Saturday, July 16, 2011

David Yates: Ending to a Fantasy Era (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Daniel Radcliffe, Warner Bros Pictures, 2011

J.K. Rowling's ambitious, deceptively simple literary bonanza Harry Potter has been a phenomenon unlike any this world has seen. Not the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew or even Twilight can hold a candle to the ways she has stirred up the child in all of us, the craving for magic and drama and a good classic story. Many imitators have come out of the woodworks, but that is all nil in the shadow of Hogwarts.

A decade ago, undervalued studio maven Chris Columbus helmed the first two films in the series, enchantingly old fashioned kids flicks. The third picture, Prisoner of Azkaban, saw master Alfonso Cuaron tapped into the dark teen angst of the plotline, drawing out the themes in the rich visuals of his ingenious adaptation, the best in the series. Each succeeding film saw the f/x and misadventure spiraling upwards, culminating in this climax of a capper to the most popular film franchise of all time.

Deathly Hallows Part 1 set up the storyline, a reckoning of debts, a tying up of loose ends, an end all to end all. With Part 2, we have an apocalyptic rush of sheer pop cinema delight, which washes over you in ash olympia hues, as Harry finally battles Voldemort to the very death. Director David Yates, who capably handled the last few installments, earns merit as it becomes apparent that in the last film he has truly mastered Rowling's universe. As we watch the movie, we realize just how transformative and vital this series has been to the youth culture of the modern world. We've watched Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson grow into their characters, Harry, Ron and Hermione, and it has been a revelation of the casting process and the organic acting contraption.

It also becomes apparent that like all great storytelling, and fantasy in particular, Potter is rooted in Christian symbolism. As Lewis' Narnia in the literary realm and Lucas' Star Wars in the cinematic, Rowling's iconic tales embody the faith and devotion of generations, transfiguring them into a fantastic world of her own reckoning. This has made for a powerfully enduring phenomenon.

Eduardo Serra's cinematography beautifully imbues the armageddon days of Hogwarts, Alexandre Desplat's music score is alternately epic and ethereal. Daniel Radcliffe is especially revelatory, his turn is incendiary as he nears the end of his Harry life, bringing the fascinating character full circle. Out of an eye opening cast, which brings back all of the characters from the seven part series, Alan Rickman as Snape and Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort are both excellent, bringing a tenderness to their "villainous" roles.

The film took me a bit to get into, but once it had me, I was entranced. The visual effects and set pieces are marvelously immersive, sucking us into the magic without the threat of a third dimension. Yates, Rowling and company unfurl a majestic and bittersweet ending to a fantasy era, and the world will never be the same again.

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