I had originally posted this review on my Facebook, back when I couldn’t make up my mind about whether to keep my reviews on that site or to start my own review blog, since I don’t have the money to see new movies very often. I don’t intend to transfer all of my reviews here, as they would be much too numerous, nor do I know whether I will migrate any more of my reviews. Regardless of this, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2” has easily been my favorite movie of 2011 so far and one of my favorite films of all time. I hope it delights you as much as it did me.
“Harry Potter’s STUPID!” my ten-years-younger self had become adamantly convinced. At the time when the first movie was preparing for its American release, my cousins and their parents were already heavily invested in the books, while I knew next to nothing about them except that they couldn’t possibly interest me. My parents and I ended up watching the first movie with my cousins and some other relatives anyway, and all I could think about as I left the movie theatre was how impressed and surprised I was. That really was a great story after all!
From start to finish, the Harry Potter literary and cinematic “journey” has been absolutely nothing if not that, and as I’ve watched the young Harry Potter grow and develop from a well-meaning but rebellious boy into a brave man of uncommon courage, I’ve considered it only natural to compare the developmental learning of The Boy Who Lived to the process of maturation that we all have to go through.
The “Harry Potter” story has always been about growing up as much as it has been about finding a way to stop the dark wizard Lord Voldemort from gaining ultimate power, and just as the characters became more mature and substantial, so too did the books and movies. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” amazingly and beautifully concludes a story that began as charming and innocent, transfiguring it into a heartbreaking and poignant tale of love, loss, and sacrifice.
The basic storyline is pretty straightforward, with Part 1 of this film having already laid the groundwork for Harry to find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes, objects which hold fragments of the evil Voldemort’s soul and keep him immortal. This makes “Deathly Hallows: Part 2” one of the easiest of the newer, later films to follow in the franchise. As might be expected, however, series admirers with an understanding of the other books and movies, as well as the various supporting characters (some of whom are not mentioned by name, while others have development threads concluded that were started in the first movie), will enjoy this film the most.
That being said, the overall execution of the film is practically pitch-perfect, skillfully alternating between lightheartedness and seriousness with rarely any hint of awkwardness. The film does feel unexpectedly goofy at times, not because of poor timing but mainly because of how Part 1 felt almost completely serious, with very little hint of overt comic relief. Part 2, despite being the final act of this impressive series, effortlessly evokes emotion when needed but takes risks with humor and tone that hearken back to the earlier entries in the series and certainly pay off.
Without wishing to ++SPOIL++ too much, one of the overarching themes of “Deathly Hallows: Part 2” is the question and necessity of heroic sacrifice, whose execution and delivery, from both the director and the actor, excel the perhaps hackneyed nature of this theme. Some of the most powerful and touching scenes in the film have no dialogue at all, with the hero having decided what must be done and resolved to be brave and dedicated, a la Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) from the also excellent “Stranger than Fiction.” All sorts of characters, from young but powerful students to Hogwarts professors, do admirable jobs of expressing their loyalty and solidarity in both the writing and the acting.
Such loyalty shows value when tested and proven. “Deathly Hallows: Part 2” feels more like a large-scale war film than even some military movies, never to mention the other films in this series. Numerous recognizable scenes from the Hogwarts wizarding school become absolutely battered with debris and corpses, including a few scenes of blood and mourning, making this film feel like the sort of epic but devastating conflict that “Half-Blood Prince,” the sixth book and movie, perhaps should have been. The creature effects are as amazing and believable as they ever were, but while most of the magic looks just as well crafted, one or two spell effects do look a lot more fake than they really should.
A number of supporting characters get plenty of their own truly awesome “heroic moments” and heroic lines as they face off against several series villains and become heroes in their own right. Fellow Hogwarts student “loony” Luna Lovegood feels a bit too useful to be as minor a character as she is, effortlessly solving a problem that manages to baffle a crowd full of other students (even if they do appear younger than she), and her consistent enjoyability both enhances and draws negative attention to the amount of story and screen attention she receives. The villains, on the other hand but with a few exceptions, somewhat understandably feel underexposed save for Voldemort. One scene in Hogwarts’ Room of Requirement, featuring Harry’s longtime rivals Draco Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle, does feel shorter and and more rushed than it perhaps could have been.
