This review contains SPOILERS and lots of them. Don’t continue reading if you don’t want to know. Really. Stop right here!
Probably by now all the diehard Harry Potter fans have made their way to the theater to see the latest installment – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The film, written this time, directly by J.K. Rowling herself is a visual delight, although, it does lack in the story department.
Newt Scamander (adequately played by Eddie Redmayne) comes to New York City, fresh off the boat from the U.K., which formulates the first question – Why did he have to come by boat? Can’t he just apparate? I mean, what’s the point of being a wizard if you can’t easily get to point A to point B? Also, he claims he’s come to America to release one of his creatures back into the wild of a magical place known as…Arizona. Couldn’t he just go straight there and bypass NYC all together? It’s a confusing way to start.
There also seems to be every opportunity imaginable to preach the ever popular Potterverse of tolerance. Don’t get me wrong, I like the message of everyone should get along, but the character of Mary Lou, (played by Samantha Morton) a regular ‘ol human who believes there are witches among us, but turns out to be quite a witchy person herself, seems oddly conceived and oddly used. Honestly, there are too many characters in this film and a lot of new Potterverse world building stuff is introduced to propel the plot forward. It would have made it stronger to stick with Newt and what drives him to do what he does, rather than introduce so many new people and the war In America with keeping magic secret, as well as the ever growing powers and threat of the dark wizard Grindewald. Too much. Too much happening!
The film is visually stunning. The beasts are real and beautiful and the wonderment of the wizarding world is experienced by the Muggle, or to use the U.S. lingo, No-Mag, Jacob Kowalski (notice the initials here?), which is delightful. The experience is reminiscent of the magic at the first viewing of the very first Harry Potter film. And who doesn’t want to relive that moment?
It’s hard to imagine that there won’t be another book or film about The Boy Who Lived.
Saying good-bye to Harry Potter is a bittersweet experience. I’m happy to see the entire story, but sad the story is all over. Gone is the excitement of pre-ordering the next book and waiting with baited breath until it arrives, then staying up till 3am to finish it so nobody would ruin it by telling me what happens before I had the chance to read it for myself. Now the last movie has broken box office weekend opening records and fans the world over sit and watch the final stretch of Harry’s fantastic journey.
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART II starts off right where PART I ended – Voldemort breaks into Dumbledore’s grave and steals the Elder Wand. From there the movie quickly speeds to the dramatic ending of Harry destroying He Who Must Not Be Named. The director, David Yates, again does a decent job of crafting a well-put together film. However, the addition of 3D does very little to propel the story forward. It almost distracts the viewer so much that dialogue and key movements are missed.
There are some significant changes in the adaptation – mainly with Snape’s death (the fabulous Alan Rickman at his finest!! Netflix TRULY MADLY DEEPLY for more of him) taking place in a boathouse instead of the Shrieking Shack, but over all the script makes the right sacrifices of the book to do the story justice and satisfy the fans. But it’s the ending that leaves me a little empty. Through the magic of CGI Harry, Hermione, and Ron age 19 years – just like in the book – but when the book is rich in humor (mainly because of Ron) the movie falls flat.
Endings are hard. I know. But much like THE RETURN OF THE KING, where in the book Gollem gets redeemed and in the movie he doesn’t, the same thing happens in Harry Potter. In the book there are humorous exchanges regarding people staring at Harry, assimilating into Muggle society, and how you can’t give a teacher at school love from your parents. The ending is heart tugging, endearing, and unforgettable. The film accurately shows the kids aging, but doesn’t portray the humor, or feeling of utter contentment and happiness Harry experiences since his scar remains painless. But endings are hard, especially when you don’t want the story to end.
As the wonder of the Harry Potter adventure comes to a close, it is with an excited, yet heavy, heart that I see the first installment of the last book. What a fantastic ride! Deathly Hallows Part I is the best screen adaptation (thank you, Steve Kloves!) since the first film, Sorcerer’s Stone. The script is concise, action packed, funny and poignant. The dialogue sounds natural and there isn’t any obvious exposition that can drag a script down. The film is also the best directorial installment by David Yates – his earlier attempts being the last two in the series, Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince. This is great news since the last two movies are such a disappointment.
Early on, Yates brags on how he makes Phoenix the shortest movie in the franchise (coming in at a mere 138 minutes ). Right away I’m put on my guard. Doesn’t this guy realize that us diehard Potter fans are more than willing to sit for a almost three hours to see what happens? Doesn’t he get that fans want to see the most accurate adaptation as possible? Apparently, he doesn’t. Order of the Phoenix is a mess put together by a series of montages meant to propel the story forward, but only leaves the watcher wanting to see more action. Some of the same shots are even used twice. Unfortunately, Half-Blood Prince isn’t any better. It’s sloppy, disjointed. The scenes are choppy and don’t fit with one another. There is no linkage. The beautiful scene transitions of Alfonso Cuaron (Prisoner of Azakaban) and Mike Newell (Goblet of Fire) are badly missing. But the biggest problem of both of the films is that they really underestimate the audience. A damn shame.
But Deathly Hallows Part I does not disappoint! Thank the celluloid gods! It totally steps it up a notch, and not just one. It is literally a world away from Yates other attempts. It’s almost as if the onetime TV director went to film school and learned how to make a complete movie. This film is so much better than his past installments you have to wonder if he received extra help. The cinematography (executed brilliantly by Eduardo Serra – Girl with a Pearl Earring) is captivating. But it’s the editing that sets this movie apart. So much so, it’s hard to believe it’s the same editor from Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince, Mark Day. Perhaps, he too got some extra help to transfer his television editing skills to the big screen. But the best thing is that these guys finally got their sh*t together to produce a Harry Potter movie that exceeds fan expectations – all except for the wait. Waiting for July 2011 for the second half will be torture.