Now that the Harry Potter series is over, maybe the truth can be realized: This has been the dullest franchise in the history of movie franchises. Each episode following the boy wizard (Daniel Radcliffe) and his pals (Rupert Grint, Emma Watson) from Hogwarts Academy as they fight assorted villains has been indistinguishable from the others. Aside from the gloomy imagery, the series’ only consistency has been its lack of excitement and ineffective use of special effects—all to make magic unmagical, to make action seem inert.
Billed as HP7, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 has Harry confront his origins and his very existence. Near death by a whammy from Lord Voldemort (a howling, noseless Ralph Fiennes), Harry and the audience are subjected to a series of family-heritage and backstory montages that don’t clarify anything. It’s simply a cavalcade of badly used British actors, the Mike Leigh stable (Jim Broadbent, Gary Oldman, David Thewlis, Imelda Staunton) being especially disgraced—all apparently just to pay the rent.
David Yates is credited as director of the final four features, but his work has been as poor as what Chris Columbus began and even Alfonso Cuarón’s, whose steadicam made no difference (how can you make "dark" darker?). Yates is what’s known as a shooter. He gets it in the camera, but he provides no style or feeling. He has competence but no talent; his inability to inflect this story with the slightest idiosyncrasy exposes the enterprise as sheer commercial hackwork—although of a high budgetary order. (Example: the confusing, snake-like P.O.V. during Alan Rickman’s death scene.)
The precedent was already set by Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings debacle—unintelligible fantasy epics that people went to out of consumerist habit and left unable to recount or fondly recall. Jackson’s fantasy overload laid the groundwork for mistaking F/X for content. Yates’ relentlessly pedestrian visual choices allow the franchise to emphasize F/X—the "magic" is in other peoples’ hands—so that crucial connecting dramatic scenes remain visually banal and feel hastily executed. The addition of 3D only makes Yates’ poor compositions more noticeable—the imbalance juts out. It doesn’t help that audiences are so accustomed to TV banality that they no longer watch or read movies visually; they simply follow dialogue and extol the CGI. They’re as helpless as Yates at discovering Harry Potter’s mythic roots. Part 7 finds Harry in his own Gethsemane, but Yates, Rowling or somebody lost that cultural, spiritual thread.
Perhaps the die was cast when Rowling vetoed the idea of Spielberg directing the series; she made sure the series would never be mistaken for a work of art that meant anything to anybody—just ridiculously profitable cross-promotion for her books. (Sadly, Stephenie Meyer and Twilight’s producers seem to be following this model.) The Harry Potter series might be anti-Christian (or not), but it’s certainly the anti-James Bond series in its refusal of wonder, beauty and excitement. No one wants to face that fact. Now, thankfully, they no longer have to.
>>Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Directed by David Yates Runtime: 130 min.