The central conflict with Voldemort seemingly begins a lot sooner than the novel’s version and is much longer, and the movie’s version is vastly improved. Harry and company’s fight and double-sided chase against Voldemort is every bit as engrossing and delightful as could have been asked for; most of the various wizards have “developed” beyond the need to include vocal components in their spells, resulting in a very quick pacing to the combat and less shouting except when needed for dramatic purposes. Some scenes hearken back to earlier movies a bit too well, such as one scene in particular, near the close of the conflict, which feels conceptually like a retread of the end of Goblet of Fire but eventually becomes exciting in its own right.
Apart from the ongoing violence and battle, one of the most powerful scenes in the whole film is a low-key series of flashbacks involving a major Hogwarts professor, at his unfortunate end, which showcases some beautiful character development and impossible romance that ironically feels more detailed and intricate than any of the actual relationships in the story. The sequence isn’t “animated” like the story sequence in “Deathly Hallows: Part 1” was, but this flashback does provide its own unique, idyllic visual ‘mood’ nonetheless.
The film adaptation’s ending is abridged from the novel’s somewhat, focusing primarily on the fates of the major characters for the sake of the film’s bearable and quickly paced running time, somewhat sadly not feeling very detailed even then. (And there’s nothing after the credits.) That being said, the ending is absolutely beautiful, evoking joyful tears at how “full circle” everything has come in a way that even the book didn’t do. It’s so good to see Platform Nine-and-Three-Quarters again.
There’s really not much to say about this film other than that it’s an absolutely astounding and overwhelmingly satisfying conclusion to a lovely story, a fantastic installment, and a wonderful series. The two halves of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” make excellent use of their running time, separate at just the right moment, and complement each other beautifully. It’s hard to praise this movie and the overall story enough.
For some miscellaneous thoughts, with various ++SPOILERS++ …
I’ve always had certain issues with how the romances in this series always seemed uncharacteristically rushed. Harry didn’t really seem to fall in love with his best friend Ron’s younger sister Ginny until the sixth book out of seven, so they have little personal history together, and I can’t distinctly recall Ron and Hermione ever really expressing much overt affection for each other. That being stated, “Deathly Hallows: Part 2” makes light of this to great effect, with various embraces and romantic displays being played for abruptness and laughs.
Harry and Ginny, and Ron and Hermione, don’t seem to have very much personal chemistry as characters, though the actors themselves are fine. A slow-dance scene in “Deathly Hallows: Part 1,” taking place at a moment where Ron is not present in the story, wordlessly hints at what I think ‘could have been’ and ‘should have been’ for Harry and Hermione. “Opposites attract,” as a friend of mine once suggested, but there’s no real longstanding intimate friendship between Harry and Ginny, nothing much like what Harry and Hermione had developed even as friends. To be honest I’m not sure what Hermione sees in Ron, a boy who’s long wavered between being brave and uncooperative; his passionate but somewhat headstrong nature has always seemed at odds with Hermione’s calm and rational outlook on life. The most convincing displays of love in this series have either been deliberate but non-romantic (tying into the final film’s central theme of sacrifice) or perhaps unintentional, such as the aforementioned slow dance.
The three-dimensional effects are used well but are so subtle that if you don’t particularly care to pay extra for glasses, I can’t imagine you’ll miss very much if you watch the film in 2D instead. The graphical effects, for the most part, do a fine enough job of standing on their own, and there really aren’t very many overt uses of the technology as it is. Speaking characters and certain pieces of scenery are emphasized, but there are few “showcase moments” that really pop out. One very notable exception is an early scene inside and outside of Gringotts Bank that’s too awesome to spoil.
A final question I don’t really think has an answer in my own mind, is which of “Deathly Hallows'” two parts is superior. Both movies have different strengths, and those strengths work wonderfully together. Part 1 felt like a fast-paced and often brutal but very intimate “gunfight movie with wands (and wonderful character drama),” and its mood often became fiery and intense because of this. Part 2 instead feels cold and dreary yet hopeful, sacrificing battle intensity (and a flirt with an R rating, in my mind) for scope, duration, and resolution. Part 1 felt much more focused on exposition and set-up, while Part 2 emphasized direct and powerful execution, and both movies made fantastic use of what they focused on. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” doesn’t need to be an improvement when it functions so well as an equal, and in that way, it’s kind of like magic.