REVIEW: ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2’

Grade: B+

Invoking nostalgia is one of the key goals of the final installment to one of the longest running movie franchises in history. While the earliest Harry Potter film is only ten years old, many of us have watched these young actors grow up and as their characters have gone from children to adults, so have they, and for some younger viewers, so have we. Millions relate to that intense personal connection with the characters which is part of what makes the series so successful. It is also the filmmakers’ ability to bring out the elements of the story that are deeply human.

Unsurprisingly Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, the final film in this franchise, ends on an emotionally and triumphantly high note. The final scenes are epic in visual scale and in story as the dozens of now iconic characters come together for one last confrontation of good versus evil. Following the book like a sacred text rather than an outline, the final installment has a lot to please longtime fans of both mediums. Yet after the dust settled at Hogwarts there was a feeling of incompleteness. After eight films and over 17 hours of film I realized something – I wanted more.

Like any good Part 2, this film begins immediately where the last film ends as we join Harry, Ron, Hermione, and the surviving escapees of Malfoy Manor at Bill and Fleur Weasley’s cottage. There are still four remaining Horcruxes (objects containing fragments of Dark Lord Voldemort’s soul) and the three protagonists must continue their quest to find and destroy them. Harry convinces the goblin Griphook to help them break into Gringott’s Bank where he suspects the next Horcrux is hidden which leads to the first big action scene of the fast-moving film. Unfortunately the first moments of the film are glossed over like checking off a “to-do” list from the book and the real satisfaction doesn’t come until we get to Hogwarts.

It is completely apropos that both the books and the films conclude where Harry’s wizarding journey began – at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. Here the armies of good and evil converge in one climactic battle that is emotionally and visually satisfying. We are reunited with some of the series most memorable characters, most notably student Neville Longbottom and professor Minerva McGonagall, and great locations like the Chamber of Secrets and Quidditch Field. During the battle the sub-plots gradually wrap-up including the Harry and Ginny relationship (which is decidedly lacking in chemistry), and Ron and Hermione’s on-again off-again flirtation (they finally kiss in a perfect moment).

Then the entire story ends just as we expected to – with our hero sacrificing all for the greater good. The downfall of evil and conclusion of the film happen so fast that there is barely time to register the fact that it is all over. Thankfully there is a nice epilogue set two decades in the future that is self-deprecating enough to be enjoyable and nostalgic rather than campy. It also gives the viewer time to digest what has just happened and reflect back on the entire eight-film adventure and anticipate the opportunity to relive it in the future.

The large majority of the final film centers expressly on Harry’s arc, which comes to a rewarding climax when Harry alone confronts Voldemort one of the film’s (and possibly the series’) best moments. Through seven films we have seen Harry grow emotionally, discover himself, and learn that despite being the “Chosen One” he is fallible. However, that fallibility which has always grounded Harry is not entirely present in this final installment and the writers and director David Yates present Harry as an almost Christ-like figure. In an early scene Harry agrees to return the coveted sword of Gryffindor to the goblin Griphook without any plans to deceive him. This makes the goblin the villain and brings his story to an unsympathetic end while Harry remains sinless. This lowered the stakes slightly when the boy wizard eventually seeks forgiveness.

One of the key things that has always made the Harry Potter film franchise a superior one to comparable blockbusters is the way it treats death. The audience is never made to cheer at a character’s demise and even the unsympathetic ones are given a fair treatment. During their escape from Gringotts on the back of a dragon several goblins who have betrayed Harry are killed in a breath of fire. Instead of seeing this from the characters’ point of view the camera gets close up on the face of the exasperated goblins. From this disturbing but poignant perspective we see can truly grasp the finality of death, a theme that will be re-occurring throughout the film’s devastating battle scenes.

Apart from being a confrontation with mortality the long anticipated Battle at Hogwarts also proves why production designer Stuart Craig and set decorator Stephenie McMillan have been nominated for three Oscars for their work on the Potter films (hopefully this film will earn them a fourth). Hogwarts has never looked more beautiful than when it is partially destroyed after the first wave of attacks. The courtyard is littered with bodies and debris as if to represent memories that have accumulated during Potter’s tenure and the centuries of wizards before him. Each wing of the great castle gets its appropriate attention as if the director wants to showcase the imagination that has been put into the building throughout the years and it is an absolute joy to revisit.

