Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes
Director: David Yates
When news broke that the adaptation of the last Harry Potter novel would be split into two, much was said about the triumph of cynicism: here are number-crunchers seeking to milk as much from an almighty cash cow as possible. Well, that's certainly a reason, but at least director David Yates can now place an artistic sheen on the decision, having delivered a sensational action thriller which will please both Potter experts and casual cinema-goers.
It's not how one could describe Deathly Hallows: Part 1, a film posing as much a challenge for those who grew up with the franchise (given the bleakness and adult-oriented themes which drive the movie) as it is for the uninitiated (the raison d'etre of the protagonists' pursuit in the film becoming so complex that characters had to explain to each other - and, perhaps by implication, the audience - what they were doing).
But by dispatching all the near-unintelligible wizard-talk and the nuanced psychology of Part 1, Yates (and veteran Potter screenwriter Steve Kloves) could get on with unleashing a straightforward blockbuster in a Part 2 featuring dashing 3-D digital effects which delivers the showdown between Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and the villainous Voldermort (Ralph Fiennes).
Part 2 picks up from Part 1, with Voldermort seemingly nearing his total conquest of the realm, with the magical school Hogwarts now under his control thanks to the leadership of the ambivalent Severus Snape (Alan Rickman), and Potter and his friends - Emma Watson's Hermione Granger and Rupert Grint's (above centre, with Watson and Radcliffe) Ron Weasley - on the run.
Potter being Potter, of course, there's going to be a fightback - and the trio resume their struggle to destroy 'horcruxes' (items which contain Voldermort's soul). What ensues is a remarkable first half-hour, combining comedy (a sparkly moment with Hermione taking on the physical image of Bellatrix Lestrange - producing the hilarious sequence of Helena Bonham Carter, who plays Lestrange, imitating how Emma Watson would imitate Bonham Carter herself). All this and thriller tension, an action scene involving a dark vault, self-multiplying bullion, a fire-breathing dragon and a flight over London. And it all ends where it began, with the final stand-off between good and evil unfolding at Hogwarts, as Potter and Co return to their school to seek yet another horcrux, confront Voldermort and his army, and - for Potter - a realisation of his own destiny and that of those who died as heroes and villains before him.
Detractors could quibble at the logic of certain twists and turns here - how items sought are so readily found, or how the supposedly all-powerful Voldermort can be so easily fooled by someone pretending to be dead - but Yates maintains credibility as we are swept along through an emotional rollercoaster ride as we follow the travails of our heroes.
With a deft flick of the wand, Yates produces a vastly popular blockbuster. This is mass entertainment at its most accomplished, and provides a fitting conclusion to a cultural phenomenon which, for better or worse, has indelibly marked the new century.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 opens today