Film Review – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
The Harry Potter series finally comes to a close. Some of us may know what will transpire in this film because we’ve read the book. But this is something different. After Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 there will be nothing left for us Potter fans. No new book to pore over, no new film to anticipate. It’s a sad feeling, but also a good one. It’s sad to know that we’ll never find out more about these characters we’ve grown to love. One the other hand, it’s a rare thing to feel so good about a long running series. The disappointing Sorcerer’s Stone aside, every one of these films has at the very least been a good way to spend two hours. Some of them have been very good films. While this finale doesn’t reach the heights of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (my vote for best film and book of the series), it is a very good film and one of the best I’ve seen this year.
When we last left Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson), and Ron (Rupert Grint), they were searching for the last remaining pieces of Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) soul. Only when these horcruxes were all destroyed would they be able to defeat the dark wizard. This film begins immediately after the finale of Deathly Hallows Part 1. Voldemort has taken the powerful elder wand from Dumbledore’s (Michael Gambon) grave, in hopes it will give him the power to kill Harry Potter once and for all. Following this, we are treated to a couple of dialogue scenes which set up where the next horcrux might be found. After these initial 15 or so minutes, the film goes into action overdrive. By splitting the final book into two parts, director David Yates (helmer of every Potter film since Order of the Phoenix) was able to get all of the exposition into Part 1 and leave part two to be a two-hour action scene that wraps up the decade’s worth of films we’ve been watching.
I’m not the biggest proponent of elongated action scenes, but that’s because most films just have that and nothing else. Deathly Hallows 2 has none of those problems. We’ve grown to know and love these characters over the previous seven films. We know the story, we know the stakes, now it’s time for it all to come to a head. The battle of Hogwarts that acts as the climax of the film is every bit as epic as I imagined it when I read the book. Death Eaters and trolls storming the castle and the epic battle that ensues is one of the most breathtaking action scenes of recent memory. Interspersed through it all are fantastic character moments that are allotted to nearly everyone we’ve met over the last ten years. Neville Longbottom (played by Matthew Lewis) in particular gets some great scenes and nearly steals the film.
With any adaptation there will be scenes that fans are disappointed are changed in the film version. I honestly wasn’t bothered by things that were left out; what was left out was good for the book but would’ve slowed the film down too much. What bothered me with certain scenes in the film is that great moments in the book were handled poorly by both director Yates and writer Steve Kloves (who’s written every installment in the series with the exception of Order of the Phoenix). One such scene is the heartbreaking flashback that is my favorite moment in any of the books. The scene is still one of the film’s highlights, but felt a little too rushed for how important it was. More egregious is a fan favorite moment during the final battle. When I read one particular line of this sequence in the book, I literally cheered. The moment is still intact in the film, but it’s now made into an awkward fight scene instead of a heroic defense.
Then there’s the much discussed epilogue. I really loved this scene in the book and was happy it was included in the film. Honestly, it had to be there. J.K. Rowling came up with the perfect way to cap the series. It let us know what happened to our favorite characters without becoming a tease of more adventures (which I certainly hope never happen). The problem with the scene in the film is that, like the important flashback, it goes by a little too quickly. We needed more time to take it all in and appreciate what we were seeing. People complain about the ending of The Return of the King, saying that it went on too long. I’m not one of those people. After you spend 10+ hours with characters (nearly 20 in the case of Harry Potter), they deserve to get some closure. Deathly Hallows Part 2 could’ve done with a little bit more breathing room, so that we could feel the importance of these big moments the last ten years have been leading up to.
Those few criticisms aside, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is an enjoyable film. For me the entire series has been good films made out of great books. I don’t consider any one of the films to be perfect or nearly as good as any of the books. This film doesn’t reverse the trend, but it does end things on a high note. The two Deathly Hallows films sit just underneath Prisoner of Azkaban as the top tiers of the series. Even though this release is marred by unnecessary 3D (there’s nothing about it that stands out, just save the $4 and see it in 2D), it is one of the few times this year that a “summer movie event” actually lived up to its name.
Final Grade: B+