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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 movie poster

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2: Movie Review

Genre: Action, Adventure
Rated: PG-13
Directed by: David Yates

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes, Emma Thompson
Released by: Warner Bros. Pictures

In Short: Teen wizard wunderkind Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts for a final showdown with arch-nemesis Lord Voldemort in this dark final installment of the Potter series.

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Harry's Last Stand

The world's favorite bespectacled wunderkind of witchcraft is all grown up. When we first met Harry, he was a scrawny outcast living in the closet of his muggle uncle, unaware of his powers and unversed in the ways of wizardry. Fast forward ten years, eight films, and a painfully awkward pubescent period, and Potter (as well as child actor-turned strapping young lad Daniel Radcliffe) has emerged as a bona fide action hero, in control of his immense talents yet aware of his shortcomings — and also the growing darkness within him.

For a film about a group of teenage wizards charged to save their school from a nasally challenged nemesis, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" is a remarkably gloomy affair. Our first glimpse of Hogwarts lets us know that all is not right in the post-Dumbledore world. Now under the control of Slytherin leader Severus Snape (played by a chilly-as-always Alan Rickman), the campus is shrouded in both literal and figurative darkness as students partake in German SS-style lockstep marching exercises. Harry, too, we learn, has his own demons to deal with as he finally confronts the true meaning behind his often uncannily close bond with witchcraft's most dangerous bald bad guy, Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes).

Daniel Radcliffe and Ralph Fiennes in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Utilizing shadowy lighting and sweeping cinematography of barren landscapes that straddle the line between sublime and surreal, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" may have the same ominous, brooding tone as its predecessor; however, while that film was often slow-paced and felt all of its 2 hours and 26 minutes, the final installment brings back the action, excitement and well-placed humor that originally made the franchise famous. The battle scenes are bigger, bloodier and also more heart-wrenching than anything previously seen in a Potter film, while the curious antics of CGI-created creatures let us know that the series is, despite its loyal base of grown-up Gryffindor fanatics, still for kids. The discerning use of 3D technology marks another departure from "Part 1," imbuing anthropomorphic flames and madcap mine car rides down bottomless troll caves with an invigorating sense of immediacy and realness.

Reality, or narrative honesty, also rears its head in other unexpected ways. As Harry prepares for his long-awaited final showdown with Voldemort, the young protagonist is forced to come to terms with mortality, failed expectations and the ambiguous nature of good and evil — heady stuff for a kids' flick. No longer as clear-cut as Gryffindor vs. Slytherin, Dumbledore vs. Voldemort, the final Potter film shows refreshing layers of complexity in its treatment of evil characters who are not all bad — and good characters with surprising secrets. When Harry makes his triumphal return to Hogwarts to meet Voldemort and his dark army of Death Eaters head-on, he returns not as a nerdy teen but as a man and a leader well-versed in the often duplicitous ways of the world — and his cohorts, as well as muggle audiences everywhere, are all the better for it.

Reviewed by Nick Winfrey

(Updated: 7/15/11 NW)

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