At the tail end of the 19th century, Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) still feels like the wound is still fresh when it comes to his wife who died four years ago after giving birth to their son. Arthur is drowning in a depressive state that even his son notices. As a lawyer, Arthur is forced to travel to a secluded town to take care of the work of the now deceased Alice Drablow as a last ditch effort to save his job. Arthur is expecting to be buried in paperwork until the weekend, but the odd occurrences that transpire are a bit out of left field. Everyone in town practically begs for Arthur to return to London immediately as children continue to die gruesome deaths left and right. Ignoring their pleas, Arthur decides to confront the problem head on and stay at the Drablow's menacing house where his constant run-ins with the supernatural eventually take its toll on him.
The Woman in Black is a horror film that I wanted to be good. It's Daniel Radcliffe's first movie outside of the Harry Potter franchise and he's been pretty enthusiastic about it in interviews, but every bit of promotional material seemed to point at the movie being your everyday, generic, run of the mill, "scary" movie. The Woman in Black does provoke your interest at first. The strange opening is a little hokey, but kind of intrigues you at the same time. The atmosphere the movie tries to setup is its strongest asset though. The heavy use of fog and old fashioned feel of the town does make the town feel like it existed in the late 1800s and the ominous score does its best to try and bring you to the edge of your seat. The Drablow house is the key to that atmosphere as itís absolutely gorgeous in this hideously grotesque kind of way. Everything is so dusty and creepy while the Victorian design only adds to that uneasy feeling the movie tries to stir up in the pit of your stomach.
In the meantime though, everything else in the movie is working against it. It's extremely uneventful. Daniel Radcliffe reads papers, walks through a house, holds a candle, and gets a little dirty. That's the entire movie in one sentence. The Woman in Black also resorts to relying on nothing more than jump scares to try and scare its audience. There are four in the first twenty minutes; two from the same sequence and there are at least ten throughout the entire movie. Jump scares can be fantastic in small portions, but come off as incredibly weak when you can see them coming a mile away and are strung together haphazardly for a cheap effect. There isn't much dialogue while Arthur is in the Drablow house either, which is practically the entire movie. This was probably done to try and make the audience more absorbed with what was taking place on screen, but seems like a bit of a copout overall. Radcliffe has proven that he is an extremely talented actor, but he's pretty bland here. He mostly wanders around in a daze with a frazzled look on his face the entire time. His hosting gig on Saturday Night Live was more impressive in comparison.
The Woman in Black will still be a very successful film as nearly everyone who was or still is a Harry Potter fan will be lining up around every street corner just to be able to see this movie, but the fact of the matter is that it just isn't a great movie. Its representation of the late 19th century is pretty good, but the writing, the "scares," and (most of all) the entire conclusion are all just extremely disappointing. The Woman in Black is a watered down version of last year's Insidious that will more than likely gain a lot of praise it doesn't deserve.
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I was never a big Harry Potter fan. I didn't read the books and only saw The Prisoner of Azkaban in theaters at the time because I was bored one weekend. So I had pretty much gone all this time without seeing the other movies in their entirety. With a screening of The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 quickly approaching, I took the initiative to watch the first seven movies over the course of a few days to be prepared and I'm very glad that I did. The movies do in fact get darker as you progress through them and seem to get better with each sequel. The one thing I didn't like was that The Goblet of Fire, The Order of the Phoenix, and The Half-Blood Prince all have similar endings that just leave you hanging. One of the main characters, usually Harry, blurts out something like, "We're going to have to go do this," and then there's this long, winding panoramic shot before the credits roll and that's it. However, watching all the movies at once had me at a bit of an advantage since there wasn't much of a wait between movies. Everyone has their favorite Harry Potter movie and I'm still a bit partial to The Prisoner of Azkaban but in my opinion both halves of The Deathly Hallows are the best in the series.
I'm not entirely sure if it was just following so close to the book or what, but The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 has an excellent sense of perspective. Hermione holding a stray hair and the scene at the bank where the guard begins to suspect Harry, Ron, and Hermione to be imposters are the prime examples that come to mind. The way it drew attention to certain items or characters through the use of those things being in-focus while everything else around them was out of focus just really made a simple scene so much more interesting. It made you try and take notice of the surroundings a bit more since they seemed to be just as important as what the main characters were going through at times.
The special effects are extremely impressive, as well. The war at Hogwarts and Harry's battle with Voldemort are probably the most substantial scenes that come to mind while the death eaters always use some fairly eye-catching effects, but I found the white dragon to be the crown jewel of the special effects department. Most of the extravagant creatures that have played an important role in the series have generally looked the best (Buckbeak and Thestrals come to mind) compared to some of the other computer generated effects in the franchise. The white dragon in The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 just looks really spectacular though. It didn't look like it was obviously created on a computer like many computer generated effects seem to and almost came off as being flesh and bone or at least as realistic as a dragon could be.
Does a film like this have any weaknesses? Probably, but they'll mostly go unnoticed. That's not necessarily a bad thing either. You'll be so caught up in watching this ten year event come to an end and piecing together those final pieces of the puzzle that if there is anything wrong with this finale you won't even notice. I've always felt that it always looked kind of funky whenever somebody rode a broomstick. At times it looks great and just as it should, but at others it just didn't look right. It looked a bit off in this one, but it's so brief that it should hardly even count as a nitpick.
I feel like amongst all of the adventures youíve tagged along for with Harry, Ron, and Hermione and all of the characters and creatures theyíve come into contact with in the span of eight films that Snape is still easily the most intriguing aspect of the entire story. His agenda is certainly something worth paying attention to and the way everything he does falls into place after you learn what you do about him in this movie is something really extraordinary. That isnít to say that other characters donít have their moments because they do, but Professor Severus Snape is that unexpected adhesive that brings all of the films together and gives the entire franchise an even greater meaning.
Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is essentially everything you want it to be and that's more than a satisfying conclusion for all Harry Potter fans big and small. The special effects are fantastic and the cast is at the top of their game. It's intense and gripping while part of you will want to see this film last forever. That's probably the most difficult part; saying goodbye to these characters you've spent the last ten years getting to know. Overall Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is just a brilliant conclusion to a wonderful franchise.
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