Castor: And so it all ends. Here at last, the final chapter of the longstanding saga that has captured the hearts and minds of an entire generation has come and gone. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is a fitting and bittersweet conclusion, a riveting film that comes closest to greatness among the eight installments of this unprecedented saga. Mixing a dark undertone with moments of humor and unexpected heroism, this action-packed finale is a film that will reward both casual and die-hard fans of the series. It’s clear now that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was meant to be seen as a four-and-a-half-hour movie. Part 2 picks up exactly where the previous film left off, with not as much as a transition or an attempt to summarize previous events.
After taking possession of the Elder Wand, Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) is edging closer to his goal of killing his arch-nemesis Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and assuming control of the wizarding world. In the meanwhile, Harry, Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) continue their search for the remaining Horcruxes, infiltrating Death Eater Bellatrix Lestrange’s (Helena Bonham Carter) personal bank vault at Gringotts Bank to find one of the hidden pieces of Voldemort’s soul that have kept him immortal. But when the trio’s search takes them back to Hogwarts, Voldemort gets wind of their location, leading to the final, epic confrontation between good and evil we all had been waiting for.
Director David Yates skillfully handles the lean and elegant screenplay by Steve Kloves, weaving spectacular action set pieces and sprawling narratives among an intense roller-coaster ride of wit, pathos and sentimentality. While Part 2 is tautly paced, clocking in at a mere 2 hours which makes it by far the shortest film in the series, it never unfolds in a chaotic or confusing manner. As a non-reader, it certainly was common-place for me to be left intermittently confused as the previous films unfolded. I’m glad to say this never happened here and it contributed in Part 2 being the first Harry Potter movie I truly loved.
“Hermione, when have any of our plans ever worked? We plan, we get there, all hell breaks loose.”
Most can recall that Part 1 was exposition-heavy and had the characters contemplate the abyss they were facing, well Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 nearly immediately cuts to the chase with numerous and increasingly rousing action sets pieces culminating in the epic battle of Hogwarts. Despite plenty of chances for Yates and Kloves to spend precious time on flashy but mindless Lord of the Rings-like battle sequences, they never lose sight of the emotional core of the story, sticking with the principal characters whom we have grown to care for. All around, this is a film that was obviously made with outstanding care and technical craftmanship, with excellent work extending to Eduardo Serra’s astonishing visuals, as well as the seamless special effects and the stunning soundtrack by Alexander Desplat.
In many ways, Daniel Radcliffe was never called on to carry the franchise even though he was the one playing Harry Potter all this time. Over the years, this burden had always been shared with Rupert Grint, who has been a constantly reliable sidekick since the beginning, and Emma Watson who practically stole the previous film with an unexpectedly authentic turn. But the time has come for his charming co-stars to take a backseat and for “the boy who lived” to finally become the great movie hero he was destined to be. This film belongs to Radcliffe who kept his best performance for last, layering his titular character with quiet strength, vulnerability and grace under overwhelming adversity.
That said, one important recurring character who finally gets his heartbreaking due after all these years is Severus Snape (Alan Rickman). The masterfully-edited scene that sheds a new perspective on the motivations behind his character and his spirited relationship with Harry Potter is undoubtedly the emotional climax of the entire saga and a gut-wrenching layer of emotional depth that is certain to leave both readers and non-readers stunned and devastated. Rickman has been an absolute joy to watch over the years and he is as beautifully commanding as ever in a role that has turned out to be truly tragic in every way.
The rest of the all-star British supporting cast also returns once again and there is tremendous satisfaction in seeing all these familiar faces one more time. Maggie Smith gives a particularly feisty and satisfying performance as Professor McGonagall and Matthew Lewis finally gets his chance to rise to the occasion as the heroic Neville Longbottom. Voldemort, whom Fiennes infuses with a surprising amount of nuance and vulnerability, is terrifying but given an unexpected hint of humanity as his powers vanish. The only sour note, Bonnie Wright, alas, remains as inexpressive as ever and her character is all but an afterthought.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two isn’t quite the masterpiece we all wanted it to be. Could the movie have left more of an emotional impact? Absolutely. Is the movie too short and could it have lingered a little while longer with all the characters we have come to love? Certainly. Are the romantic subplots ending with unsatisfactory outcomes? Duh. But I will choose to remember this film fondly as part of a now-completed series that will stand as one of the greatest cinematic achievement in history because in the case of this franchise, the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts. Never before has a series of film been able to capture such a sprawling imaginary world and been able to build on it over the course of 10 years with such continuity of vision and cast.
