on the Elder Wand, the most powerful weapon in the wizarding world and may be well nigh unstoppable.

Cue explosions. The final, final, final (this time we mean it!) “Harry Potter” film is mostly just the last act of the combined Harry Potter finale stretched out to more than an hour. Partly because it still has a hefty amount of exposition to deal with in the form of relevant back-story which for some reason hasn’t been filled in yet, but mostly because director David Yates wants to do justice to the final battle between the forces of good and evil.

And do justice he does. Although “Deathly Hallows – Part 2″ doesn’t lack for action sequences in the early going–opening with our heroic trio breaking into the wizarding bank Gringotts and escaping on the back of a dragon–it’s not until the return to Hogwarts (almost entirely missing from “Part 1″) that the film kicks into high gear. Someone, somewhere has been keeping a list of all the “Harry Potter” required fan moments of the entire series, from just the right villain meeting his end to just the right couple getting together, and Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves spend the last nearly 90 minutes of the film paying them off.

Rather than coming off as an empty paean to the fans, though, the filmmakers’ desire to focus on the characters as real people even the midst of pitched battle keeps even the shallowest viewer of the series engaged in what could have easily been just mindless action set pieces and explosions. Every conflict, every battle has real consequences on the weight of 10 years worth of getting to know who these characters and caring what happens to them.

That said, some are given more time than others, especially Matthew Lewis’ Neville Longbottom, who is finally given the chance to emerge from plucky comic relief to full blown hero and proves up to the challenge. In general, the young child actors have grown to the point where they can handle these moments as well, creating a satisfying acting experience which doesn’t suffer the disparity between the adult and child actors the early films often did. Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) and Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) also continue to get moments to mature into a more complex characters.

But they often are only moments. For all of the tremendous screen time given to “Deathly Hallows” between its two parts, the focus is entirely on Harry and his best friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson). With the benefit of the first two acts already out of the way the angst and drama of the film is largely replaced with more esoteric musings on the place of death in our lives and how to face it. Yates’ steady hand and the growing acting abilities of his stars, though still edging towards earnest over deeper emotions, make this more affecting than adventure film philosophy usually manages.

It also maintains the real word aesthetic begun in “Half-Blood Prince,” especially in Eduardo Serra’s dusk-tinted cinematography. Although with so much of the film set in the halls of Hogwarts Castle, “Deathly Hallows – Part 2″ is less about creating new environments than showcasing the design of previous films. And then blowing them up. The post-production 3D conversion is one of the better recent ones.

The major flaw still remains that like the last few films “Deathly Hallows – Part 2″ is a film for fans more than anyone else. With just a few exceptions, anything beyond the hunt to weaken and kill Voldemort is tacked on without context and can only be completely understood by someone well versed in the source material.

The choice to stay as close to the source material as possible has been the series double-edged sword for its entire history. It gives the filmmakers the stepping stone of a compelling story and characters, but it also takes some of the bad ideas with it and seldom seeks out an identity of its own so as not to take the risk of alienating anyone. So we end up with several tension breaks for extended exposition in the second half which should have found a place earlier. Plus a horrible explanation for how Harry will defeat Voldemort which is given very little set up and gets sillier the more it is explained. They’re not insurmountable problems, but the filmmakers only put token efforts into dealing with them; for better or worse they are tethered to them and can’t break free.

But as problems go there are worse ones to have. The source material works more often than it doesn’t and the filmmakers have a good grasp of how to leave it entertaining but restrained.

Even if you’re not a big fan of the series, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2″ hits just the right notes for a big finale. A mixture of actually characterization, solid storytelling and excellent craftsmanship make it–maybe not a new bar for adventure filmmaking–but a worthy entry and conclusion.

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