film review : Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Sunday, August 21st, 2011
If you haven’t had the chance to read my review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 1, allow me to briefly summarize my feelings on that film, all Harry Potter-related media and all Harry Potter fans: DIE. Why all the hate? Hard to say. Maybe I’m just a contrarian. Maybe there’s no reason to it at all, and, like a bull seeing red or a southerner seeing someone darker than antique off-white, I just loose my shit. But perhaps it’s the ubiquitousness of it all. As is the case with spiders, you are never more than 3 feet from a Potter fan, and if you don’t happen to be one, this is just so utterly taxing on one’s patience and sanity. For me, it likely has a lot to do with the fact that I grew up geek. Comic book geek, sci-fi geek, gaming geek (tabletop, not the socially acceptable kind), horror geek; I’ve been all of these things at one point or another (I got better; PROTIP: Drugs help). Point is, I learned at a very young age that if I didn’t shut the fuck up when not in the company of my own kind, I was going to earn a beating. You people, on the other hand, assume everyone is living in Harry Potter Land, and as such never keep it to yourself, whether or not any innocent bystanders give a shit. Bottom line: don’t assume that everyone, even people vaguely familiar with the series, give a shit about you creepy, sad fetishization of a franchise (or your Snape/Draco rape fan-fiction, you sick fuck). And here we come to the central problem with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2. It doesn’t just assume you’re a fan; it downright hates you if you aren’t. It throws up every roadblock the last film did towards understanding what is going on, and then it doubles down. Because it wants you to fail. Director David Yates actually wants you, the presumably novice Potter viewer, to approach this movie like you would a marathon game of Monopoly: rage, followed by defeat. But my will is strong, Yates. I made it out the other end, and have now come to expose you crimes to the people!
…as Harry, Ron, and Hermione attempt to break into the vault in pretty much the same fashion they broke into the Ministry of Magic in the last film, they… wait, what’s that? You’re lost? I’ve just dropped you in halfway into the paragraph, and I’ve falsely assumed you could follow where I’m going with all this?? Wow, I must be David-fucking-Yates. Look, I have no problem with splitting a massive film up into smaller, more easily digestible parts, but you gotta play a little catch up. Tarantino takes two minutes of the Bride delivering a monologue to get ya where you need to be in Kill Bill Vol. 2. TWO MINUTES. Fuck, in A New Hope, you had zero familiarity with the universe or characters, but that opening crawl tells you all you need to know before pressing “PLAY”. Deathly Hollows Part 2 can’t even bother to throw me a lazy montage of the last film’s plot points. Yates seems to forget that this is no longer a universally understood series the way it was in early instalments, which were pretty formulaic. Now we have a series so entrenched in its own continuity that it demands a primer just to halfway understand it. Part 1 suffered from not giving novice viewers much of a gateway into the world, but Part 2 is downright unforgiving about it. Because, again, it hates you.
But I suppose, deprived of the particulars of the plot, this film can, in a fashion, be followed. Because it’s so damn predictable. Evil will loose, good will triumph, all that jazz with zero deviation from what’s expected. Potter’s the Christ-esque “chosen one”, so when he dies, you sure as shit know he won’t stay dead. I guess you can’t really kill him, since, when J.K. Rowling eventually decides she needs an eighth summer home, she’ll have to dust off the character and take him on further unnecessarily protracted adventures. And we wouldn’t want to make all the kiddies and developmentally backwards adults in the audience cry! So, he lives, and the series’ status quo is preserved, emotional resonance and finality of death be damned! Two things did throw me, I’ll admit. The first being that little Aryan pretty boy, Draco, doesn’t get his redemption. His inner conflict has been illustrated in a painfully blunt way up ’til now, and you keep thinking he’ll finally take a stand against Voldemort. Nope, never happens. Seems like Rowling and her interpreters could have saved a lot of time on his moral struggle if it was going absolutely nowhere. The second thing that caught me off guard is what a calculating bastard Dumbledore is. After the saintly way he’s been portrayed previously, it’s a shock to find out that he’s been guarding Harry all this time, not so much out of care for the boy, but because he’s been turned (through a series of ill-explained events) into a living kill switch for Voldemort, and Dumbledore is really just keeping him around as the last minute deathblow. This is mitigated a bit by the fact that he probably knew that Harry wouldn’t be dead for long, but it’s still pretty cold-blooded to knowingly send a young boy to his death. Good for you, Dumbledore. Be a bad mother fucker.
