Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Director : David Yates
Screenplay : Steve Kloves (based on the novel by J.K. Rowling)
MPAA Rating : PG-13
Year of Release : 2011
Stars : Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort), Alan Rickman (Severus Snape), Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom), Michael Gambon (Albus Dumbledore), Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood), Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix LeStrange), John Hurt (Ollivander), Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy), David Thewlis (Remus Lupin), Warwick Davis (Griphook / Professor Flitwick), Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), Toby Jones (Dobby), Robbie Coltrane (Rubeus Hagrid)
After ten years and seven movies totaling nearly 20 hours of running length, the Harry Potter franchise/saga is finally coming to an end with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, which covers the second half of J.K. Rowling’s final novel. Regardless of your opinion about the series, this final installment is undeniably monumental, bringing to a close a series that has not only been one of the most successful financially in the history of cinema, but also one of the most unique. In this respect, it is difficult to assess the film on its own merits, not only because it is so directly connected to its immediate predecessor (they are two parts of the same whole), but also because what works in the film works largely because of the seven that came before it.
While it has maintained the same screenwriter (Steve Kloves) on all but one of the films, the Harry Potter series has been helmed by four different directors (Chris Columbus, Alfonso Cuaron, Mike Newell, and David Yates, who directed the last four), yet has maintained a sense of coherent tonal development as the once unknown cast of child actors matured into young adults, neatly paralleling their characters’ harrowing emotional and psychological development. The films themselves have grown increasingly darker in tandem with Rowling’s novels, and The Deathly Hallows Part 2 is certainly the darkest of all, as it builds on Part 1’s depiction of the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) apparently coming to full power while the young wizard Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his dedicated friends Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) struggle against seemingly insurmountable odds to stop him. At the end of Part 1 Voldemort had claimed the Elder Wand, the most powerful wand in the world and one of the three “deathly hallows” of the title that, when combined, would give him supreme power. Harry, Ron, and Hermione, on the other hand, have been busy hunting down horcruxes, which are everyday objects in which Voldemort has stored a piece of his soul. Destroying the horcruxes is the only means of killing Voldemort, yet Harry and company don’t know what many of them are or where they are hidden.
Not wanting to spoil the climactic developments for any viewers who have not read the books, I will be content to say that the film builds to a violent battle at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, which at the beginning of the series was a sanctuary for the young protagonists and now becomes the stage for the final battle between good and evil, the lines between which have never been so clearly demarcated. Previous entries in the series played with that line to great effect, giving us characters who seem good but turn out to be malevolent and vice-versa, Harry’s godfather Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) being the most obvious example. By this point, however, there is little left to explore in that arena aside from the pressing questions revolving around Professor Severus Snape (Alan Rickman), the Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor who took an immediate dislike to Harry in the first film and has apparently been in league with Voldemort. Otherwise, the film is propelled by the sheer weight of seven films’ worth of build-up, and while returning director David Yates has never been a particularly inventive or daring filmmaker, he delivers precisely what most viewers will be looking for: battles, suspense, revelations, and, most importantly, a fitting, emotionally satisfying conclusion that is entirely in keeping with Rowling’s novel. Some of the bigger setpieces don’t work nearly as well you might hope for (especially an overdone roller-coaster ride through the goblin vaults near the beginning of the film), but the Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson give the emotional moments a well-earned weightiness. Just like their characters, it is the end of an era for them, as well, with bright lights ahead.
And, while The Deathly Hallows Part 2 isn’t a great film by any means, with the exception of Cuaron’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), none of them have been. Rather, the Harry Potter films have consistently provided summer and Christmas tentpoles of solid, Hollywood-style entertainment; they never disappointed, but they never quite reached the stirring levels of grand storytelling and emotional catharsis that Rowling achieved in her remarkable books, which is not surprising, given that Rowling had a much larger and deeper canvas on which to work and even 20+ hours of screen time required narrative trimming and shaving. The final film brings back a number of familiar faces, and it stays true to Rowling’s overall vision of championing heart, courageous, loyalty, and the will to do the right thing (which is why religious groups have been so misguided in boycotting the series). Some might find Harry Potter a bit dull at this point simply because he is so decidedly heroic and intent on doing what needs to be done, but such criticisms must necessarily ignore the previous films in which he went through trials and tribulations and has his courage and honor tested. If Harry is an uncompromised hero in his final two hours of screen time, it is because he has earned it.
Copyright ©2010 James Kendrick
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