My childhood just came to an end, but at least it went out with a bang (which is, I suppose, the standard method for transitioning to adulthood). The midnight showing of the last Harry Potter movie was nothing short of madness—hundreds upon hundreds of people (or witches or elves depending on the costume) willingly packed themselves together into absurdly mismanaged lines and, rather than try to improve their situation by listening to the lone employee with a megaphone, promptly began complaining with a fanatical zeal. These were my people, and since my Mad-Eye Moody costume was undeniably brilliant, I felt the need to wander amongst my flock, deigning to be in their photographs. Self-righteous good deeds accomplished, I finally surged into the theater, where, in my haste to get primo seats, I apparently breached some sort of official barrier. Suddenly this 350 lb security guard is shouting at the top of his lungs and everyone’s staring at me in horror. Hoping against hope that I wasn’t the target of such rage, I turned away, only to hear “Yeah you! The guy in the cape!”
My two “friends” quickly abandoned me (they are so not getting sorted into Gryffindor), and rushed to get seats, making me into nothing more than a convenient sacrifice and I soon found myself being threatened with a fate worse than death: removal from the theater. Luckily, I’m pretty sure the giant was intimidated by my crazy eye and fearsome good looks, so he left me alone. Or maybe it was all that degrading, sniveling, brown-nosing I did. Either way, I think things worked out alright. I mean, my friends got some killer seats, and I’d been referred to as “the guy in the cape.”
But no amount of antics could rival the experience I had watching what is, in my opinion, the best film of 2011. After having been underwhelmed year after year by subpar adaptations of the formative novels of my youth, finally have I received the cinematic experience I’ve long craved. At long last, we are given epic battles of half-giant proportions, momentous stakes that belie the series’ light-hearted origins, and characters whose superb performances tug at our dragon-heart strings. At long last, we have a film that is truly magical.
In this superb conclusion to the tale we’ve been following for over a decade, the intrepid Harry Potter finds that only by satisfying his hankering for Horcruxes can he hope to defeat the dark lord. Most of the film is spent following his search for these last few objects, and what could have been a tedious series of fetch quests is kept from falling into the realms of boredom by a sense of pacing so perfect the future film student in me started taking notes. Admittedly, my last movie experience was Transformers: Dark of the Moon, a “film” with such atrociously jarring momentum that I nearly disgorged my five dollar hot dog (but five dollars is five dollars, so I willed it down). Even though anything will seem well-paced by comparison, I haven’t been so blown away by such artful interweaving of action and calm, fear and love, and an ensemble cast, since, well, ever.
The most powerful example of this is when Harry ends up alone in the Forbidden Forest in the middle of the giant showdown between good and evil. After seeing young students cut down by death eaters as they tried to hold their own in a war that was far beyond them, after witnessing stone statues come to life and make battle with club-wielding giants, after bridges burn, forcefields collapse, and spirits break, after dementors are driven off by those who refuse to relinquish their hope, we find ourselves in a clearing of silence.
Turning the resurrection stone in hand, Harry is suddenly accompanied by the ghosts of those he cares most deeply for: Sirius, Lupin, and his parents. Their undying love for him brought tears to my eyes, for it is a love that continued into the afterlife not thanks to some magic, but because all those who have left us live on in our hearts. The writing was beautiful, the acting sublime. The calm in the center of the storm, this one scene is a masterpiece of pacing.
The rest of the storm was nothing to shake a stick at either, not that shaking a stick at a storm is really that common of an activity. In fact, I’m not sure that it would accomplish much of anything, unless the stick is a wand and you have control over the weather. Then it would definitely help. Anyway, the point of all this is to say that, while the emotional punch packed by Deathly Hallows Part 2 is nothing to shake a wand at, the visuals are equally impressive.
For instance, cast your imagination gaze on Gringotts. Its labyrinthine rollercoaster-tangle transportation system is a wild ride that puts every Six Flags everywhere to shame, especially since it ends with a dragon. Now, a lot of movies have done dragons (Harry Potter included), but this was potentially my favorite CGI beastie ever (don’t worry, Toothless. No one can replace you). The dragon was not a glorious mount of yore, but rather an emaciated, abject figure, trapped underground for his natural life, chains cutting into his majesty and leaving nothing but raw, bloody hopelessness. The creature instantly evokes overwhelming pity, something I’ve rarely witnessed from CGI.
Dragons are basically my favorite, but if there’s one thing I love more, it’s love itself. We all knew the Ron Hermione romance was going to come to a head. The only question was, after so many years of buildup, could the climax do it justice? I, for one, say that nothing has ever been more just. You know that moment in truth or dare when someone asks you your most seductive fantasy and you finally let spill the secret you’ve never told anyone? You launch into graphic detail, explaining that it’s all about thrusting your basilisk fang into a goblet-shaped Horcrux in the Chamber of Secrets while under attack from a giant watery snake that eventually comes crashes over you? We’ve all been there. Everybody gives you these weird looks, as if that’s somehow not the hottest thing ever. Ron and Hermione certainly thought it was, because they immediately launch into a passionate kiss that had the theater cheering up a storm.
Perhaps the most beautiful scene is the one bathed all in white. Halfway between life and death, Harry finds himself in King’s Cross Station, his own personal limbo. There, the sage and mysterious Dumbledore delivers some of the most compelling wisdom in years of cinema. The English major in me rejoiced when such a beloved figure told us that words are the most powerful magic, able to do great harm but also to heal. I’m using words right now, and man do I feel mighty. And when Harry asked “Is this all just in my head or is it real?” and Dumbledore responded with “Of course it’s in your head, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real.” Gah! So sagacious!
But enough nonsensical gushing. As perfect as this movie was (and it was), there were still a few things that I would’ve done differently. The whole series is about the battle between Harry and Voldemort; this is a showdown ten years in the making, and I wanted it to be perfect. The buildup was there, but when the final blow was dealt, it felt understated. Voldemort simply drifts away into nothingness. If it were me, I’d have Harry explain the entire Deathly Hallows wand switching thing while the two of them struggled against each other, beams of energy locked in a pulsing impasse. Then, as soon as it became clear that Harry was going to win, he’d shout “Avada Kedavra!” and Voldemort would fucking EXPLODE. That’s how a dark lord goes out.
In fact, I could go for a lot more spell shouting in general. Aberforth Dumbledore should’ve bellowed “Expecto Patronum!” before taking care of all those dementors, and Molly Weasley definitely needed to scream some serious shit at Bellatrix before the end. And I know it would’ve gone against the books and fans everywhere would have gone on a David Yates manhunt, but I could’ve done without that 19 years later scene. I just don’t think it works in the film version. It should’ve ended on that last shot of the three main characters looking off into the distance. Perfection.
Even still, this film made a huge impact on me. I was plastered to that edge portion of my seat, I cared about the characters, the shots were gorgeous, and the pacing was sublime. I’m going to go see it again, and again, and if you don’t get to this while it’s in theaters, you’ll have made a grave mistake.
Score: 5/5 ¢
Alignment: Spectacular Gold
Also, let it be noted that Neville is a fucking champion.
Post Review Disclaimer: I cut over a quarter of this and it’s still my longest review. There’s just way too much to talk about. So if I missed some awesome part, feel free to complain in the comments.