Alas, all good things must come to an end. Do you remember him, young Harry Potter hiding in his little closet under the stairs of the Dursley’s family home? Him getting on that train to Hogwarts for the first time in wide-eyed enchantment only to sit next to the very people who will turn out to be his most loyal friends? The little adorable moppets have come such a long way and so has this once-in-a-generation franchise. What began timidly as a whimsical kid’s fantasy 10 years ago has matured into a graceful and beloved odyssey about sacrifice, true friendship and perseverance in the face of adversity. What a great ride it has been.
So long Harry Potter.
Notes: PG-13 for some sequences of intense action violence and frightening images.
Sam: Monday night I watched upon Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 the same way I viewed Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith back in 2005. Both films are climactic, emotionally triumphant, and often devastatingly constructed. Throughout the two pictures you feel the end is near. That after many films, dollars, and passion thrown toward these franchises, you can sense that everything we have come to love about these characters and stories is about to end.
These are emotions that don’t come out of nowhere, but are in fact so rightfully deserved. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is beautifully told and visually striking. And then, the film, as if all significance is thrown out the window, comes to an ending – the final 5 minutes equivalent to J.K. Rowling’s epilogue. After writing about so many films, you get used to disappointment. However, my emotions can’t shrug off one of the worst endings to a film I have ever seen.
Those of you who have read the books understand what I am referring to. How could such a grandstanding franchise full of brilliant characters and rich themes, be reduced to such a pathetic ending? It is as if everything we have seen for the past ten years had been irrelevant and pointless. I’m saddened just writing about my disappointment of Rowling’s epilogue, full of awful makeup and cliched sentiment, and the vast amount of shortcomings the book to screen transformation contains. Above all, though, this begs the question: should movies always stick to its source material, even if many revere it? In Harry Potter’s case, I say most definitely not.
The film jumps in right where we left off in Part 1. Harry, Ron, and Hermione continue their rigorous quest to destroy Lord Voldermort’s three remaining Horcruxes. These three items, simply put, preclude his death and guarantee his immortality. However, since Harry and the Dark Lord contain an oddity of a spiritual connection, Voldermort quickly finds out about their mission as the Deathly Hallows are uncovered. This sets up the largest battle in the Potter franchise. Its Good vs. Evil at it’s finest and it makes for some grandiose entertainment.
Yet, there’s something deeper going on here. As the many who have sided with Lord Voldemort go on to destroy Hogwarts, we feel this underlying sadness. Over the years, my mind wandered the school of Hogwarts as if it was my own. Everything was so new, and magical. Life for these kids was sometimes dangerous, but always interesting and adventurous. This franchise, so prevalent and withstanding, is enveloped in a lovely feeling of nostalgia. Now everything has become about life or death. Even as the students and professors of Hogwarts fight off the Dark Arts, we remember back not so long ago when everyone was just a little kid, when their biggest worry was whether they could master their first spell or if they could figure out who that creepy Tom Riddle guy was. It feels just like yesterday.
In the end this franchise, like its protagonist, “The Boy Who Lived”, will last and resonate for decades to come. If my review feels a bit lukewarm, it is because of the lackluster ending that left me in a tailspin. Still, this is a worthy send-off to a franchise that is equal measures magical and innovative. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is epic in scale, heart, and emotions. It’s sometimes moving, typically entertaining, but always heartbreaking as we say goodbye to Harry and all his friends, people we have come to cherish and embrace over the past decade.
This final chapter is an emotionally charged caper that sends this franchise off in all its glory. With 8 films made in ten years and over 6.3 billion dollars claimed at the global box office, I can only be sure of one thing. Harry Potter, you will be greatly missed.
3 Stars out 4
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Review published on July 13, 2011