Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, David Yates, 130 mins (12A)
Those magical kids are all grown up and leaving us. I'll miss them, despite myself
Sunday 17 July 2011
At this late stage in the game you probably already know whether you're going to see the new Harry Potter film 15 times while wearing your home-made Hagrid costume, or whether you never want to hear the word "quidditch" again.
But if you're undecided, then I'd give Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 a chance. It's not just the final instalment of the series, it's also the first one in quite some time to have an actual ending. Ever since Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (episode five, but who's counting?), none of the films have been self-contained stories, but chapters in a far longer narrative, so it's a relief to see events reaching a definitive climax.
Indeed, the climax takes up half the film. Early on, Harry and chums break into Gringotts Bank – the only sequence to justify the use of 3D – but after that we settle into a full-blown goodies-versus-baddies fight-to-the-death in Hogwarts School. On one side, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) are backed by Hogwarts' pupils and teachers; on the other, Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and Severus Snape (Alan Rickman, talking more slowly than ever) command their own dark army. Monsters rampage; masonry crashes down all over the place; some of Britain's best actors waggle their wands at each other; and at last you can forget all that confusing blether about prophecies and talismans, and just let the spectacle sweep you long.
And as a spectacle, it's magnificent. You have to take your pointy hat off to Stuart Craig, the production designer, and Tim Burke, the visual effects supervisor: if you're not impressed by the humungous dragons, the enchanted paintings, the looming gothic archways and the cavernous chambers which they conjure up, then cinema probably isn't the thing for you. Having said that, when there's so much going on that even the giant spiders are consigned to the background, then maybe it's inevitable that certain crucial elements should get lost in the chaos. I may not know a horcrux from a patronus, but even I could tell that some key plot points – deaths, a resurrection, the ability to wield a particularly potent wand – zipped by without being given due prominence. And the story itself has its shortcomings. As usual, Harry sleepwalks through the action, doing whatever he's destined to do, while Ron and Hermione's primary purpose is to enact the snog that fans have been waiting for. (Those fans may also be pleased to hear that both Radcliffe and Grint are seen stripping to the waist, while Watson is clad in soaking wet clothes on three separate occasions.)
Instead, the only bona fide heroism comes from Harry's old classmate, the formerly hapless Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis), who repeatedly saves the day. Looking back, his progress through the series from clueless stooge to courageous leader is so dramatic that I wonder whether the films should have focused on him all along, rather than the starchy kid who was brave and powerful at the start, and who stayed much the same through to the end.
Still, when you've got combat on this epic scale, with a cast of hundreds, and dozens of richly textured vistas to gawp at, it hardly matters if the three supposed heroes are somewhat dull. It's not just Hogwarts that gets smashed to pieces by the thunderous battle, but the viewer's resistance, too. When the film came to its brisk and restrained conclusion, I wouldn't say I was sad to see the back of the franchise, but I bade it a fonder farewell than I would have expected.
Nicholas Barber takes Cars 2 out for a spin
Jean-Luc Godard returns in proudly enigmatic form with his three-part essay Film Socialisme, in which he examines issues of old Europe in company with Patti Smith, philosopher Alain Badiou and a llama. Meanwhile, cinephiles everywhere will want to clamber on The Tree of Life, Terrence Malick's dazzling if overreaching comeback.
Treacle Jr (83 mins, 15)
Jamie Thraves' self-funded comedy-drama stars Tom Fisher as a man who walks out on his wife and baby to live rough in south London, and Aidan Gillen as the garrulous goofball who befriends him. Gillen has a little too much fun with his role, and the question of why Fisher has abandoned his family isn't even asked, let alone answered. But Treacle Jr is sweet, funny and more enjoyable than many a Brit-flick with 100 times the budget.
Bal (Honey) 104 mins
From its Vermeer interiors to its forest glades, this sleepy Turkish drama is a thing of beauty, but the slow-moving story of a shy boy and his bee-keeping father leaves you with a bit too much time to admire the view.
Just Do It (90 mins, 12A)
Affectionate British documentary about the eco-protesters who picket banks and break into power stations with heart, humour, and a penchant for tea and fancy dress. If the teenager in your life sees it, you could lose them to environmental activism for years.
Bobby Fischer Against the World (92 mins, 12A)
This HBO profile of the chess genius turned ranting paranoiac is the epitome of stranger-than-fiction, but, as fascinating as it is, you could make a whole other film with the material it misses out.
Hobo with a Shotgun (90 mins, 18)
Juvenile pastiche of a 1970s/1980s exploitation movie, with Rutger Hauer as a homeless vigilante.
TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food