Artificial Continuum

Saturday, July 16, 2011

There are few franchises throughout history that have had as large a cultural impact as Harry Potter. It has grabbed a generation of readers and viewers under its magical grasp and has created a fanbase as loyal and fanatical as any other. And this week the final official installment in the Harry Potter series was released. On Friday July 15 the final film adaptation of the seventh and ultimate Harry Potter books Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Luckily, for fans it is as every bit as good as they hoped.

With the loss of Dobby the elf behind them, Harry, Hermione, and Ron attempt to track down the final Horcruxes, mystical pieces of the dark lord Voldemort's soul. However, this search them leads them to familiar grounds and with a now wounded Voldemort on their trail, the battle becomes as deadly as ever.

Director David Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves tackle the monumental job of bringing the screen adaptations of JK Rowling's novels to a close with skill and grace. Both are at the top of their game, and together produce a film that is as slick and stunning visually as it is emotional.

David Yates, who has directed every Potter film since the fifth installment Order of the Phoenix, has an incredible visual eye. Again, the latest Potter film like the two before it features breathtaking cinematography and visual design. The opening shot of a Hogwarts held captive is breathtakingly beautiful, and this carries on for the remainder of the film.

Kloves also adapts the incredibly dense seventh novel with skill. It never feels unnecessarily weighty, and the drama and tension are captured here perhaps better than in the novel. It is truly in the quiet moments that the two really do succeed.

The two together only fail when it comes to perfecting the desired emotional response from the audience. As I sat amongst and watched hardcore Potter fans tear up at the loss of their favorite characters or during the closing credits, I felt lost. I was emotionally affected sure. I had chills down my spine, and my eyes were beginning to water. However, I did not feel the emotional punch that I did for the resolution to the Lord of the Rings films or even the final Toy Story installment. This in no way means that the film's handling of emotion is bad. On the contrary, it is spectacular for a summer blockbuster, especially an adaptation of a novel. It just does not reach the level it could have.

The acting, however, is at the top of its game. With a decade of experience behind them Daniel Radcliffe (Harry), Rupert Grint (Ron), and Emma Watson (Hermione) have matured into powerful actors with an undeniable chemistry. Radcliffe in particular delivers an incredibly powerful performance, which may be the best of his career. Ralph Fiennes also steals the scene as Lord Voldemort, finally capturing the essence of the role after struggling in previous installments. The true star is Alan Rickman as Professor Severus Snape, who single handily carries the film through its most emotional and powerful moment.

As mentioned before, The Deathly Hallows Part 2 is a visual wonder. Not only through its incredible cinematography, but in its handling of action and special effects. The appearance of a dragon during the films opening action sequence is stunning and breathtakingly realistic. Magic is implemented more creatively and seamlessly than ever before. The attack on Hogwarts school is a visual marvel. Spells shoot back in forth like super powered bullets. Giants battle sentient statues to the death. And Harry and his nemesis tumble through the sky in a climactic duel to the death.

Although his score does not match the magical beauty brought by John Williams's take on the earlier films, Alexandre Desplat delivers a musical backdrop to the Deathly Hallows that is fittingly haunting and memorable.

Although it does not reach its highest potential, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 succeeds beautifully at bringing a magical and emotional closure to a beloved series. With a capper like this, it is doubtful that we will see the last of Potter for a long long time.

Score: A