After my recent ranting, one might expect the forthcoming review to be filled with bile and resentment toward Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, and you’d be wrong. The series is quite a beast and I’m going to try to tackle it from various angles, hopefully providing a better sense of what I thought of the movie and what you can expect from it as well (though, box office numbers suggest that you’ve more than likely already seen it).
The story is as straightforward as a Potter film gets. Harry, Ron and Hermione continue their quest to destroy the Horcruxes, an epic battle consumes Hogwarts, and Harry finally faces-off against the evil Lord Voldemort. The movie opens with a fun, magical bank heist, before the slow-burn build-up to the full-blown mêlée of the final confrontation: truths are discovered, lives are lost, and bravery tested.
Now, for some background: I have read (and loved) the Harry Potter books. I have seen all seven previous films and generally found them disappointing. They’ve either been too faithful and boring, or lots of flash without any real sense of cinema. As popcorn flicks, they digest just fine, but compared to the phenomenal books, they will always be lacking. In this final installment not a lot has changed, but there’s just enough chutzpah and showmanship to tip the scales favorably.
The film really does nail the epic epic-ness of what a culminating battle to an eight film series should be. The score and the sound design do a fantastic job of pulling you into the big moments (as well as the quiet ones) and the filmmakers take full advantage of devotee nostalgia for all things Potter. Watching these actors grow up on film and having numerous previous adventures with them has only enhanced the grand scale of this last outing.
The production design is flawless, as usual, and the all-star British cast is as impeccable as ever. Some have singled out Ralph Fiennes‘ turn as the fey, egomaniacal villain, and others think this is Alan Rickman’s finest hour. While I think they are both great, the standout is Daniel Radcliffe as Harry. It is the first complete performance from Radcliffe, and he does a wrenching job showing his weariness, sorrow, and the bittersweet taste of growing up.
If you love Potter, you will enjoy this movie. If you’ve never read the books, the film still suffers from fill-in-the-blank syndrome. They skirt over details and just assume you will be able to keep up and fill-in all the holes. The good news is: with the short runtime and the simpler plot, this isn’t as big a problem. You don’t need to fully understand wand-lore, the history of Ravenclaw or Dumbledore to comprehend when the good team is winning. You don’t need this info, but it sure does make the books that much better.
I still think the side characters are shafted. I shed no tears for characters I never really got to know after eight movies. The flashback toward the end is overly expository and more than a little hokey and the epilogue is a pretty glaring failure. The make-up in this scene fails, as does the tone; it’s just off, as if someone broke into your house but touched nothing and left you to torture yourself wondering what they did . . . that’s the epilogue.
I was initially in favor of splitting the final book into two movies, but after seeing the results I think it was a mistake. I keep hearing how we needed the lull before the massive battle, but I never thought the first half of Hallows was a lull. I thought it was an exciting run-for-your-life survival story that was turned into a dreadful bore of a movie. They took their time because they had two films to fill. They should have cut them both within an inch of their life and then we’d of had a brisk 3–maybe 3½–hour Deathly Hallows full of action, wit, mystery and charm. Still, one can just skip part one and be appropriately wowed, if a little in the dark.
(NOTE: One last thing, not that this will persuade anyone or reach enough people it might concern to matter, but I still feel I must mention that this is a very HARD PG-13. There are bloody dead bodies, bloody snake attacks, bloody werewolf attacks, and more. Do not take the little ones)