Acting wise, Daniel Radcliffe does nothing but mope and aimlessly drift throughout the proceedings. Granted, that’s the character as written, as Harry is a main character who is utterly ineffectual, contributing nothing towards resolving conflict, and who generally survives purely on luck, innate ability (that he in no way works to achieve) or someone else’s intervention. So actually, he’s doing an amazing job adhering to the source material. Emma Watson, you gorgeous little tart, (yes, I’ve gotten over the creepiness of ogling her during the last six months in a BIG way), your talent is sorely wasted here. Watson’s surprisingly manic performance was the only enjoyable part of the nearly unwatchable Scre4m, and was what really convinced me she’s an actress worth keeping my eye on. But here, she’s back to basics as reliable, unremarkable Hermione. I don’t know how good or bad Rupert Grint’s performance was (with the two above as circumstantial evidence, I have to guess “middling”), because whenever he’s on screen, I want to break his face. I’d feel guilty about it, but come on; if it wasn’t the whim of the Great Magnet that all of humanity should want to strike this kid down with extreme prejudice on sight, he wouldn’t be crafted as such a caricature of all the things we instinctively hate about gingers. Outside of the “kids”, Ralph Finnes returns to collect his final paycheck for the series as Lord Voldemort. He hams it up more here than in any of the previous films combined and it crosses the line into outright comedy with staggering regularity. Hell, Emperor Palpatine would tell this guy to tone it the fuck down. There is no reason for him sounding like the guy from the “Chacarron” video pumped through two-dozen maxed out subwoofers every time he calls his attacks. And finally, there’s Alan Rickman, who has previously been giving the best performance in the series as the morally ambiguous Snape. His flashback here is supposed to be the crowning moment of tragedy in the whole damn saga, and his acting should convey all the regret the character must feel for his crimes, engendering emmence pathos in the audience. Instead, he turns into a sniveling little bitch, possessed more of craven fear than any sort of true sorrow or repentance, and it undoes everything he’s infused into the character before. On the brighter side of things, I don’t know what the hell a Neville is (intense internet research has led me to conclude he’s the series’ resident butt-monkey), but he (and Matthew Lewis, the actor behind the character) kicks so much ass that I hope they do a gritty spin-off, set ten years down the road with him as a burnt-out, Snake Plissken-type taking on all the dirty jobs the other wizards won’t.
And then there’s the effects, whose abysmal quality in Part 1 contributed to so much of my disdain. Oh, but Part 2 is much more cunning in how it metes out its disappointment. Early on, during the trio’s raid on Bellatrix’s vault, we’re introduced to a captive dragon that’s being used as a reluctant guard dog. I’m not gonna lie, this thing is beautifully realized. It’s not often a CGI creation seems real enough of a character to simultaneously inspire such sadness and otherworldly menace as this does. Really, just an awesome creature, one of the best I’ve seen in years. And it’s gone five minutes later. After that, we’re back to the same low-grade crap the last movie threw in our faces like so many dismissive cum shots. The Battle of Hogwarts, meant to be the height of pitched warfare in the “Potterverse” (I shall never type that word again, I shall never type that word again, I shall never…), looks just ludicrous, unless the filmmakers’ intentions were to make it look like a bunch of LARPers magic missle-ing each other with Roman candles. If that was the case, than full marks, job well done. And we just couldn’t get through this flick without an appearance from that fucking snake (unfortunately, it becomes a major plot point here). Filmmakers, take note: if your fake snake makes the one in Anaconda look like some Oscar-level shit, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.
If you like this movie, fine. You’re likely a hardcore Harry Potter fan, and as we’ve previously noted, that ranks you just below HIV as a lifeform, but this doesn’t prevent you from enjoying whatever shitty thing you like. But If you try and assert that this is a GOOD MOVIE in and of itself, I will fight you. That’s not bluster; I’m taking all commers. Combined with Part 1, it might dance dangerously close to “passable”, but on it’s own, it’s a mess. The mistakes start right after the title card fades, and just refuse to let up ’til the credits roll. There’s a lack of any attempt to familiarize casual viewers with the story thus far, who must make up at least half of the audience. The acting is mediocre at best. With the younger actors, that’s somewhat understandable. They’ve been doing this shit for 10 years, and since they’re surely ready to move on and do some respectable work, they’re seriously phoning it in. As for the adult performers, there’s no reason for work of this poor caliber. Fiennes and Rickman are both classically-trained Shakespearean actors, and their performances are inexcusably bad (Hans Gruber, you broke my heart). To top it off, the effects are so poor (with one standout exception) in relation to how much money is at play (now, more or less a hallmark of the Harry Potter franchise), I’m convinced somebody skipped town with half the film’s CGI budget and spent it on coke and hookers. God, I hope so; then I’d know at least somebody involved in this movie had fun while making it. But there’s a silver lining here: the Harry Potter movies are OVER. Do you feel it? If you’re anything like me, you do. The air seems fresher. Food tastes better. Booze is more intoxicating than ever! Loose women have never been more plentiful! And though the Potter Army is strong now, in the coming years, their numbers will dwindle, and encounters with them will become as rare as running into a hardcore Trekkie. In short: We… Are… FREE!!!
P.S. Fuck Quidditch.
- Adam Rosina