Throughout the years the franchise has been somewhat of a revolving door for amazing British thespians from Royal Shakespeare Company veterans to television stars. However, it is definitely Daniel Radcliffe who stands out in this film as the actor who has not only grown the most over the ten-year franchise, but proven he can anchor a film as a strong and conflicted protagonist. Radcliffe has gone from a child who seemed to be mimicking his acting coach to a real performer who makes choices and executes them with brilliant uniqueness. During his climactic moments Radcliffe will break your heart as his eyes reflect the entire journey and the decisions he has made along the way.

Alan Rickman and Maggie Smith are additional standouts as Snape and McGonagall respectively and it is refreshing to see each of them fleshed out. There is unfortunately not enough time in the film to conclude our relationships with all of the characters who have become so memorable through the years. This lack of conclusion will likely inspire audience members to pick up the books or revisit the earlier films.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the eighth and final Harry Potter film is merely the fact that it still feels fresh after seven previous installments. In an industry that is constantly recycling, reducing, and reusing plots, characters, and gimmicks the Harry Potter films have risen above that mediocrity and managed to create something truly satisfying. These films will be revisited for decades to come and deservedly so. Let’s just hope that the sequel hungry Hollywood will let this marvelous series end on a gloriously high note.

Bottom Line: Best viewed back to back with Part 1, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 will inspire a myriad of emotions as it all ends too quickly.

, , , , , , , , ,

  • Glad you enjoyed. I’m sure I will when I go see it this weekend. Interesting that you think the epilogue works in the movie. We’ll have to see about that, since I hated it in the book. There was just no reason for it.

    Still, should be a terrific film regardless.

  • I’m disappointed that I have to wait an another two days to catch up with you on this one. At least we can go into this safely knowing it won’t have any financial difficulties. Even though I’m pretty sure I’ll like it, as I’ve always been a fan of the series, I’m not going easy on it. Ten years of effort doesn’t deserve a half-hearted critical analysis. Glad to see that you liked it pretty well, but I’m even happier you’re not rewarding it an A+. I’d be a tad concerned if that happened.

  • @Duncan – I tottered from B- to B+ for a while, but eventually decided I had to look at it from the perspective of Part 1 + Part 2 as a whole, which it was clearly intended to be. It’s probably my 5th favorite in the series behind 3, 5, 6, and 7.

  • I enjoyed the The Dark Knight Rises trailer more.

  • Dallas Campbell

    I think you’re right about there being a little lack of closure to the movie. Danielle said that she thought it seemed short and ended rather abruptly too. I agree that Daniel Radcliffe did some great acting this movie, I never thought much of his acting in the previous films. Also I think Alan Rickman did an excellent job, worthy of some great recognition with his memories in the pensieve, adding emotion to an already emotional movie and changing your opinion of him completely around just like the book does. Very thankful they split the movie into two parts so they could follow the book closely, which was something I was critical of in the previous films. And yes, Hollywood had better leave it alone unless J.K. Rowling says otherwise. Even though the 5th book was my favorite I think this is the best Potter film and an A in my book. Good review.

  • Jose

    Really Brandon? Cause I found it extremely underwhelming, and based on the reactions of everyone in the theater, so did they.

  • I’m remarkably glad to have profusely disliked the film. If things weren’t moving by too fast, they were moving by too slow. We never got any real idea of the danger at hand, and the battle felt surprisingly small scale. It didn’t feel like war. It felt like just another battle. Alan Rickman and Ralph Fiennes seemed to be milking ham for all it could get them. My favorite part of the film, sadly, was Kelly MacDonald’s cameo as Helena Ravenclaw, which lasted a delightful 3 minutes. I’m glad when I’m the only person on earth who doesn’t like something.

  • @Duncan – I actually thought that the portion with Kelly McDonald was one of the weaker parts mostly because the filmmakers didn’t justify it being there enough. Of all the parts of the book that fell to the wayside why did they keep the Grey Lady?

  • Within the context of the story, it was somewhat disposable, but an excuse for Kelly MacDonald to show up for a few minutes is enough reason for me. She’s probably the most radically emotional, yet nicely subdued thing about the film. I get that it’s just me, but that’s the beauty of opinion.

  • @Jose Everyone in my theater cheered after it was over. I actually really liked it. Teaser trailers aren’t supposed to show much and considering that it’s being released a whole year from now it did a good job of hyping me up for it. Besides I didn’t even know that there was going to be one.

Privacy Polcy | Contact Us