Combustible Celluloid
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With: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman, Matthew Lewis, Tom Felton, Michael Gambon, Evanna Lynch, Warwick Davis, Jason Isaacs, Helena Bonham Carter, Maggie Smith, David Thewlis, Julie Walters, Kelly Macdonald, Clémence Poésy, Helen McCrory, John Hurt, Ciarán Hinds, Bonnie Wright, Jim Broadbent, Robbie Coltrane
Written by: Steve Kloves, based on a novel by J.K. Rowling
Directed by: David Yates
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sequences of intense action violence and frightening images
Running Time: 130
Date: 07/07/2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Voldemort Cuts

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Here is the eighth and final film in the Harry Potter series, and it seems a far cry from the slick, innocuous two films that director Chris Columbus started us with: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002). Taking a cue from Alfonso Cuaron (the much darker, richer Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), newcomer David Yates came in for the final four films, raising the bar to new heights of drama. The series now has the power to deserve comparison to The Lord of the Rings, and it will be interesting to see if Yates has what it takes to sustain a career in non-Potter films.

Yates' Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) caught him while he was still learning, but Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009) came alive with sensuality and hormones, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010) was as grim and gray, minimalist and downbeat as any Hollywood blockbuster ever made. The new Part 2 returns Harry to some of his former glory, with more color, more action and more witchcraft. It's a fitting ending to the series, and will not disappoint.

After having spent most of the previous film catching only one Horcrux, and then not knowing how to destroy it, in this film Harry and company manage to get all the rest of them in quick succession. As fans know, these objects make up the pieces of Voldemort's soul; by destroying them, he can be killed. The action takes place mostly at Hogwarts, which is now under the charge of Snape (Alan Rickman). It turns out that one of the Horcruxes is hidden at the old school, while the other two are in cleverer hiding places nearby. The mood is still foreboding, however, as students prepare for war rather than for class.

Of course, everything comes down to a showdown between Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes, with his nose removed via CGI). Thankfully, not everything happens according to plan, and the movie has a few surprises up its sleeve. Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) are still in top form, while some of the other, famous, notable actors in the cast get only a scene or two. (Emma Thompson appears only in one scene, and only with some incidental, background dialogue.) Best of all is a lengthy flashback addressing the history and behavior of Snape, but worst of all is a pre-battle speech -- complete with rousing music -- delivered by none other than Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis).

Overall, what this Harry Potter does best is to sum up everything in the series so far: its sense of mystery, its romance, and its unspeakable dread of the inevitable dark times. Though these elements are usually disappointing when they ultimately pay off, the movie manages to make them satisfying, even in their conclusiveness. Perhaps this is because of the old familiarity with the characters, stretching back 10 years, or perhaps it's just some damn good storytelling. Either way, it feels good to say farewell to Harry Potter. May he finally find some peace.

Note: The film is presented in some theaters in 3D, but -- as usual -- it's not necessary.

Warner Home Video has released a three-disc Blu-Ray set. The first contains the movie itself. Not surprisingly, the high-def quality is exemplary. Extras include "maximum movie mode," and "focus points," as well as a little "farewell" video. The second Blu-Ray disc comes with more extras, including a conversation with Daniel Radcliffe and J.K. Rowling, featurettes, deleted scenes, and a short piece on the London studio tour, and a message from Rowling about her new website. The third disc is a DVD copy of the movie. A digital copy is available through a new service called "Ultraviolet," but fans have so far expressed their extreme dislike for it.{subid}&url=hitlist.asp?searchfield=marvel
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