I’m not the world’s most aredent Harry Potter Fan. I read the first three books partly out of a sense of generational obligation, and partly out of mild curiosity, but always found their Lord of the Rings-lite sensibilities to be more than a bit uninteresting. They were entertaining and charming, but midway through Goblet of Fire I gave up and went back to George Orwell and Tolkien. I just wasn’t too interested in Harry Potter’s adolescent crises amidst the magical world of Hogwarts and bludgers and muggles…oh my! Well, not in reading about them anyway. I did enjoy the movies, as they tended to distill the essence of each book into an easily digestable cinematic experience, and all of them have been pretty solid film offerings unlike some other book-to-movie adaptations. I also appreciated that the themes of the books and movies tended to mature with the characters and, subsequently, their audience. There’s only so many Quidditch games and slug-vomiting potions a guy can take before he takes the advice of his 6th grade D.A.R.E. instructor and just walks away.
But the most recent movies like Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince (not to mention the ending of Goblet of Fire, which I thought was a bit of a cheap move on Rowling’s part, but dark nonetheless) have seen the tension factor ratcheting up higher, the implications of the conflicts grow ever wider, and the characters dealing with some serious life-and-death stuff. Add to that some examination of spirituality and romance, and the Harry Potter series really has come a long way since magical chess games and diatribes on the correct pronunciation of Wingardium Leviosa.
And so we have the stage set for the final chapter in the Harry Potter series. Doing away with the concept of exposition entirely, since if you don’t know who these people are by now you have no business watching, the film gets right down to business with Potter and his friends on a mission to escape a posse of evil Death Eaters sent by Lord Voldemort, J.K. Rowling’s counterpart to Dr. Claw. They all meet up at the Weasleys, the most ill-conceived safe house location ever (unless Hagrid and company were hoping Voldemort and his goons would overlook the most obvious place in the world for Harry Potter and his friends to hole up for a while) and take pains to evade detection by the most powerful evil wizard in the world by having a gigantic wedding party for a pair of secondary characters whom we are supposed to know or care about. Soon Harry, Ron, and Hermione set out on the ultimate teenage wizard road trip/collect-a-thon as they try to locate seven Horcruxes–objects where Voldemort has stored up bits of his eternal soul. Destroying these will bring an end to evil once and for all and allow Harry to finally get some much-needed closure about his parents’ murder too.
It’s actually kind of refreshing to have a Harry Potter movie focus so much on the three main characters. Hogwarts is nowhere to be found in the entire film, and instead Potter and his friends set out to make the ultimate travel brochure by visiting every last gorgeous landscape and sweeping vista to be found in the entire United Kingdom. As they magically transport from one locale to the next, they deal with a lot of relationship issues and even have a bit of good old-fashioned romantic jealousy come between them (even though Ron and Hermione are about as believable of a couple as Anakin and Amidala) while seeking out the Horcruxes and delving deeper into the mystery of the Deathly Hallows. We are also given much more insight into the characters of Draco and Lucius Malfoy, and begin to ask some serious questions about Professor Snape as well. It’s this type of three-dimensionality that this final installment offers that sets it high above so many other entries in the fantasy genre.
It’s an engaging tale well told, and as dark and grim as the series has ever been. A couple beloved characters have been dispatched over the various entries in the series, but in Deathly Hallows it seems no one is safe from the Grim Reaper’s scythe. The film even has some genuinely disturbing parts too, and is certainly not a movie for kids. Women are tortured and sacrificed, bodies are mutilated, and we see Potter and his friends go to some very dark places in order to do what needs to be done. It’s a world of ambiguity and grey morality, and offers some thought-provoking questions on what it means to simply do the right thing.
In the nine years since The Sorcerer’s Stone was unleashed into theatres, Harry Potter and his friends have been on some absolutely incredible journeys. It’s almost sad to see things finally coming to an end, and as such I didn’t mind at all that this final film was split into two parts (Part 2 is scheduled to blow the doors off the box office in summer 2011). We’re in the homestretch now, and even though Deathly Hallows is a striking departure from the rest of the series, it is a fitting beginning to the graceful swan song the series deserves.
Last 5 posts by Simon R.
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